Brand Management in a World of Two-Way Communication

The internet has completely redefined how you establish your company’s brand, transforming interaction from one-way messages to two-way conversations. Before the widespread use of the web, brand interactions were largely one-way engagements – companies told consumers what to think of their company, with the top executives defining their brand to buyers and leads.

Of course, from the company’s side of things, these one-way communications were much easier to manage and control, putting marketers and salespeople directly in control of how a business appeared to the general public.

Over time, this method of brand management proved to be not ideal. Although companies defined their brands to customers, it was still up to the end user whether they wanted to accept this belief. Major businesses could say one thing about themselves, but if consumers didn’t see this in their interactions with brands, skepticism would arise. When transparency was jeopardized, the whole consumer-brand reputation was degraded as a result.

The Rise of the Web and Two-Way Communications

The internet is a massive communication tool, giving everyone a voice through myriad platforms such as social media, blogs, email, YouTube and other channels. This means consumers are in a better position to not only talk with each other, but to brands directly. No longer can brands simply talk at customers and expect them to accept what is being said. They have been forced from the driver’s seat by their customers.

Brand management is now a two-way conversation, with back and forth communications helping to define the brand. Companies can tell consumers how they define their brands, but customers can just as easily push back and offer their own opinions on a brand to a broad audience.

As a result, brand management strategies no longer revolve around execution – it isn’t an executive saying “this is what our brand stands for, now make campaigns that highlight this aspect.” Instead, because consumers are now the ones defining brands, businesses need to take a more tactical approach to manage public perception. This means that management has grown to become a crucial component of successful brand strategies, particularly when compared to the pre-internet days.

The Impact of Social Media on Brand Management

The biggest changes in brand management have come over the course of the past few years, particularly with the recent introduction of social media to the list of channels companies use to engage customers. Social media can go either way for companies – it can be an incredibly useful tool that helps them engender fans and bolster customer loyalty, while it could also be used to expose brand dichotomies. Understanding how to engage customers through these channels is paramount to success.

According to a study conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, 58 percent of Americans follow brands on social media because they are existing customers and fans. Although social media is a two-way communication channel, fans tend to be quiet when they are content, with 77 percent indicating their only means of interaction was reading status updates and posts.

Still, these brand evangelists have a strong impact on a company. Approximately half of respondents (56 percent) said they are more likely to recommend a product or service they are connected with on social media. Additionally, 51 percent are more likely to make repeat purchases with businesses they follow, and they are also extremely selective with which companies they follow, which suggests a stronger relationship.

Using social media to encourage interactions and bolster enthusiasm is critical to effective brand management. However, social media isn’t all roses and puppies, and when consumers are upset with a brand, they’ll let them know publicly on their social media pages, where hundreds, thousands or even millions of other consumers may see these complaints.

Businesses trying to develop and define their brand can’t let this feedback go unaddressed. It’s a matter of maintaining transparency and authenticity. It doesn’t matter if a company gives the air of being a fun-loving, creative brand when its Facebook page is riddled with comments about poor service and low-quality products. People will be able to pick up on the dichotomy between what a brand is saying and how the company is acting.

Dealing with angry consumers and brand detractors may seem like a negative branding experience, but the fact of the matter is that these upset customers actually give you an opportunity to prove the authenticity of your company. Smart companies will be quick to turn these lemons into lemonade by engaging these individuals.

Identify their problems and criticisms, then work with them to turn these negatives into positives. At worst, you’ll discover ways you can improve your products and services. At best, you’ll win over these negative consumers and convert them into brand advocates who are quick to sing the praises of your brands willingness to engage and do right by its customers.

Once the gap between a company’s actions and its words has been exposed, it can be difficult to restore consumer trust in that brand. However, by acting quickly and taking negative consumers head on, brands may be able to do just that. Domino’s, for example, did an effective job of this by publicly apologizing for the poor quality of its food and service and creating a whole campaign based around the redemption of the brand. This initiative reignited interest in the fast food chain.