In the age of the informed consumer, businesses face greater challenges to manage their brands and their reputations.
Whenever a disconnect exists between what a brand is saying about itself and what others are saying it, consumers are increasingly aware.
Some brands are successfully aligning their paid and unpaid activity, while others still struggle.
Here Nick Manning and Sandra Macleod examine the issues, opportunities and implications of marcomms integration.
- Why is paid-for media so important to brands in this multi-channelled world?
Nick Manning: Despite appearances to the contrary, advertising is more important than ever in the world of social media. It is wrong to think that the consumer now 'owns' brands. The brand-owner still needs to get its proposition and positioning across in the most compelling way, so maintaining control of marketing communications remains vital.
- Although 'earned' coverage plays an increasingly important role, the ability to target crafted messages at the right audience has not lost its primary place in the communications mix. Furthermore, the ability to achieve mass scale in communications is still a big factor in brand preference, so we aren't seeing the death of broadcast media.
- Also, we must not lose sight of the fact that most brands pay for communications in social media, whether it is a Facebook fansite, online ads, or other branded content, so the paid-for market applies just as much in the user-generated world.
- Meanwhile, none of this matters if paid-for marketing communications is ineffective, so brands should continue to be supported through paid channels, but brand investment needs to work harder to earn its keep.
- Why is earned/unpaid media so important to brands?
Sandra Macleod: When it comes to decisions and behaviour, the power of word-of-mouth is getting stronger. As 'corporate speak' is rapidly losing its voice, others are more trusted to speak for the brand. This must be welcomed and managed.
- It also poses many challenges to brands. Firstly, do they have 'matching luggage' inside and outside their organisation (most do not)? And secondly, how to harness the passion, commitment and power of advocates among employees, customers, investors, community members and opinion leaders (many don't know)? Encouraging third-party advocacy and building relationships with key influencers in the earned and unpaid media are rightly altering 'corporate think' and structures among the more visionary.
- Which brand is getting this combination right and why?
Nick: Any brand that has an active programme for generating positive consumer sentiment in social media. British Airways has made enormous improvements in this area, for example, and Eurostar learned from its winter meltdown in 2010.
Sandra: New-generation companies like Apple and Google are setting the standard, and Starbucks has been impressive at driving brand recognition and local appeal. …