Brand positioning on social media
Marketers who forget to consider brand positioning in their social media communications risk jeopardising consumer brand loyalty
The pace and frequency with which brands communicate on social media require responses and reactions that are fast, precise and empathetic. What many marketers seem to neglect in this ever-evolving communications sphere is brand positioning. Marketers who react on the fly without any consideration for the way in which their brand communicates can undo years’ worth of work to build brand loyalty and confidence – all by simply failing to take brand positioning into consideration.
Brand positioning endures; brand tactics evolve
Though a brand strategy should constantly evolve to remain relevant and responsive, brand positioning is not something that should change frequently, regardless of the communications channel or the age and stage of the brand. Consider Nike and Apple – their brand positioning has remained rooted in a core consumer insight, even as their product and messages change.
Just because we have a new communication channel that is young and popular, doesn’t mean you should change the personality and promise of your brand. Yet it seems social media is being used as this unique tool, with its own set of rules and with no consideration for the brand.
Give social media the strategic care it deserves
Think about how you originally established your brand position. You started by interrogating the environment, identifying potential shocks and threats in the pipeline, and establishing who your consumers are, what they want and how best to communicate with them. You decided on the brand proposition and the simple promise it makes, and came up with your brand personality. All this gave you a distinct positioning for the brand – one from which all communication would stem.
All this took time, care, crafting and senior management consideration. And yet social media seems to be left to some of the most junior marketing personnel, with the risk that brand discipline may fly out the window in a single tweet. That’s belittling to both the brand and social media. Let’s be honest: digital media, intimate social engagement, transparent brand values and consumer-brand dialogue are our future. We owe it to our consumers and our brands to strategise our use of these media with the same care we used to lavish on television commercials.
This is not to say social media responses should be scripted – that’s the best way to come across as insincere and it will likely to do more harm than good. However, with clear positioning and a strategy with defined parameters, you are able to plan for spontaneity. If you know your brand is quirky and irreverent, and you have a properly established position around this, then you’ll know precisely how to respond without losing this personality.
Great examples of brands that are getting their positioning right on social media are the fast-moving consumer goods retail brands and international hotel groups. They talk often, talk well and are tightly targeted – both in their outbound and inbound messaging.
The big take-out
Marketers who forget to consider brand positioning in their social media communications risk jeopardising consumer brand loyalty.
Locally, we tend to have some appalling examples, but big money brands such as FNB and Capitec are doing a fantastic job with their mix of targeting and efficiency. BMW Motorrad is another excellent case in point: it knows its market well enough to offer an array of activities, accessories and involvement practices that keep the target audience involved and eager to find out more. The company’s social media embodies the brand positioning precisely, and it brings the brand to life through experiences that create more user-generated social content with the kind of authenticity it would be hard to replicate with mere advertising.
Positioning allows complexity
Great “old” brands such as Coca-Cola are leading the way. Globally, Coke runs its social media engagement out of a centralised hub at Coke HQ in the US city of Atlanta, with 30 other social centres around the world. To deal with that level of complexity, the company operates according to the mantra, “Listen. Analyse. Engage.”
The Coke brand is mentioned about 33 times a minute in the English-speaking world alone, so the company has to keep track of conversations, analyse and distil trends, and communicate content to regional teams to keep the brand fresh and relevant at the most local level. And this is all kept on point because the brand’s positioning, tone and proposition is so embedded in the ‘Coke-a-lites’: the mind-boggling depth and complexity of social media involvement is only made possible because the brand is so well defined.
New thrills, old brand disciplines
Many entrenched brands have used their involvement in social media to re-energise themselves – to once-again feel the thrill associated most closely with start-ups. In the process, however, some have made the same mistakes many new brands make, as they seem to stagger from one brand crisis to another. They have seen their brand fabric fray at the hems, with misguided messaging, unnecessary engagement, and sometimes even foolish content.
One can only hope that now that we’ve all rushed to market with our social media activity, made our blunders and lost track of our brand in the process, marketers will find their way back to the traditional branding considerations and use genuine, authentic brand positioning to lay the foundation for their social media strategies.
Miller is head of strategy at integrated marketing agency Duke