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Making friends in the digital age: a manifesto for brand enlightenment

Social & Digital

Making friends in the digital age: a manifesto for brand enlightenment


Whether inviting friends to Facebook, contributing reviews to Amazon, or fighting to defend the religion of Apple, the world’s fastest-growing companies prove that at the heart of enlightened brands lie six key characteristics:

You’ve undoubtedly heard them all before: Consumers are empowered. Niche is the new mass. An abundance of information creates a scarcity of attention. Collaboration beats control. Advocates beat customers. Markets are conversations. Word of mouth has been supercharged.

These are the marketing clichés of our time.

But behind each cliché is a truth. And within these truths lie the key to success and the lessons of failure for today’s brands.

1. Respect.

Ogilvy's famous Dove 'Evolution' Campaign for Real Beauty turned the rules of beauty product marketing upside down. By showing the real story behind an advertisement, Dove demonstrated leadership, transparency, vulnerability and above all respect to its audience.

Dove's celebration of inner beauty earned it more than 12 million YouTube views; a great example of an audience buying into core values, and rewarding a brand by driving the message virally.

2. Authenticity.

When Amazon caused outrage by its poor handling of illegally sold copies of '1984,' a traditionally loyal customer base turned on Amazon in an online chat forum. Amazon's

Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos showed courage by quickly joining the discussion to admit his company’s mistake.

“Our 'solution' to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we've received,” he wrote.

The discussion instantly turned positive. These events created far more respect for Amazon than damage.

3. Consistency.

From a Steve Jobs keynote presentation, to an email advertisement. To the Apple website, product design and packaging, and a visit to the Apple store. Apple has achieved a consistency of brand experience that is unrivalled. Where does the marketing stop and the product begin? Apple is seamless.

4. Generosity.

Around the time Microsoft launched its Google-competitor Bing with an estimated $100m media campaign, Google quietly offered free WiFi in 47 airports across the US as a 'gift' for the holidays. The Bing campaign was a great success. Millions tried it. Some stayed. But many thought that the marketing promise was just that, and switched back to Google.

Google's inexpensive act of generosity earned it plenty of media and endless goodwill across the US.

Similarly, when Volkswagen launched the new Golf GTI, it replaced traditional TV spend with giving away a very high quality iPhone game called Real Racing Gti (based upon a popular game that retails for $8.99). This act of generosity connected with a young an influential demographic, and communicated that the Golf Gti was a sporty and technically innovative machine. The medium is the message. Valuable media was earned. And the results? 6 million downloads and counting. No. 1 free app in 36 countries. A top 10 trending topic on Twitter at launch. And over 80% increase in sales leads, test drives and quote requests.

5. Utility.

With the creation of Nike Plus, millions of runners worldwide can set goals, compete against friends and track their running progress. While combining the zen of running with listening to their favourite music, and connecting with friends.

As AdWeek said in naming it Digital Campaign of the Decade in 2010, “since its launch, Nike

Plus runners have logged more than 100 million miles—enough for more than 400 roundtrips to the moon. It's little coincidence that Nike steadily increased its running shoe market share from 48 percent in 2006 to 61 percent in 2008.”

By building a digital utility that creates real value for their audience, Nike has created a virtual monopoly among digital savvy and social runners the world over. The millions who joined the

Nike digital ecosystem are well and truly rusted on.

And when it comes to genuine utility, it's hard to overlook Google's contributions in public emergencies. Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the search engine giant launched its person finder application, linking up loved ones.

6. Immediacy.

In today's switched on mobile world, consumers demand immediacy. Markets are conversations, and it can be frustrating having a conversation with a brand that just can't keep up. Waiting on hold for the call centre, receiving an email response 'within 24 hours' or receiving your order later than expected are no longer good enough.

Apple is a good example. The moment Steve Jobs announces a sought after new product, the website is updated. The email announcement arrives in 200 million inboxes the next day.

Orders can be made. Products ship within 24 hours. There is much to gain by making immediate part of every brand experience.

The lessons from these examples of 'enlightened' companies, is that authentic brands that are grounded in strong principles that market with meaning and generosity, will win.


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