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The social shift

Those of you who know me or are regular readers of this blog, will know that I’m an avid social media user. 

My favorites – judging by battery consumption on my phone – are Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (donnelly_b). I think it’s incredible what these platforms are doing to branding, marketing, personal connectivity, city building, and the list goes on.

To that end, the March issue of Harvard Business Review has an interesting article by Douglas Holt called, Branding in the Age of Social Media. Whether you’re running a company, a city, or a real estate development project, I think you’ll find the information relevant.

The article starts by describing a shift, brought about by social, whereby big brands are now struggling to capture the attention of consumers. Instead, consumers are listening to individuals and more grassroots movements.

“Or consider Red Bull, the most lauded branded-content success story. It has become a new-media hub producing extreme – and alternative – sports content. While Red Bull spends much of its $2 billion annual marketing budget on branded content, its YouTube channel (rank #184, 4.9 million subscribers) is lapped by dozens of crowdculture start-ups with production budgets under $100,000. Indeed, Dude Perfect (#81, 8 million subscribers), the brainchild of five college jocks from Texas who make videos of trick shots and goofy improvised athletic feats, does far better.”

So what should brands be doing? Holt argues that they need to tap into these developing subcultures and emergent ideologies:

“These three brands broke through in social media because they used cultural branding—a strategy that works differently from the conventional branded-content model. Each engaged a cultural discourse about gender and sexuality in wide circulation in social media—a crowdculture—which espoused a distinctive ideology. Each acted as a proselytizer, promoting this ideology to a mass audience. Such opportunities come into view only if we use the prism of cultural branding—doing research to identify ideologies that are relevant to the category and gaining traction in crowdcultures. Companies that rely on traditional segmentation models and trend reports will always have trouble identifying those opportunities.”

For me, this ties into one of my favorite lines from Simon Sinek: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” And now, thanks to social, it has become a lot easier to figure out what people and communities care about. It has become easier to figure out your why.

Do you see this as being relevant to your work? I am certainly thinking about it in the context of mine.

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