What is happening to brands under the multitude storm?
Why do corporations create brands in the first place? A brand is a complex, it is a construction meant to trigger feelings, emotions about some product or service, to trigger desire. It usually has a name, there is an image associated with it, a slogan, a story, values, some cultural elements, etc. During marketing campaigns all these elements are associated with the name and the image - a logo, so next time you see it, or hear the name, you "salivate". To put it simply, a brand is Pavlov's bell, and we are the dogs...
And how can you make a brand effective in increasing sales? There are branding specialists, not everyone can create a successful brand. A brand must stick. It must mark you in a significant way, it must be intrusive and create persistent associations. Normally corporations use sensitive cords, they follow general popular trends. A brand acts on an individual, but it is created as a tool for mass manipulation, as a social construct. The brand builder must understand the population it addresses. Sometimes they use sex, environmental issues, fear, good feelings, the desire to be powerful, ..., whatever ticks in that society at that time. So if you want your brand to work for your business you need a message that sticks and spreads, you need a powerful meme.
With the advent of the social media (Fecebook, Youtube, LinkedInetc.), corporations think that they can now use these new communication channels to increase the spread of their brand. So they changed their strategy in building brands. They make them viral. They realize that the population is now strongly interconnected, and that everyone is able to broadcast his own ideas. Therefore, if your message if effective enough, some people will spread it on behalf of the company, without even getting payed for it. Make the message funny enough, for example, put it on Youtube, and it will spread.
But there is a problem with that. Corporations don't control what people are sharing. Sometimes, somebody out there, in some circumstances, can take a logo and modify it. The new message can become even more powerful than the original one, more sticky, more pervasive, more viral. The marketing campaign of the corporation backlashes. It's message was hijacked. Every time people will see the logo of the company other feelings/ideas will surface, not the ones originally intended by the corporation.
What is the lesson of all this? You cannot say one thing and do another anymore. If you don't stand by your principles, which must be good principles, you are screwed. This brings back some ethics into the corporate world, for the time they're going to be around....
Here's what I think about brands. It is becoming and old concept. In the Twitter era the reputation of a product emerges instantaneously from users of the product, which are connected and expressive. People share their experiences, and they are very effective in doing that by using popular buzz channels like G+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The reputation of a product emerges in an instant and it is based on value, whatever that value is, functionality, a social cause, design, etc. Corporations have less power to manufacture an image for themselves. The image is given to them by the multitude, according to what they have to offer. This is the new reality, where the narratives are now controlled by the multitude.