Why Brands Can No Longer Create Marketing Plans Without Social Media

by Chris Curtis

Your brand is under siege.

If you haven't figured it out yet, it might be too late.

As John Chambers gave his farewell address at Cisco Live, he warned the companies in attendance that 40 percent of them will disappear over the next 10 years.

We're living through the single greatest transfer of information in the history of mankind.

Information has been democratized in such a way, it might take several generations to truly grasp the long-term effects it has on a global scale.

Every industry, from medicine to marketing, is in the process of being turned upside down by a new generation of consumers who possess more information about the products and services they are consuming than the employees of the organizations that are supplying them.

Fifty years ago, large companies controlled nearly every aspect of their businesses, from manufacturing to marketing and distribution.

They were able to manufacture the product, physically transport it to their stores and create the messaging around how that product should be perceived.

They would empty their marketing budgets to broadcast advertising, in order to make sure everyone knew “company XYZ creates the best XYZ." (Insert a cheesy tagline here.)

Geopolitical events and the birth of the Internet have been removing layers of control from large companies for quite some time now, but the advent and widespread adoption of social media has dropped a cinder block on the gas pedal.

All companies should be having transformational discussions in their C-suites about how to evolve.

They're going to need to be comfortable killing off parts of their businesses to grow and develop new ones, and they're going to need to take ownership of the one thing they have left: the customer experience.

By winning the war for customer experience, any company can be taken down, no matter how commanding of a lead it might have.

Netflix was able to take down Blockbuster because it figured out the experience of having your movies delivered to you is far better than the experience of driving to the store, checking out a movie and then having to remember to bring it back.

On the apparel side, Abercrombie & Fitch is being ripped, limb by limb, by a slew of competitors that provide better in-store experiences (e.g., no cologne, loud 90s house music or service from a staff hand-picked to make you insecure) and products that are designed to suit a generation more focused on its personal brand (i.e., no one wants the name of a brand nine times on a shirt).

Brands have an incredible opportunity to capitalize on this redistribution of information.

Those that listen to their customers and put experience at the heart of their organizations will win in the 21st century.

If there's one common adjective all successful brands share in how they approach social media, it is self-awareness.

The best brands understand the way consumers use social media and understand that when they show up in their customers' feeds, they must be showing up with a message that adds value to the experience.

Your message needs to be something I want to hear.

It must be delivered through the appropriate channel and at the appropriate time.

Brands that are willing to make transformational changes to their outlook and invest in technology built around this concept will be just fine.

The 40 percent that jump too late at this opportunity won't be around.

But if they don't care about you as a customer, you're probably better off without them around, anyway.