Branding culture, Social Media and all that goes with it!

branding culture social media

In the digital era we find ourselves in, saturated with social media feeds through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to name but a few, brand building has become an ever-increasing uphill challenge. Ten years ago many larger companies were embracing the arrival of a new golden age of branding where creative agencies and web/SEO experts were contracted to insert brands throughout the digital universe.

To enhance their digital presence, companies allocated large budgets on branded content in the hope this would pay dividends. The general approach and thought process were thus: Digital Marketing and the rapid rise of Social Media would enable your company to leapfrog traditional media methods and create relationships directly with the consumer. Telling good brand relative stories and connecting with them in real time on a relevant and/or personal level, your brand would become more community based and enable the potential customers to identify with you.

Over the years businesses have invested a great deal in pursuing this ideal, but few brands have generated meaningful consumer interest online. In fact, social media seems to have made brands less significant to the consumer through these digital channels. Why is this? Brands succeed when they break through cultural boundaries from subculture to mainstream culture. Branding itself is simply a set of techniques designed to generate cultural relevance, a process for inserting a brand into our mainstream popular culture.

Social media platforms have not only created global social networks, they have also dramatically altered how culture itself evolves.

Historically, cultural innovation was created or discovered in the margins of society, from fringe groups, social movements, the subcultural groups yet to become mainstream. These groups challenged the mainstream normalities, concepts and conventions. Companies and the mass media acted as intermediaries, filtering these new ideas into the mass market with companies often productising them and generating huge profits. But social media and everything that goes with it has in many parts changed that.

Social media brings together these communities, these subcultural and fringe groups that were once geographically isolated, greatly increasing the intensity of their engagement, ideas and ideals. The cultural influence of these new digital social groups through the new networks of these once-remote communities has become substantial. You can find an enthused digital social group around almost any topic these days: Muscle cars, eco cars, art, furniture, political decisions, 3-D printing, tools, local development, and the list go on. Historically, these subcultural groups had to meet physically and had very limited ways to communicate collectively with each other or to popularise their ideas to a greater audience.

Social media has expanded and offered an audible voice to these subcultures, bringing their ideals directly into contact with the mainstream cultural collective with almost instant results. Within just a few clicks, you can jump into the centre of any subculture group, discussion or movement. Together members are pushing forward new ideas, products, practices, and aesthetics—bypassing the mass-culture gatekeepers, companies and media. With the rise of social media and all that comes with it, cultural innovators, cultural commentators, sceptics, conformists and idealists are all able to comment, push, decide, argue, derive or deliberate… positive or negative, it is all out there for everyone to see.

To draw this overreaching cultural and social analysis back and give it relevance to you, the Franchisor is not difficult. There is a requirement for a level of comprehension and understanding of what your franchisees are adopting, what image they are portraying about your company on a grassroots level (i.e. directly with your [and their] consumers). Are you in a position where you can help them to deliver the message, to communicate with the consumer in a manner that appropriately represents the company’s values and strengths?

In this ever-changing digital social environment where the wrong message could elicit a negative response from the consumer in moments do you really want to leave it to chance? Do you 100% trust your franchisees to deliver the correct message? Or is it actually your responsibility to make sure they have the tools to do this?

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