Social Brands & The Future Of Marketing

Simon Kemp

The most successful brands don’t just predict the future; they define the future on their own terms.

To that end, we’ve developed Social Brands & The Future Of Marketing – a series of provocations designed to help you shape your brand’s vision of the future, and to start bringing that vision to life today.

We’ll be sharing all 8 provocations on the We Are Social blog over the next few days, and we’re kicking things off today with a contention that addresses one of the thorniest questions when it comes to social media: “How do we deliver real ROI”?

Social Equity Drives Brand Equity
As we’ve highlighted before, the key to delivering meaningful ROMI is to set clear business objectives at the outset, and to make sure that everything the brand does is focused on delivering those objectives.

However, many brands are still stuck in short-term, cyclical marketing. For reasons often beyond our control, marketers are still overly focused on this quarter’s results, and as a result we often miss the wood for the trees when it comes to social ROI.

The reality about relationships is that they take time to deliver their full potential.

However, once relationships reach this potential, the returns keep coming; ‘returns on relationships’ aren’t a one-time result.

So how do we build these meaningiful relationships?

The secret lies in understanding why people choose to talk about brands.

The Sociology Of Choice
The observation that people are highly social creatures is hardly a revelation, but it’s important to remember that people don’t make personal choices in isolation.

Indeed, many of the choices we make are influenced by our expectation of the reactions those choices will elicit from those around us.

The more confident we are that these expectations will be met, the greater our level of conviction when it comes to those choices.

As a result, the conversations we have with other people are one of the most important determinants of our brand choices.

Conversation Drives Compensation
Again, that’s hardly a revelation. However, many brands appear to be missing its commercial significance.

The reality is that brands which succeed in inspiring more favourable conversation are the ones that will succeed in building the greatest propensity for trial, and that are best placed to form lasting relationships with their audiences and consumers.

Therefore, more favourable conversations drive a more favourable financial outcome.

Critically, though, it’s the conversations between people that matter most, and not necessarily the conversations that those people are having directly with the brand.

Similarly, the conversation doesn’t have to start in social media for it to have value; everything the brand does – from packaging to advertising, and from customer service to recruitment – should be designed to maximise the greatest volume of peer-to-peer conversation.

Brands Worth Talking About
The implications of this are huge; for example, when it comes to a ‘content’ strategy, we shouldn’t start with the usual suspects like video or ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ status updates.

More importantly, we need to stop relying on conversations about content, and look at content as a means of inspiring and fuelling the conversations that really matter.

This means re-thinking our approach to brand communications.

Talk Is Cheap, But Conversations Have Value
We need to start by identifying what we want these brand conversation to be about, and then work out the most engaging and motivating ways of inspiring conversation.

That inspiration can come in many, many forms, and only a small number of them need to start in social media.

However, before you make any investments, be very clear about why the audience might want to be a part of this conversation.

Be honest with yourself – will they actually care? Is it really worth talking about?

ROI = “Return On Interest”
The good news is that getting this right has huge financial potential; a brand worth talking about is a brand that people are willing to pay more for.

In order to take advantage of this potential value, spend more time working out how your brand can become a relevant ‘social entity’.

Ultimately, building your social equity will help you to build your financial equity.

Want to join the conversation? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions, so why not share them in the comments. In the next post in this series, we’ll explore the importance of building communities instead of buying audiences.