Hello? Is that the brand speaking? 

These days, every time I try to write here … sur da blog … I’m greeted with screams of regret from within, as I always want to write more. Say more. Do more. Le sigh. All I can do is try, right? And my readers (all three of you!) are so patient with me. Thanks eh! A friend of mine recently posted a not-so-happy experience with one of our big brands here at home (if you’re from the outside looking in, home is not only where the coffee is but Trinidad and Tobago). One of her personal photos had been used by said brand to promote an offer or promotion that they were running on their social media. 

The situation was resolved and all is now well. But I’m still brooding over a deeper issue that surfaced. Should external companies and/or suppliers manage the social media for any brand that prioritizes customer engagement?  As a brand strategist, I’ll admit to being one who truly gets excited to witness the dance of the brands, as they all vie to get our attention, hearts and ultimately, our hard, cold cash. I also get excited when brands show TTChatterbox some love. When I post a certain product or service and the brand says “thank you” or reposts the photo, I sort of swell with pride feeling comes over me. Butterflies even. And sure that makes me lame but I’ve been working with brands for almost 20 years now and I’ve become so in tune with what makes them tick that I notice that behaviour the most in my mself now, and even celebrate it. Thing is, this is exactly what you want your customers to feel, when they experience your brand. You want them to scream to the mountain tops of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more about how amazing your brand is and hashtag their love over and over again. And when they do, do you really want someone, no matter how talented and English-savvy they are, who works for anoher company responding to these very same customers? Will they be able to speak on your behalf? Or do they have to run to you every time things are a bit unclear? Is this conducive to operational excellence? What about weekends and public holidays? Do these employees of another company have the passion for their job and your brand to be on call to deal with your customers? The answers seem pretty obvious yet, outsourcing the community management of your brand’s social media is quite common place. Is it right though?

Let’s use the recent Coca-Cola your-name-on-a-can promotion. Thousands of people swooned over seeing their names on bottles and cans across the world. According to Coca-Cola UK, here are some interesting statistics to show the level of engagement the promotion achieved:

• Over a thousand names on our bottles

• 998 million impressions on Twitter

• 235,000 tweets from 111,000 fans using the #ShareaCoke hashtag

• More than 150 million personalised bottles sold

• Over 730,000 glass bottles personalised via the e-commerce store

• 17,000 virtual name bottles shared online across Europe

• 65 experiential stops on the Share a Coke tour

The global drinks giant and touter of happiness also created a special font for the personalized can and they called it, “You” further cementing that the promotion gained its popularity due to its ability to create a connection between customer and brand while symbolizing self-expression through the happiest brand alive. 

So with global brands going the distance to keep us engaged and connect with us on a personal level, is there then any merit in brands paying someone to create this connection on their behalf? Wait I asked that already. Answer time.. 

Yes and no. Though the more I think about it, it’s a no. And let me be transparent. This is one of the ways I make my money but I’m not sure it is truly the best way to help my clients engage further with their customers. For me every situation needs to be win-win. I’m happy to work with a brand to craft their voice and this in itself is a very collaborative process. But to speak for them? Nah. 

I’d rather teach them the ins and out of social media, how to create an online content strategy that supports a marketing mix that’s already … mixing. How to match images and content that not only promote their products and services and their benefits while being visually-appealing, but also increase user generated content and truly achieve high levels of engagement and brand love. Social, digital and/or online media … or whatever they are calling it these days … is bringing back that good ole word of mouth advertising. And to truly take advantage of this customer-facing opportunity, brands have to be…well…customer-facing.

A recent incident at nightclub, Aria, also illuminates the importance of who we choose to face our customers. A female patron claims (and I believe her!) she was discriminated against because of the way she was dressed. It seems that the staff member of the establishment dealt with the situation with the class of say a cockroach. Question is, did the employee represent the culture of her employer or that of her own?

As brands we truly need to value every opportunity we get to engage with our customers and the recruitment process for staff and external suppliers that we trust with intimate functions for our brand, is one that we must handle meticulously and regardless of what we choose in the end, it is always the brand itself that is accountable.  


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