Insults - blog

5 Insults That Global Brands (And Their CMOs) Must Overcome

This post first appeared on O&M’s Fast Company page

Building brands through mobile and social nuggets of content

The little things make the biggest difference–small tokens and handwritten notes touch the heart as much or more than the big, splashy gesture. People don’t expect everything to be perfect and extraordinary, but they love personalized attention that shows you care. The same is true of communication. It’s the quality of content that matters–not its size.

Social and mobile communications are a case in point.

Global brands, particularly in emerging markets, face five challenges as they develop their social and mobile strategies. I call them “The 5 Insults” because most CMOs seem offended that the brand must learn to retell its story to adapt to new consumers and emerging digital formats.

The first insult: Most emerging middle class consumers haven’t heard of most global brands.

Brands must bear the burden of making themselves relevant and understood–consumers won’t bridge that gap. For example, in Asia, many brands are seen simply as being European without an appreciation of which country they are from. British brands do not benefit from Britishness because Britishness is more associated with Mr. Bean than Big Ben. Brands must learn to tell their story to those that do not share the classic cultural reference points.

The second insult: Social media must be a central part of–not peripheral to–brand building. The only way to get and keep attention is by being more interesting to (or more interested in) the people you are talking to. Brands need well-crafted bite-sized content suitable to local audiences.

The third insult: The mobile screen is the first and most frequent touch point between a brand and its consumers. Mobility and pervasive connectedness open up a cornucopia of possibilities to surprise consumers with delightful experiences. In mobile, it is important to make stories visual, information concise, entertainment gratifying, and utilities single-minded toward the task they perform.

The fourth insult: In the fragmented world of social media and mobility, the consumer behaves like a cat–gone are the days when a fat chunk of media money will not buy their undivided attention. They are not obedient to a marketer’s wishes, nor do they follow a linear path to purchase or a narrative through the neat layers of a brand’s DNA. Content and brand stories should not be conceived of in a sequential manner but rather as an ecosystem and constant narrative.

The fifth insult: There is the lack of transparency in social media and measurement. China is the most obvious example where paid KOL’s (Key Opinion Leaders) are a core part of the marketing mix. What is less discussed is the “invisible seeding” activity that many brands fund, which results in fake fans, reviews, and likes. Marketers must learn to read the numbers and see through the lies.

There has never been a greater need for brands to craft little jewels of content that can sparkle and seduce the most discerning of consumers. Brands that learn to tell their brand story in bite-sized, mobile friendly chunks in the fragmented world of social media will engage consumers. Those that learn to retell their story without Westernized cultural reference points will develop deeper bonds that may last a generation or more.

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