It seemed once that big brands and the companies behind them were invincible, permanently successful, unsinkable ships, just like the Titanic. Today businesses large and small are in trouble like never before. It’s problems in the local economy, it’s the global crunch, it’s the effect of politics, but it’s also something else quite unexpected…
Social media is changing things much faster than Big brands are adapting. It’s shifting the balance of content power and reordering the hierarchy of authority in the market place. If that’s a little confusing, let me explain.
You see, the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s big brands were built in a different era, a world we no longer live in, not really. In that world building a brand was done with a decent service/ product and a whole lot of money – money to build big factories, to employ a hundred people and money to interrupt the masses with your advertising. The marketing formula was simple
- Pay expensive advertising agency to create marketing message.
- Pay expensive mass marketing medium owners to send that message to as many people as possible, as often as possible.
- Make money from the 1% that respond
If your service or product wasn’t that good, it didn’t really matter, as long you had enough money to keep reaching the masses with your message – You could still make a boatload of money and make your logo famous.
Things are changing, and fast.
Agencies have completely lost the monopoly on content creation. In a Zimbabwe with well over a million active Facebook accounts and growing, everyone is becoming a content producer.
And the bad news for businesses?
The content they’re producing is considerably more interesting and credible to them than almost anything your advertising agency can do for you on ZBC TV or the newspaper. Oh and Facebook is free.
No, traditional mediums aren’t dead, not yet, but they are much less influential than they were just 3 years ago in Zimbabwe.
So what does all this mean for big brands in Zimbabwe?
It means the interruption based, monologue style, top-down approach to marketing that grew your brand, is not going to sustain, let alone grow it much longer. It means that if you’re not actively and strategically participating in Social Media today, you’re fading away from the conversation in your market.
Any brand that isn’t part of the conversation it’s market is having, is nothing more than a nice logo soon to be forgotten. If you’re not leading or at least participating in the conversation, then you’ve left it to your smarter competitor to answer the burning questions, guiding the frustrated masses (or niches) down their own sales funnel, not yours. To be clear, this is what is commonly known as ‘business failure’.
And what are all these people broadcasting to their friends? What they want to. Not what marketers want them to. They’re having conversations about their problems, aspirations, irritations. They’re recommending stuff to each other and proposing solutions as they see fit.
Your brand is likely absent from most of those conversations. Even if you’re being mentioned, it’s not your marketing message they sharing with each other – the one you paid the newspaper to blast out…they’re sharing their own experience and opinion about you. The truth. The way your product really performs, the way your receptionist treated them, the truth about your customer service – everything but your marketing message.
I’ll say it again, a brand that isn’t in the conversation the market is having, is either dying or already dead. What just two years ago was a mere audience, passively consuming your content and enduring your interruption marketing techniques, that same audience are now also publishers. They own their own channels, some reaching hundreds, others even thousands.
Get in on social media and talk to your market, don’t exclude yourself from the conversation, lead it.
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