Today I wanted to write about the relaunch of BrandKarma, which I have mentioned before as one of the examples of platforms that empower customers to be mindful consumers, and therefore help to create a private sector that also functions as a third pillar of social change in support of government and philanthropy. Its site gives a voice to the social community that cares about the world we live in, and the world we leave our kids. What’s more, it recognizes the right of every citizen or customer to have a say in which companies succeed and which are encouraged to change their behavior.
What BrandKarma did was to create a platform that made it easy for you to see the brands holistically, and to share your opinions about them wherever and whenever you want. In doing so, it redefines a customer’s relationship with brands. For too long, advertising has thrived on the basis of media monopolies that basically told us what to think, do and buy. Now, BrandKarma empowers consumers to judge brands on the basis of how good their products are, how they treat people and how they look after the planet. It does this with a view to a sustainable practice of capitalism, which ultimately is in the service of companies themselves because brands cannot survive in societies that fail.
To facilitate this new customer engagement, BrandKarma has done four things:
They give customers the power to rate companies so that brands start to value the social capital and influence that a brand has amongst its customer community.
By extension, it also gives customers a chance to make suggestions about how brands could make their products differently or provide an improved service.
In the third stage, it enables customers to amplify their opinions by leveraging social media to share the brands they support with others using channels like Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, BrandKarma allows you to make an informed purchasing decision by allowing you to compare brands by industry, and choose ethical, socially responsible products when you want to make a purchase.
All this input is then factored into what is an aggregate score for a brand, or what they call a “Karma Score”, and BrandKarma lists the top 100 rankings on its site. It further breaks out a rating for the product, people and planet peculiar to that brand, and tracks the relative standing of each brand over time, incentivizing brands to upgrade their commitment to sustainability.
It’s no accident that a platform such as BrandKarma was developed by veteran brander himself, Craig Davis. The fact that the platform was started by someone who has worked for years in the service of brands is instructive as to the importance of social currency towards profitability and brand reputation in the future. Companies of all types would be well-advised to respond to the drivers that inform BrandKarma, and work with the platform itself to inspire customer loyalty, goodwill and profits. In doing so, they will not only insure their own well-being, they will improve society at large and the sustainability of the planet, not just for themselves, but for generations to come.
Do you think it’s important for consumers to tell brands what they think? What are the best ways you think BrandKarma can get others involved in its platform?
I had a chance to dive into Brian Solis’ new book, The End of Business As Usual this weekend. What Brian does so well is take the competing trends that are changing the marketplace, as well their impact on consumer sentiment and behavior, and helps us think through the ways we must reframe our businesses and our relationships with our customers to succeed in this new social business marketplace.
His ability to understand the present so well as to be able to reliably predict the future is something that Solis has been able to do for some time in his blog. But as his book suggests, we are now at a point where the impact of social media has drawn a line in the sand between business as we practiced it in the past, and the new strategies and relationship dynamics that will define the business success stories of the future. Solis rightly calls this “Digital Darwinism“, and as we have seen in the film, television, video, music and publishing industries, those companies that ignore the way that technology is transforming business do so at their peril.
Perhaps the most powerful message of the book is the appropriate priority that he now gives to the consumer. He explains how Millennials are increasingly defining what consumers need and want from brands, how social networks have allowed consumers to effectively have their own personal operating systems, and the growing importance of platforms like Facebook within this new “ego-system.”
Solis explains in clear and actionable steps exactly how business can respond to this new business environment, capitalizing on the fact that information is now available in real-time investing commercial relationships with a degree of intimacy unimaginable only a few years ago. The middle chapters of the book are critical to this end as he explains about the intersection between media and the human network. The importance of earning social capital for social brands, and the rise of connected consumerism, cannot be overstressed and Solis carefully walks us through how to understand them both.
He then goes on to explain the importance of mobile commerce and the blistering rise of mobile applications that will increasingly define the business landscape, making it ever more challenging for brands to maintain customer loyalty. As such, Solis provides invaluable insights into the co-creation process of the new brand/consumer dynamic. Importantly, he looks at its implications for the sales cycle, and how brands can create shared experiences that will inspire customer communities to build a business in partnership with brands, referencing case studies like Starbucks, Zappos or Dell. These examples are very instructive in terms of the emotional dynamics that are now driving customer engagement and the purchasing of products, such as social responsibility, empathy and philanthropy. Finally, Solis takes an insightful look at the role of employees within this new business culture, and the type of change management that is needed for brands to not only engage social technology, but to stay nimble enough to keep changing with it.
As such, Solis does a wonderful job of explaining and synthesizing the many competing and potentially confusing trends that are now redefining the business marketplace, and provides an invaluable guide as to what we can expect from the future in terms of a brand’s relationship to its customers, employees, and its new leadership dynamics. If you’re interested in the social business marketplace, if you’re committed to reinventing your brand for success, if you’re fascinated by the ways that social media is impacting customer relations, organizational dynamics, leadership and the future of business, ‘The End of Business As Usual,’ is a must-read. It will redefine how you see your business, the marketplace, and your future, and provide a deep understanding of the incredible opportunities available to brands today.
I finally had the chance to visit Google, a business, brand and creative powerhouse I have admired for years. I spoke there about We First as part of their authors series. Everyone was super gracious and I now understand why it’s such a desirable place to work. They really do everything they can to inspire the best in their people and feed their creativity. So here’s the talk and thanks to everyone at Google for the great day.
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Simon Mainwaring is founder of We First, a social branding consulting firm that helps companies, non-profits and individuals use social media to build communities, profits and positive impact.