Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

Loving Brands Like Brothers

Open our doors to social media

When was the last time you shared something intimate with a brand? Had a romantic picnic on the ledge of a billboard? Or spent a Friday night with a group of friends at the advertisement theater?

We don’t share ourselves with brands in this sense exactly. But our engagement with brands is changing and expanding all the time. We now live in a world where a brand that earns its way into the lives of its fans can engage with them on a daily basis, creating a deeper relationship than has ever been possible.

If you told marketers, or anyone for that matter, just ten years ago that there would soon be sites where hundreds of millions of users log in every day (often multiple times) at home, at work, and through mobile phones to connect and share with friends, family, and brands, I think their heads might explode.

Not long ago it was commonplace to be interrupted at least once by a telemarketer while eating dinner. Nowadays we’d not only be furious, we’d demand to know how they got our number (isn’t everyone on the do-not-call list by now?).

Fast-forward to today. The brands we care about are invited into our lives, as if we’ve opened the door to our homes and sat them on the couch, while other brands are left out in the cold with the onus to earn their way in. Should you walk in to this hypothetical household, your introduction might go something like this:

“From left to right, that’s my cousin, my brother, my sister, the Boston Red Sox, Modern Family on ABC, Klondike (client), and my wife.”

You may argue that this scenario rings true for the last thirty years through more traditional advertising avenues, but I would disagree. I don’t believe that brands were “in” our lives and households simply because they were heard or seen on a TV or radio commercial. That’s an invasion into a household, not an invitation. We now have arenas that allow for brands we know, trust, and like to be invited into our lives for daily or even hourly interaction that adds value to our lives, whether through education, entertainment, or otherwise.

In this sense, the journey into the Post-Advertising age has created more opportunities than it has closed. Brands are integrated into our lives now more than ever. This is not the death of advertising. It’s the evolution.

With every viewer that fast-forwards their DVR over the commercials or favors their iPod over terrestrial radio, there’s potential to engage a consumer with a branded iPhone or iPad app, a flash mob, a useful newsletter, an exclusive contest, a witty tweet, or simply an interesting question that generates real conversation and connection.

Regardless of what content item a brand chooses to engage their consumers with (great discussion about that over at AdAge), it’s amazing that there’s even the opportunity. Brands have always had a story, but now consumers are part of that story, providing their own input and helping to mold brands. They are creating fun branded contest videos, choosing a new flavor of soda, or spreading love to an unsuspecting meter maid.

I’m not simply echoing the idea that marketing has changed. We all know that. My point is that the way we engage is ever-evolving. Brands need to recognize and leverage this evolution to earn their way into consumers’ lives by being useful, entertaining, and real. If a brand can successfully do this, then they can reach a point of engagement impossible through interruptive means.

What new way will you engage with your consumers? As a consumer, what interesting ways have you engaged with brands lately? What brands do you let in and why?

Image courtesy of Todd Baker on Flickr

  • Tony

    This is a great article and RIGHT on point. A brand that is “invited” in is no longer a stranger but a welcome addition to our lives. BUT *brands beware!* Just because you have been invited inside that is not your cue to start appraising the furniture. Step 2 for many brands will include KEEPING the trust just earned by learning how to fight that urge to sell, sell, sell and start acting like “digital human beings” by building lasting relationships…


  • Jon Thomas

    Thanks Tony! Exactly, just like any real life situation, just being invited in doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to continually earn your keep, so to speak. If you start talking about yourself incessantly, or never talk at all, you’ll probably be asked to leave or completely ignored.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Jon! Lately I have enjoyed the responsiveness of sites that develop software. For example The free ftp client for mac called Cyberduck which I have been using for years was acting up after an update on my computer at work. I then proceeded to tweet an angry remark about it. Within 5 minutes I had a response from one of the developers there walking me through a quick fix. This is a GREAT example of customer service/ engagement. Not only did I not have to sift through a bunch of help and FAQ’s on their site to fix it, but within minutes I had the solved the problem with the help of 1 tweet. It’s these kind of incidents that create loyalty between consumers and brands. Listening is SO important. The brands that listen and openly participate will be the brands that win.

  • Jon Thomas

    Isn’t it crazy how we feel so empowered? I’ve had issues with a few companies since I’ve been on Twitter and immediately went to Twitter to voice my anger. As if to say “You’re going to pick on me? Well let me get my big brother after you!” and then they wise up.

    Voicing concerns on public forums like Twitter may not always result in a favorable outcome for a troubled consumer, nor should it be used as a weapon, however it has resulted in positive outcomes for both brand and consumer. Brands have more access than ever, however they are held to much higher standards.

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