This article was original published on RISMedia.com this past week. Due to the response and commentary there I felt it would be a good read for many of our other industry related readers here. Like many other things, some good articles are lost in cyberspace amongst millions of pieces of clutter, just like good e-mail being devoured by your SPAM filter.
There are many companies that strive to mold and change the way they are perceived through brand identity and control. In the 90’s the company that officially lost a huge chunk of “online identity” was SPAM®. One would think that a food item as wondrous and amazing as SPAM would hold its own, but in the meeting of the electronic world and the brand of the old, new terms like Spammer and Spamming took on entirely new meaning.
Before this idea takes off too far: first realize that SPAM has been around for 70 years. It has endured wars, riots, political changes, and almost every strange market change imaginable. It is a household name. Everyone knows SPAM. Hormel Foods (the company behind SPAM) has a product with a great history, good market share, and profitability.
Yet if you go into search engines like Google and search for SPAM, only one or two entries actually point you to the food product itself. Every other advertisement, indexed article, or information link takes you to various e-mail services to stop unwanted messages, businesses offering virus protection software, or companies selling server hardware that have intensive spam firewalls.
To control the SPAM brand online, Hormel Foods LLC took an amazing and creative approach to using social media and spun off its own strange identity in the online marketplace based on its previous real world history.
How does this problem relate to you?
Think of your brand online and do a quick search on some of the top phrases that relate to your brand. This could be your proper business name, the name of your physical location, or even the names of your executive team and the agents they manage.
Try to imagine how much effort has gone into the brand identity of your company and then think about how out of control it is online. Does everyone in your company have a personal blog, a MySpace profile, or perhaps some commentary at the local online newspaper? How do they reference your company? How does that affect your company’s brand integrity online?
The truth is very simple. Every keystroke, Web site, podcast, or personal video can (and probably does) pull up under different searches for the terms that your employees, current clients, and future prospects use to find your company online. The factual problem in cyberspace is that many personal sites (blogs, online communities, and file sharing sites) typically have a better presence online than many smaller company sites.
That means that someone writing an article on a developed community site can often place articles and commentary on your brand terms. Depending on the nature of the articles, they may be simply dismissed as relatively unrelated commentary or they may be completely destructive to your brand (a bad customer review or even a biased competitor.)
That is a huge problem. A few bad reviews can be the doomsday plague to a new prospect looking for information on your company, it can corrupt the way current clients interact with your team, and it can drive a stake through the heart of your company’s profitability.
For interested readers: here are five basic steps to help manage “brand control”
- Perform a keyword search for 10-20 keywords/phrases on the top search engines; include your company name, location, slogan, executive team, and employee names. (Check the first 20 results in each, which typically represent over 90% of the market.)
- Do an identical search for the top three competitive companies in your market.
- Note any instances of articles or commentary relating to your company.
- Talk with your marketing and public relations team to address points in specific items that may appear, as some items may have very simple and real world remedies.
- Develop an online strategy to “bump down” the items having the most negative impact on your company brand in relation to the search engines.
Once you have those items done, the next crucial step is developing a process for monitoring how your brand is interpreted online. Each and every day a new person may create commentary talking about your company brand or a product you offer. Someone within your organization should be aware of these conversations as they happen. In the case of either good or bad press, strategic and tactical marketing and public relations comes into effect to leverage and improve your overall brand integrity.
Depending on the exact goal of your business, creativity and strategic plans can help drive results for your company. Even through all the clutter of spamming, SPAM still manages to get itself a #1 spot for the keyword SPAM on the largest search engine using social media to control the way people view them. While they may lose many viewers to other search results and wandering eyes, the domination of the number one location is a proverbial “life saver” amongst a virtual sea of SPAM clutter.
For a good, light-hearted viewpoint of how social media can be leveraged for a brand: take a look at http://www.spam.com or http://www.spam.com/fanclub
(Be sure to click on a few people in the background.)