Commentary

The Debut Of The 'Always On' Brand

The "Always On" Brand (AOB) is a concept that I use to describe how your brand should operate in today's ever-connected world.  The AOB is a brand that is actively broadcasting and listening at the same time, all of the time.  It's the kind of brand that knows what it wants to say, but is not afraid to listen to feedback and react accordingly.  The AOB is the kind of brand that will be successful in the coming years, and the kind of brand that you should aspire to be!

In many a marketing meeting I hear brands that are tepid at best when it comes to engaging publicly with their customers.   Fearful of what their consumers may say about their brand, these marketers avoid the feedback loop like it's the plague.   These marketers are the ones who focus their energy, time and budget against broadcasting a message to their audience, using pre-launch creative testing and outdated models for projecting what will work, but are afraid to hear in real-time what their consumers are saying.  They assume no news is good news and keep on moving ahead.

The marketer that avoids listening to the present and using it to shape the future should be a relic of the past.  With so many outlets for consumer interaction, how can you possibly be effective with an annualized campaign that doesn't react in real-time?  The world around you is shifting and the consumer wants their information now.  Why should you be any different?  This defines the Ostrich Marketing Strategy.

The Ostrich Marketing Strategy is the one where you develop your plan, roll it out, and then you stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. If you have an established brand in a static category, this strategy can even work for a couple of years, but eventually something will go wrong.  The product will have a problem or a competitor will enter the space and turn things over on their head.  Eventually your lack of assertion will lead to your downfall and the brand will begin to perish.

In contrast, the AOB is the kind of brand that balances broadcasting its message into the marketplace with creating response mechanisms that allow the consumer to engage with it. The AOB is not afraid of taking or responding to criticism from its customers.  The AOB doesn't avoid using social media and promoting the many ways that a consumer can provide feedback.

The AOB is staffed to listen 100% of the time; the company doesn't assign an intern to be community manager for 50% of the day. Instead, it create a role that is effective and has a direct line of sight into senior management, because this person becomes the conduit for the consumer to speak to the leaders of the company.  The AOB understands who the vocal minority are, responding to them quickly and knowing that if you can turn these folks around, they will share this with the populace at large.  The AOB is a catalyst for change in the organization.

Some of you may say that becoming an AOB is a costly effort to develop and manage, but it's no more costly than the effect of ignoring your core customers.  When you ignore consumer feedback, you risk creating an opportunity for the competition.  If you give them that opportunity, I guarantee they'll take it because they are spending hours and hours each day trying to find ways to gain market share away from you!  If you play the Ostrich Strategy, you give competitors everything they need to be successful! 

The AOB is not afraid to take chances and be risky from time to time, because it has the mechanism to respond and change direction quickly.  As an AOB, you know that a mistake played is easier to recover from than an opportunity lost. 

What kind of marketer are you, and what kind of brand do you aspire to be?

3 comments about "The Debut Of The 'Always On' Brand".
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  1. Michael Ferrare from Magma, February 17, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.

    Great discussion and great strategy. A+ on the article.

  2. Roy Perry from Greater Media Philadelphia, February 17, 2010 at 4:47 p.m.

    Listening is good. Just understand that what you hear isn't always the truth in that people with a complaint complain, and people who are satisfied usually go on to something else, assuming their satisfaction is normal. Is Southwest Airlines a bad brand because 1.5 million abruptly learn something bad about it, then tens of millions of people hear about that? In my opinion, there is no change in the brand. Always on, not always perfect. Deal with it. And don't yield to whiners in love with hearing that their every tweet steers the economy.

  3. Denise Yohn from Denise Lee Yohn, Inc., February 21, 2010 at 7:28 p.m.

    i have a different viewpoint:

    striving to be "always on" works about as well for brands as it does for people -- it's too overwhelming, they will eventually experience burn out, and they risk missing the forest for the trees.

    just as people need to be selective in where they place their attention, so do brands -- they should figure out who are the people they should be listening to (vs. everyone who is talking) and engage with them in a rich, interactive, on-going dialogue.

    denise lee yohn
    www.deniseleeyohn.com

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