The Power of Using the Right Media Channel, and Social Networking

Last year as the economy faltered, a lot of people in the integrated advertising and marketing community started rethinking just how important their brand was to their consumer base. Consumers with less money to spend, less access to credit, and less confidence in the U.S. economy, started rethinking when, where, and how they spent their money. The question people in the marketing communications field began to ask in response was simple: “How do I become a brand consumers can’t live without?”

After a year or so of watching consumer actions, what we learned was a very simple and very compelling thing about consumer loyalty: it’s probably not your brand they’re loyal to in the end. While most people think their brands have a loyal following, what they really have are a group of habit-driven consumers. And when a serious shock occurs to that consumer’s economic base, it doesn’t take much to break that established “habit” they have formed with your brand.

So If it’s not the brand consumers are loyal to, then what exactly is it?

We all know and have seen that emotional attachments to brands certainly do exist, but that kind of devout loyalty usually starts with some kind of “shared value” that consumers believe they hold with the brand. A common shared experience with the brand itself.

This holiday season in an intriguing way, Best Buy is putting Twelpforce ( A collective force of Best Buy technology pros offering tech advice in Tweet form )at the very center of its big communications push for the holiday drive period.

What’s interesting is that if we look at data from the 125 companies that have all taken Business Week’s Marketing Leadership Council  “social media maturity diagnostic”, you find out that only 11% of marketer communications planners have integrated social media into their overall communications planning processes.

Most advertisers take the “biggest bang” approach to their media channel planning.  Traditionally they will work backward from the business growth goals and what the volume targets are to plan their campaign targets, and the traditional models tell them how much money they need to dump into broadcast, direct mail, print, promotions etc. to hit those volume targets.  Social media and experiential channels have taken a backseat, at best. But, as we are beginning to find out, the true promise of social media lies in the relationship experiences that a brand can create—and scale for their target consumer. Because of this media planning will look very different in the near future.

If we think about this, planning campaigns shouldn’t work back from growth goals, but instead they should look at what the desired social experience is that we want consumers to have ( ideally with one another ), and set the course around how the brand helps establish that.  People developing social media channels should start by identifying what that critical experience is, and then leverage a broader media experience to play specific roles around, and support that overall social media experience.  by leveraging social media , the role of broadcast media is to help scale that brand experience.

As we start to see signs of an economic turnaround, the idea of brand loyalty is just as important as it did during the economic recession.  If consumers feel more attached to your brand, or a shared value that they believe your brand embodies then you are in a position to spend less on your messaging, and you quite possibly have a larger surface area that allows you to explore new products and services that previously seemed out of reach.

Earlier today, Coca-Cola announced the largest social media campaign in the history of their company, “Expedition 206”. The campaign “will send three 20-somethings to 206 countries and territories where Coca-Cola is sold in 2010. The trio sets off on their 275,000-mile tour from Madrid on Jan. 1, stocked with laptops, video cameras, smartphones and plenty of other gadgetry, in order to document for the masses their search for happiness.”

The entire journey will be tracked on not only the website, but though Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and via mobile devices. According to Coke the challenge was to think about the social and digital media space as a new venue for driving good public relations for the company, and extend the brand presence. Unlike Best Buy and Twelpforce, Coke is extending their reach into the social media channel on multiple fronts. What will be interesting is to see how they expand the “Expedition 206” campaign into traditional media channels over the course of the next year and how both the social media channels and the traditional channels drive traffic to the product and build customer loyalty.

The future of all of this is going to be very interesting over the next few years. Especially as social media giants like Twitter and Facebook grow up, and