You Don’t Control Your Brand. The Audience Does.

Traditional branding is dead. The days of ‘choosing’ your brand and pushing your choice out to passive consumers are gone.  Today, you have to earn your brand.

Thanks to social networking and Web 2.0 tools, you simply can’t ‘control’ a brand by saturating a market with endlessly repeating messages and advertisements.  It’s too easy for your audience to call your bluff, share their views with an enormous number of people, and create the exact opposite impression you were intending.

So how does today’s branding work?  You actually have to provide value for your audience or your customers.  If you give them a stellar experience, they will tell others.  If you give them a bad experience, they will also tell others.   The word of mouth about your content or product IS your brand.

Let’s say you upload 100 music videos and 5 comedy videos to YouTube.  In traditional media thinking, that means that you’re mostly a music service.  However, if only 10 people watch your music videos, but 3 of your comedy videos go viral, to the audience, you’re a comedy company.

The point is, you don’t get to choose. The audience creates your brand with every click of a mouse, every content rating tool they use, every comment they make about your content, and every link they send to their friends.

So forget trying to ‘sell’ people with endless hype.  Focus your energy on building a relationship with them by giving them a terrific experience first.   The days of ‘promising’ a brand are over.  The days of having to deliver on the brand promise are here.

ALERT To Traditional Media

Dear Traditional Media Executive,

URGENT MEMO

The web is NOT primarily a place to advertise your TV programming, your radio programming, your newspaper content, or the latest issue of your magazine.

As a valued and (relatively) YOUNGER audience member that you are craving so desperately, when I decide that I want to experience your brand on a ‘non-traditional’ platform like your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, etc, PLEASE don’t use it for the sole purpose of telling me about all the wonderful things that are on TV, on the radio, in your newspaper, in your magazine, but AREN’T on the web.

I’m choosing to interact with you on the web.  I want a content experience, not an ad. Give me what I want or I will go elsewhere.

Here’s what you’re telling me:

“Thanks for coming my website.  Please leave the web immediately and go to the inconvenient place of my choosing  where I can make more money off of your eyeballs and/or ears.”

Would you watch a TV station whose only programming was ads about great content on the web?  Of course not.  So stop using the web that way.

Sincerely,

Your Future Audience

(P.S. The best way to promote your TV, radio, newspaper, or magazine content?  Let me experience it on the web. If I can have a content experience with your brand on the web and I like it, the odds go way up that I’ll give it a try on another medium.  But if I can’t try it and instead experience the equivalent of a billboard, I’m almost certain to give it a pass…)