The launch of Google+ apps sends a powerful signal – the personalized web has begun. What this means is that the way information is structured and accessed will turn on the individual, or rather their personal profile which is a composite of all the data collected on the basis of what they have searched for and shared. What this means for brands and their marketing is enormous.
As the individual becomes the filter through which all information must pass, the onus for brands to be defined and social becomes acute. Here’s why.
Till now, search was outward facing. When you wanted to find something you entered its name and in most cases, relied on Google to provide a list of ranked links to that topic.But now search, and the way information is structured and accessed is becoming increasingly inward facing with the individual as the filter. That means when you visit a website the ads will reflect brands, topics or causes that you have demonstrated a past interest in through what you searched and shared. In short, your experience of the web is being built from the individual out, in circles as Valeria Maltioni rightly explains.
With this shift in informational structure and emphasis in mind, what happens to the undefined brand? How does a brand that either stands for nothing, or more commonly, several things at once, pass through the individual filter of the personalized web?
Brands reluctant to do the hard work of defining what they stand for and integrating that within their organization, or brands that mistakes social technology as an end in itself rather than as tools to connect people emotionally, run the very real risk of becoming invisible and obsolete. Put simply, brands must accept that they are no longer the destination. Their customer is. And as such, self-definition is a critical tools through which your brand, and its products and services, can reach it target audience.
If you doubt the importance of this shift, you need only look at how much competition there is for the potential customer’s attention these days and platforms (like SocialVibe) or strategies (like bonuses, rewards or coupons) that are used to command it.
Brands are facing a new competitive landscape in which self-definition, core values and purpose will increasingly define their ability to reach customers that only allow what is meaningful in their lives to pass through their filter.
At the 4A’s conference this year, Unilever CMO Keith Weed asserted that “the customers are in charge” of the conversation. The advent of Google+ and the emergence of the personalized web means this is more true than ever. Brands, and their advertising partners, must wake up to this challenge and define themselves with clarity, consistency and authenticity. Otherwise they just might find themselves shouting in a ghost town.
Do you believe the customer is increasingly in control? How do you think brands must respond to the personalized web?
In We First I contend that purposeful engagement represents an enormous opportunity for brands in the social business marketplace. But exactly how does a brand do this? And in what ways can they engage their employees so that they not only earn goodwill with their customers, but also inspire their employees to promote their companies with pride?
Causecast is a remarkable platform that enables both. It serves as a cause integration platform for both brands and non-profits providing the technology and services that make it simple and effective for brands to address some of today’s most pressing problems. It does this by partnering with clients to engage both employees and customers in volunteer and donation opportunities that are relevant to the core values of the brand. While on the execution levels they enable companies to incorporate these opportunities into the brand’s website, campaigns and throughout their organizations.
Such services are not only invaluable but necessary. While many brands would like to be more purposefully engaged, the process must be simple and actionable before they can actually make a commitment. For example, Virgin Mobile Canada and Virgin Unite are using Causecast technology to track and reward volunteers participating in its RE*generation program. So volunteers who donate their time to at-risk and homeless youth organizations across Canada can earn rewards like tickets to the hottest concerts and events across the country by going to volunteer.virginmobile.ca.
Ultimately this power of platforms like Causecast is scale. As Andrew Bridge, director of brand and communications, Virgin Mobile Canada, explains:
Causecast has made it easy to track and manage the volunteer efforts on a massive scale, giving us the ability to help more at-risk and homeless youth than we would have otherwise been able to impact through the RE*Generation program.”
Such efforts are part of what is an exciting and inspiring movement. To encourage greater corporate engagement, Causecast has launched its public beta of Cause Integration Profiles and announced a partnership with Corporate Responsibility Magazine to promote and syndicate the listings of socially responsible companies.
Cause Integration Profiles are open to any company interested in raising the exposure of their corporate social responsibility initiatives, the causes they support and the grants offered by their foundations. In addition to being showcased in a directory on the Causecast website, the data is also available for syndication via real-time data feeds to employment databases and other corporate information distribution partners.
The Cause Integration Profiles provide companies that have integrated cause into their organizations with a unique way of showcasing their CSR initiatives. For consumers and prospective employees, the Profiles provide better visibility into the companies with whom they are considering working for and buying from.
Ryan Scott, Founder of Causecast explains the benefits to companies as follows:
“Research has shown that employees want to work for companies that care, and consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that give back. Our Cause Integration Profiles give companies a way to showcase their efforts and provide consumers with a free, transparent resource to find information about any company’s cause marketing and CSR initiatives.”
The tools, services and success of Causecast are social proof of the private sector’s response to consumer and employee demands for greater social responsibility from the companies they support. By making purposeful engagement simple and effective, Causecast enables brands to resonate more effectively with their customer communities and benefit for the new dynamics made possible by social media. Companies participating in such programs deserve our support as they are the leaders in a private sector movement for substantive social change.
One of the greatest challenges companies face in adjusting to the impact of social media, is knowing where to start? Many corporate leaders and employees have the right intentions, but it can be overwhelming when you consider how everything is affected from leadership styles, to organizational structure, to employee engagement, to customer service an marketplace. So I thought it might be useful to offer ten important questions that each company must address if they want to build a community of customers that use social media to help build your brand,
1. As a CEO, am I willing to relaunch my brand as the chief celebrant of its community rather than its celebrity?
2. As an executive, am I personally willing to take responsibility for the alignment between what a company says it stands for and how it practices its business?
3. As a corporate board, are we willing to invest the time to define who we are as a brand?
4. As a company, are we willing to demonstrate our commitment to our core values through social outreach?
5. As management and PR departments, are we willing to operate with transparency, authenticity and accountability, even when we make mistakes?
6. As a marketer, are we willing to lead with a listening ear rather than a loud voice?
7. As a service provider, are we willing to invest in long-term relationships as well as short-term sales?
8. As a product manufacturer, are we willing to hold our suppliers to the same standards of social responsibility as we hold ourselves?
9. As a brand, are we willing to play our role in the sustainable practice of capitalism that is good for business, consumers and the planet?
10. As stakeholders in our future, are management and employees willing to share responsibility for building a world we want?
When a company can honestly and comprehensively answer these ten questions, it is poised to benefit from the social business marketplace. I wrote We First to help CEOs, brands, employees and citizens to be better equipped to answer these questions in a way that is not just profitable for their bottom line and satisfying for their employees, but beneficial to the societies and planet on which we all depend.
What other questions would you add to the list? Which do you think is the most important question for a CEO to answer?
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