Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Can Own-Label Social Networks Ever Succeed?

Marketing, March 12, 2008 | Go to article overview

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Can Own-Label Social Networks Ever Succeed?


As O2 prepares to put pounds 4m behind its expansion into social networks, Bluebook, should every brand be considering starting an online community?

FIONA MCANENA, VICE-PRESIDENT INNOVATION, PEPSICO UK AND IRELAND

This isn't about digital media, it is about brands. Marketers should ask themselves, does my brand stand for something people care about? Is it strong enough that consumers feel an affinity with other users?

For brands such as Harley-Davidson and Apple, that can be enough Alternatively, a brand can engage through a shared interest - if it is genuinely at the heart of the brand. For instance, Pampers could build on its focus on child development.

To succeed, the topic has to be apparent in everything the brand does, not just a pretext for a forum, and the brand has to be willing to allow consumers to lead. If it can do that, it adds value for its users and earns greater trust for itself.

RORY SUTHERLAND, VICE-CHAIRMAN, OGILVY

Of course. A number of brands will be able to create fabulous social networks and to great effect.

Quite a few already exist: HOG (the Harley Owners Group) and Boeing's World Design Team are both good examples. However, many brands may be better advised to create applications on other social networking platforms, while others would be better off doing nothing at all in this space.

There are several variables at work; how interesting is the subject? How homogeneous is the audience? And how well do they respect each other? I suspect that BMW owners, say, while clearly a homogeneous group, are too 'individualistic' to dedicate any of their precious time to the collective good. …

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