Social media is delivering aspirational not attainable brands

Social media is delivering aspirational not attainable brands
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Facebook’s recent announcement of the winners of its second annual Facebook Studio awards highlights some of the amazing work brands are doing through Facebook and by extension, through social media as a channel to market.

Anyone who saw Oreos' work through DraftFCB wouldn’t begrudge them their Blue Award, effectively best in show. Other brands as diverse as Nike, Air Asia, Lays and Heineken also won awards.

My favourite was for the Graubunden Tourism board and their efforts to put a tiny Swiss town called Obermutten on the world map. They promised that the mayor’s office would print out the photos of all of the people who liked their page and pin them to the town’s notice board. They received 16,000 likes in short order, 200 times more people than actually live in the town itself.

That approach for Obermutten leans heavily towards the attainable and a determined link between the digital and physical experience of engaging with the brand, but that approach is arguably still in the minority.

Interesting work by the Ehrenberg Bass Institute at the University of South Australia has proven that the majority of a brand’s Facebook friends come from amongst its biggest buyers and emarketer.com reports that in almost half of cases, we follow brands on Facebook only to enter a competition. 

But in the case of the brands which produced the best work on Facebook last year, only a small minority used a competition as the fulcrum of the campaign. Most looked for and achieved genuine engagement through user generated content of one form or another.

If the attainable link is often assumed, maybe that’s why brands lean towards the aspirational in social campaigns? Emotional connection to a brand is esoteric at best and so maybe by seeking to drive that home through aspirational engagement we play to our desire to support brands we already have a connection to?

Some brands, on the other hand, are arguably looking to drive the aspirational through the attained. 

IBM for example, through its IBMers Blogs link, lists an alphabetical inventory of all of employees who write a blog. The premise is that whilst the blogs may not represent the position or viewpoint of the organisation, IBM employs people with interesting and valuable views of their own that they would like you to read.

IBM's business is clearly heavily tied to the abilities of its people and as such, helping them promote their own views is very brand supportive (of both the corporate and the employment brand), but it’s a strategy that I believe most organisations would be too risk averse to follow.

If nothing else, at least social media has changed the opinion of many marketers who believed that brand could not be defined and built through digital channels. If anything, the aspiration in the title of this article could be assumed to be the medical definition, in that building brand through social media should be as parasympathetic as breathing.

Richard Spencer is director of TWO Social 

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