Friday, August 13, 2010

A new breed of branding

I caught this nifty little toon about the evolution of advertising and branding on Talent imitates, genius steals

Created by British agency Cake, it's a nice summary of where the whole ad business is going.

For traditional advertisers, though, this brave new world can be quite intimidating. Just the other day, someone was asking me what the best practices were for creating a social media presence for a cause: should the image and voice be "official" or "personal"?

I, obviously, prefer the latter, but this is easier said than lived by people like us. We have spent entire careers in a world where brands were engineered down to the tiniest detail—complete with lengthy rulebooks and "brand cops" who would ensure everyone toed the line.

Today's brands truly evolve. They live or die by the whim of the Internet's vocal hordes—truly a force of nature. "Adapt or die" is no longer a marketing cliche. It is the only way.

So what does that really mean? Let's look at "Big Soda". Pepsi is gambling on its customers being altrusitic with the Pepsi Refresh Project, giving away more than a million bucks in Canada "to help fund Canadians’ ideas for moving the world forward in a positive ways".

Coca-Cola, for its Dr. Pepper brand, tried a different tactic in the UK. To try to position the pop as a more edgy brand, they hired a social media agency to create a campaign in which users would opt in to having their Facebook status hijacked by saucy messages and images referencing porn and things like peeing in the shower. This ended up as an object lesson in the demographics of social media, as outraged helicopter parents used their own social networks to force the campaign down.

I don't really think there are hard and fast "best practices" yet in social branding. Everyone is still feeling their way. But every win or fail by a major brand willing to take risks is building the stock of case studies that will help us all figure this thing out. And that makes this a very exciting time to be an "adman".

Speaking of social media, I'm taking a break from it next week. I'll be back on August 23 with another Burundi Monday.

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