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The New Brand Management Model

Consumer marketing has changed in significant ways this decade due to the growth of social media and other communication channels. Here are some of the biggest shifts.

During the classic era of CPG marketing, focus was easy. Now, not so much.

Back then, marketing managers had a handful of clear priorities: business planning and execution to deliver results, product development, research & analysis, training newbies, and advertising (which primarily meant TV, sometimes supplemented with PR, magazines, radio, POS, billboards, and sales collateral). In the classic model, one functional group served as hub of the wheel, controlling and coordinating all internal and external activities related to the product or brand. It was all about one brand, one position, one message.

Today that model has been blown up by complexity. Many models now exist, such as separating product marketing from communications, or inbound marketing from outbound, or customer marketing from consumer marketing, or hybrids including all of the above. Coordination has become more difficult, and consistency of message is no longer the knee-jerk correct choice.

The old model began to die in the 80′s, with the simultaneous rise of event/sports marketing (providing myriad channels), and the broad penetration of cable (providing myriad channels). All those channels splintered the mass market and provided robust opportunities to deliver a targeted message to a self-selected target.

The trend accelerated in the past decade behind the commingling of:

  • Electronic channel diversity (email, text, websites, blogs, twitter, Facebook, etc.) which facilitates micro targeting and micro messaging, and
  • Broad brand engagement, which expands brand ownership from the marketing group to a sometimes-rich ecosystem of diverse stakeholders.

Consider how these two combine to both create unprecedented opportunity for brand development while giving marketers migraines.

Micro channels draw like-minded souls into virtual self-reinforcing communities. Within these communities, ideas are debated, thought leaders emerge, and points of view coalesce, allowing marketers the opportunity to deliver highly targeted messages to highly engaged groups and to spread ideas virally. But at the same time, when communities invest themselves in a shared experience – like a favorite brand – they demand influence. They get to have a say in setting boundaries and direction because they wield enormous clout. They can, after all, choose to take the wrong idea viral. Witness what happened last Spring with Pampers, a high-involvement brand that fell out of sync with its online communities.

Meanwhile, other functions within the company have asserted ownership of pieces of marketing. This is entirely reasonable. The brand is the public face of their workplace, and if they are to be engaged by their work, they need a voice in the direction and representation of their brand. Many companies allow all employees to tweet or post about their brand – without clearance or oversight by Marketing.

Today’s successful marketers need to yield control. They are still on the hook for each and every decision, but they need to acknowledge the power of internal and external stakeholders who once did not have a seat at the table. They lead by influencing the conversation, and are open to being influenced.

More complex? Yes. Better? IMHO, yes. Any alternative? No.

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