Found this awesome article written by Mahesh Murthy, who writes the WSJ's India Chief Mentor blog. In a recent entry he lays out a strategy for how zero-budget advertising builds word-of-mouth marketing that you can't put a price on; or what he calls "remark-worthy messages." Of course that latter bit riffs on "Seth Godin's Purple Cow" meme of being remarkable, which, if you haven't read, you should.
So I think the first thing Mahesh's post makes us do is to challenge our pre-conceived notion of what is your brand image. As far back as the "The Cluetrain Manifesto" up to "The Long Tail," you should accept that the Internet now owns your brand. As Mahesh puts it: "a brand doesn't exist on shelves—it exists in the hearts and minds of people. Your brand is the sum total of perceptions about your product in the heads of your relevant audience."
Now before you jump to the conclusion that these two thoughts contradict themselves, I'd suggest you connect the dots. Simply put, the Internet has become the largest storehouse of what people think about your brand. Through product reviews, blog posts, Facebook fan pages, and thousands of other sources, the Internet is the very public collection of what people think about your brand.
In many ways, this is THE BIGGEST challenge for marketers and marketing agencies have to confront. They no longer control what people think about their products. As you can imagine, that scares the shit out of them; it scares them so much that they, like ostriches, believe they can stick their heads in the sand and simply ignore the Internet. Of course, doing so sentences your brand to the whims and least common denominator mentality of the Internet; a place, I assure you, that no brand wants to go (Ostrich Marketing).
So how do you get started? well, Mahesh offers a clear five step process:
- Start on your brand by answering a simple question: Are you remark-worthy? When someone talks about your offering, is there a 10-second sound bite that is "re-tweetable" on Twitter? If not, go back to basics and craft a simple, clear hook that that sets you apart.
- Now apply a single test: Do a Google search on your brand to see whether every element of the resulting page can support this position.
- Now work to own the presence in each of these elements.
- Then audit every mention of you. Google alerts alone won't do it, but it's a start. See who's saying what.
- Then intervene in conversations and respond to complaints, visibly, with your own Twitter account or some other way of interacting.