Brand and Social Media

27th May, 2014

QuestionsThink of a brand you like. Now think of one you love. Or try for one that you dislike, and then one that you hate. To be honest, I struggle to identify with the love or hate aspect of this exercise – to me brand is just that: the identifying quality of a product. I don’t love the brand, I love a product. Or hate it (and before you ask, I do not like Marmite – though their advertising and brand development is excellent). Our relationships with the brands we encounter have been morphed to suit our 21st Century lifestyles. They move with us. They Tweet. They interact with John and Susan who live at #42. They facilitate identity at an intrinsic level that we are all too happy to collude with and more than ever we are partaking in emotional recognition with personally representative brands.

How have we arrived on this emotionally fraught branding pathway? Well, it seems that we have two things to blame:

  1. Ourselves: The culprit you didn’t want to see. Those pesky brains we are so fond of have a significant say in our emotional adherence to brands. Marketers engage with our emotions to affect our behavioural patterns, which in turn moulds our expectations, loyalties and importantly neural activity toward their brand. It is not as entirely prevalent for specific brands as we may think, but prolonged exposure to multiple emotionally challenging media sources has resulted in circumstances where we react irrationally to certain stimuli – producing bad relationships with some brands.
  2. Social Media: The culprit you perhaps expected to see. Social media has facilitated the transition of consumers into behemoths – in connection with our brains. It is no secret that in many cases, social media platforms are becoming the de facto mouthpiece of international brands. In some industries (Airlines, Supermarkets, Technology) it is a sure-fast method of gaining airtime for grievances that if sent to an email inbox would simply fester. Our ability to emotionally connect with the individual at the other end of the Twitter feed as well as the host of content feed through social media channels has increased our brand engagement to the point where we subconsciously engage in the hope of reward, placating the above point (Ourselves) and reinforcing the entire process.

It has been levied at the largest of brands that they simply do not engage with their audiences. Social media and the captive audiences waiting have put paid to that presupposition. If we do emotionally connect with brands, then we relate closely. We subscribe to their trials and tribulations and in our own times of need, turn directly to them, activating the reward sequence once again. The combination of social media interaction and brand relationships has had another effect though.

Brands can greatly enhance the perceived value of their product by interacting regularly with the client base, further cementing the brand advantage. We are sensitive to the collective effects of social media commenting where it can seem certain brands are continually having praise heaped upon them, or quite the opposite. This collective stream of consciousness – as it is an active participation in the display of sheep-like qualities – can form the difference between successfully implementing a branding exercise or being sent packing. Social media distortions rapidly apply pressure to the emotional creatures we are, allowing for even negative social media feedback to activate our reward cycles as we perceive that somewhere, value is being added to our brand.

Unifying our relationship with a brand has become more than continual exposure to a product. The scope for a brand to transition from an entity into a value adding, goal assisting individual has accelerated considerably, where we now associate specific brands with enabling our own achievement paths – once again reinforcing our reward pathway. The most effective marketing strategies combine all of these, as well as instilling their identity within us enticing us into the belief of reward that can frame our lives, our personal identities – our very way of living.