More than four decades ago, French theorist Roland Barthes argued that the interpretation of literature should not be guided by the author’s intention, but rather it is the reader who determines what the text ‘means’. Today, in the new era of social media, Barthes’ ‘Death of the author’ theory is just as relevant to marketing and the way a brand is perceived. The consumer, powered by social media, is the one who determines how relevant and engaging a brand is, rather than the brand itself.

Australians have also made it clear that they want to engage and communicate with their favourite brands through social media channels. 64 percent of Facebook users have become ‘fans’ of at least one company. We are the biggest users of social media in the world and we spend more time online than any other media – including TV[1]. Every 20 minutes one million links are distributed while 1.3 million photos are tagged and shared online[2].

There is no doubt that 2011 is the year of the first truly social Christmas. The days when mass-market media was the sole vehicle to reach an audience are done and dusted. The new ‘social’ marketing channels are giving brands the opportunity to engage on a one-to-one basis and the smart brands are embracing this new paradigm.

Between 2000 and 2010 Pepsi spent US$124 million on its ads for the Super Bowl. But in 2010, for the first time in 23 years, Pepsi abandoned this strategy, instead spending $20 million on its ‘Refresh everything’ social media project which has proved to be hugely successful in terms of consumer engagement.

Another example of the way social is fundamentally changing brands is Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. This is the first time Coca-Cola has made such a drastic change to its packaging in its 125 year history. The campaign – replacing the iconic logo with a consumer’s name – has made the brand more personal, more meaningful and more appealing to the consumer. It’s empowering its fans by making the consumer the brand.

Just a few years ago it was unfathomable that consumers would take a photo of a product (such a Coke bottle with their name on it) on their mobile phone and share it instantly and easily with their friends across multiple social media channels. You would have to agree that this is pretty clever marketing.

Social media is all about two-way communication and can be a win-win for consumers and brands or retailers alike. It empowers consumers by giving them a voice and, in turn, humanises the brand or retailer through meaningful one-to-one interactions and conversations.

It seems that an integral part to success is using social media to gauge what your consumers want: harvesting the social business intelligence to derive real insights and shape future thinking. Twitter and Facebook, as well as a vast number of online forums, are a melting pot of real-time commentary and reviews about products, services, marketing initiatives and general brand perception. The next big challenge for marketers will be making sense of all this information.

Location-based social networking mobile apps are fast tracking the social revolution and fundamentally changing the way people meet and interact online and offline. Take the new app Roamz, an iPhone and iPad app that merges local, social and mobile technologies. Roamz works by aggregating all the social information flowing around the world, from various social media networks, such as Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Instagram. Roamz filters the information and cuts through the clutter to deliver to the user relevant, real-time insider tips, pictures and local events and attractions going around them.

Social media will continue to revolutionise the retailer-consumer dynamic, one click at a time. By embracing and using social media in a relevant and meaningful way, brands are bringing people together and keeping people connected. Brands that are brave and are allowing consumers to help shape its image and social capital are capitalising on the unprecedented opportunity of social media, and building brand value and long-term customer loyalty.

 

[1] Nielsen Australian Online Consumer Report, 2011

[2] The Australian Centre for Retail Studies’ Global Retail Insights Report, 2011

Nick Spooner
BY Nick Spooner ON 15 December 2011
Nick Spooner is CEO of Salmat Digital, leading their digital marketing and communications business. Since moving to Sydney in 2000 from London, Nick has been COO at Ninemsn, chief digital officer at Network Ten and has also worked in various senior roles at Optus.
  • I believe that Pepsi’s sales have continued to decline against Coke so should not the worth of ‘social marketing’ be judged by the commercial outcomes of sales and profitability? Using social marketing that may only touche, or ‘engage’, one segment of the mass market for something like Pepsi seems to guarantee that all the other potential customers will lose some reminders about buying Pepsi.