Impact of Social Media On Brands 18 Oct 2012

Make it or Break it: Impact of Social Media on Brands

Henry Ford made an all-encompassing statement about knowing best when he said in 1909 that people could have cars “in any color, as long as it’s black”! If he comes back today and utters these words, you and I would rush to Twitter, YouTube or Facebook to slam his comments and respond to his indifference!

In my opinion, today nobody, from a teenager in a small town in China, to the world’s biggest brands like McDonald’s or Nike can imagine life without social media.

So let’s come to the point – Can Social Media really make or break a brand? Does it really have ‘that’ kind of impact, or is it just another media that is used by marketers for promotions?

The Gap story

Let’s take the example of the fashion brand Gap. It launched a new logo in 2010. People simply hated it! Gap’s fan following was so attached to its iconic logo that it saw immediate backlash across Facebook and Twitter and other social media. Clients who claimed to be loyal to Gap since decades, posted on its Facebook page that they would simply stop buying the brand if the new logo persisted. Finally, Gap gave up and reverted back to its old logo – but not before asking the public to try their hand at re-designing the logo!

Lots of other brands like Starbucks and Tropicana have seen similar public outcry over their changed logos.

So before you make a drastic change in your brand personality, think twice about what will happen online! Will it be applauded, loved and shared by online audiences or will you receive brickbats?

Let’s Analyze the Impact of Social Media

For comparison sake, let’s consider what would have happened if Gap made this logo change thirty years ago? Probably, most advertising clubs and journals would have analyzed and critiqued the change. Regular customers like you or me would have silently cursed Gap while lounging in our own homes or while trying on clothes in Gap’s changing rooms.

But in my opinion, none of us could have connected, collectively rebuked and made the aftershocks reverberate across the globe in the massive, game changing way that it is possible today!

So what should you do after a disaster on Social Media?

As a brand of today’s day and age, what should you do if after taking any major decision you see a negative response to it online? I would suggest narrowing down your next step by evaluating the following probable outcomes –
Social Media Like
There will be a little hue and cry for a few weeks and then people will adjust to the change like it never really mattered – here short public memory comes into play. In such a case, the presence of social media is only leading to unnecessary embarrassment for your brand – and your brand is in no real trouble. So you just need to handle the criticism with kid gloves and let it fade away or divert attention with some other interesting campaign.

All this noise can actually translate into lost sales for your brand in the long run – this means, social media is bang-on about your target audience’s pulse and you should use this feedback wisely to change your decision and save your brand!

What it brings…

Look on the positive side and you will see the massive inputs and feedback that social media allows you to collect directly from your end users. Today you can actually use crowd-sourcing to decide upon anything from logo design to jingles to packaging. I would suggest you to think pro-actively and approach your fans on Facebook and Twitter, rather than falling into a pit like Gap did and reluctantly using social media as the savior.

The Crux

Whatever be the case, nobody can deny that the impact of social media on brands is huge. Firstly, social media is no longer a choice – you are out there, whether you like it or not. Secondly, if you make mistakes – like the case of rats in McDonald’s – expect them to be on the news and be ready to face the music. And thirdly, if you really want to – you can actually engage with your end user and make them design, decide and even sell your brand.

In a nutshell, for your brand – using social media is like walking a tightrope! On the one hand, it can draw instant cheers and make you a global rage; while on the other hand, a single slip can also draw the loudest jeers and end up impacting the your topline and bottom-line.

-Research Optimus

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