Over the past year or so, Just Marketing has carried guest blog posts from distinguished thought leaders in the field. But looking over the list of contributors, I also noticed that we have had no posts from the next generation of marketers. With the marketing field changing as fast as it is, the next generation has an entirely different perspective on brand building and consumer marketing. The natural toolbox they turn to is the web, and in particular, social media. So I thought it would be worthwhile sampling the perspective of these marketers -- we can all learn from them. This is the third of three posts by guest bloggers just starting out in the field of marketing. Today's post is by Jordan Brears.
Jordan Brears is a fourth year undergraduate student at the Richard Ivey school of business. He has a passion for politics, strategy and international affairs; and his interest in the professional fields of marketing and consulting flows from that passion. He is currently fostering these interests this summer, working for the Canadian federal government. In the future, Jordan plans to pursue a career in strategic management consulting and gain important international work experience throughout the world.
Lets talk social media. But before you start browsing for a more originally themed article, chill. This is not another social media article where I’ll profess to be a social media trend fortuneteller or tell everyone to get a Pinterest account. Instead I’ll discuss some politics, people, and even philanthropy and what it means to businesses today. But let’s start with social media.
Now we all remember the 2008 US presidential election. Starring the charismatic underdog Democrat who won the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. It was also never a secret that his great success was helped by his revolutionary social media campaign. No other political campaign in history had ever been able to mobilize and raise funds from such a large percentage of the electorate. The Obama 2008 campaign set the standard for electoral campaigns in the future. Take for example the election in France this month. Though the 2008 US election first successfully introduced social media, the French election has taken this strategy to another level. Incumbent candidate, Nicholas Sarkozy, has made great investments in his social media campaign from developing a mobile app and using Facebook’s timeline page design to illustrate his life story, to establishing a video blog website integrated with YouTube (http://kikadikoi.com/). His contender, Francois Hollande, has adopted a similar strategy with a focus on Twitter as he enjoys over 200,000 followers. (French election and social media)
While it is still being debated whether an online and social media presence translates into votes, social media has allowed these political parties to not only mobilize supporters and raise funds efficiently, they have also provided an unfiltered medium with enormous exposure to 50 million French Internet users.
Getting as many people as possible to receive the message that you want to provide is an ideal situation. But you have to use social media with caution. It is often this same communications medium that can be the most damaging to an image as candidates experience increased scrutiny and leave a digital trail that can be dug up at any time. In 2007 President Sarkozy welcomed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to Paris for economic talks and faced harsh criticism at the time. As future events unfolded and France took a lead role in deposing the disgraced Libyan leader in 2011, images filled cyber space of the two shaking hands and talking as friends. These images and attached commentaries to this day are still negatively affecting the Nicholas Sarkozy image. This type of publicity (both negative and positive) will become increasingly important over time as the public relies more and more on the Internet for information and news. A 2010 survey conducted by The Pew Project for Excellence found out that over 40% of Americans use online resources as their main source of news. This growing trend emphasizes the importance of online brand management and the challenges that face political parties or businesses today.
Though there is no magic formula to foster and build a positive brand image, there are definitely good and bad ways. Take for example Goldman Sachs and American Express. Two similar companies operating in a financial industry that has been perceived as unethical and corrupt after the 2008 crisis. However, that is where the similarities in perception appear to end. According to the Ethisphere Institute that conducts annual ethical company rankings, American Express made the list of the ‘World’s 110 Most Ethical Companies’ while Goldman Sachs was dropped from the list as it has experienced a number of recent scandals and unfavorable press. But how can a few PR miscues bring a giant company to fall from grace? Goldman has been known in the past as a philanthropic corporation and continues to contribute large sums of money to various philanthropic causes.
I think it comes back to the changing habits of voters/consumers. Merely throwing money at charity is no longer a sufficient brand management strategy as companies’ practices are becoming increasingly exposed and scrutinized. In today’s business world internal measures such as culture and employee morale become essential in creating a public image. Goldman believed in philanthropic strategies that had worked in the past, and neglected its internal health. The results: employees openly criticizing the organization, unethical methods being adopted by employees, and comparisons being made between Goldman and the not-so-loved vampire squid. The ensuing PR nightmare has significantly hurt Goldman’s standing in the business world and affected the company’s bottom line.
Companies need to identify this changing media reality and move with the times, or face a Goldman-like mess of their own.