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How can we maintain control of our brands?

no control

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, the lesson we’ve learned over the past years is that we cannot fully control our brands anymore (it’s quite possible we were never in control, but now we can actually see and hear our lack of control more readily).

The digital ecosystem is too complex, the opportunities for third parties to interfere too numerous, to really exercise control. Instead, we need to think of ourselves as moderators and participants in the constant conversation flow about our companies, their products, and their brands.

But this is not a reason to throw up one’s hands. If things are spinning out of control, they are not spinning out of our ability to influence. And social media has provided the greatest “touch point” opportunity on the planet. Facebook in particular has succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of people together onto a common platform, and the worst thing you could do is fail to participate — at least consider participating – in some way.

One way to “control” the message is to attempt to drive that activity from social networks to your own, branded web sites. But increasingly, we at Nokia think that is a mistake. Instead, more and more we are “fishing where the fish are,” and “syndicating” our content on social media platforms to engage and motivate consumers to take action directly from there.

For too many companies, the response to the new mobile and social media environment has been simply to create apps. “Get me an app so I can check the box,” seems to be a common attitude. But it is not enough. We are seeing the device screen itself become an important place for communicating with our customers through text messages, for instance. Last year, we sent 1.1 billion messages to mobile users directly from our servers, and customer response has roughly matched the conversion rate we get from direct email.

In this new environment, it’s critical to map and understand how consumers navigate a “digital ecosystem” in which lots of intermediaries help shape their opinion. Product review sites, forums, social media, and all sorts of other digital influencers stand between us and our customers, and if you haven’t studied that digital ecosystem and mapped out how your own customers are negotiating it, you’ve already let the situation spin out of control.

You need to know all those touch points where your customers are being influenced. You need to be engaged in those conversations in relevant and valuable ways. And you need to be responding rapidly.  If digital communications have created a need for rapid-response capability, the increasing use of mobile creates a need for immediate response capability. That’s especially true as mobile devices increasingly gain the ability to monitor and transmit information in real time. If your organization can’t do anything or say anything without layers and layers of review and approval, you’re going to be “dead in the water.”

One of my favorite examples can be found in how the various European airlines reacted to the air space closings and flight cancellations caused by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland last year. The Website Travel 2.0 compared how well – or how badly – different airlines used social media like Twitter to keep customers informed and ease rebooking.

KLM got the highest marks. It deployed Twitter for rebooking requests, Facebook for FAQ and other information, and a combination of YouTube and Facebook for a video message from the CEO. Lufthansa and British Airways were also praised, though less lavishly. But Air France was sharply criticized for ignoring YouTube entirely and giving Facebook and Twitter short shrift because they weren’t the “official” company sites (Remember what I said earlier about fishing where the customers are, and not necessarily trying to drive everything to your site?).

In particular, Air France was chided for having a “Follow Us on Twitter” banner on its web site. “Why would I follow you on Twitter?” Travel 2.0 wrote. “So I could not be updated?”[1]

In short – if you’re not using those tools in real time, and as real communication tools, especially after you raise your customers’ expectations, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

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Smart Phone Bandit

Image by Ribbit Voice via Flickr

Okay after a a couple more days of thought, I have a few more random ideas to express. I think this blog may end up being a keynote if all goes well. I would love to get your ideas and feedback. So with that, her is part two of my thoughts and rants. :

Section 2:

With the growth of 4G networks, we’re going to see a lot more streaming video, including exponential increases in user-generated live video. That’s already happening.

But a little further down the road, I believe we will see two major breakthroughs reach the marketplace:

[Hold up a piece of paper.] Here’s a simple piece of paper. Nothing special. Except it does one really extraordinary thing. [Fold it in thirds, and put it in your inside breast pocket.]

So far, that’s the one thing we haven’t been able to do with our electronic devices. Either we’ve got a screen that’s small and really portable, or a screen that’s big and not so easily portable. Tablet computers are trying to split the difference, but you still can’t fold an iPad and put it in your pocket, and typing on one is no picnic, either.

I predict that within the next two years, maybe three, we will see some long-talked-about solutions for this problem come to market, and they will take three different forms. One is a foldable or scrollable screen that would come closer to replicating paper than anything we’ve had so far. Another is technology that would permit easy projection of the image from your mobile device onto any surface, and allow you to manipulate the projected image the way you currently manipulate the touch screen on a smart phone or tablet.

Yet a third approach will be wearable devices. Of course, that’s not entirely new – we’ve had wearable earpieces for some time. But these would be wearable – similar to eyeglasses but less intrusive– and would provide a large-format visual experience in a very compact and portable way.

Of course, there are drawbacks, not the least of which is that there are many circumstances where providing someone with a more immersive experience may not be the best idea. This sort of thing could make the problems of texting while driving seem tame by comparison. And you have to wonder whether we want people walking down the street or standing at the edge of subway platforms while they’re engrossed in the latest movie, a football game, or . . . well, I leave that to your imagination.

The other major technological development will be major advances in making telepresence mobile – I personally am very excited about this. Some of you may be familiar with HP’s “Halo” telepresence technology, which is currently used in fixed locations, primarily for videoconferencing. It’s a wonderful technology, but its usefulness is limited by its restriction to those fixed locations.

Now, imagine if that technology is freed from the conference room to travel with you. And you can talk to and “hang out” with your wife and kids, not just in a life-like video conference but in a far more realistic telepresence. You can watch them play soccer in that game you just could not make. You can go shopping with someone and help them pick out clothing. The possibilities for virtual companionship – and the opportunities those present for communicators – are nearly endless.

There will continue to be a profusion of apps for smart phones and other mobile devices, but when you really think about it, the app is more a device for entrepreneurs to monetize their inventions than an efficient way to provide computing capability. In the next 1000 days you can expect to see a shift away from the profusion of all these individual apps that clutter up your devices to more intelligent, adaptive applications that learn from their users and proactively meet your personal needs and solve your problems.

Obstacles remain. Some are financial – as with apps, products based on these new technologies eventually need to be monetized or they won’t remain in the marketplace. And we need to see more seamless interoperability of devices. It’s getting better, but our devices are still siloed. It’s cumbersome to get your laptop to talk to your phone, and it’s still nearly impossible to have them talk to your refrigerator or your car or the thermostat in your house. That will change, but perhaps more slowly than we would like, and the benefits of universal standards will need to be worth their cost.

Meanwhile, we can expect the mobile social media phenomenon to grow. And here I mean not only Facebook and Twitter, but the broad range of interactive communications that are tying people together, as Facebook attempts to become more of an email and IM platform. People will not only be sharing opinions, pictures, and experiences instantaneously, but we will see an increase in the automated sharing of information, such as the location-based alerts provided from Foursquare or alerts that convey health status or other information.

As these advances in technology make communications more mobile and more immersive, and as social media provide people with ever more opportunities and modes of interaction, how do we as marketers and communicators maintain control of our messages? How can we maintain control of our brands?

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