When Millward Brown's latest research (conducted in partnership with The Futures Company) reported Amazon is "the most trusted brand in U.S." (either online or off) it said as much about the way customers now relate to brands as it did about customer service or the usual metrics used to measure brand success. The new "TrustR" metric employed by Millward, which indexes for both trust and the likelihood that a person will recommend a brand might very well have been termed the Facebook Factor.
That an online brand is most trusted is significant, that it is most trusted and most likely to be recommended is even more significant. The study, titled "Beyond Trust" purports to address "engaging consumers in a post-recession world," but it can not avoid the post-digital world, where Amazon, a brand that has been at least partially socialized since the beginning of Amazon Lists more than a decade ago, has earned loyalty from its customers, and the ease of passing the brand around, of course puts it in position to capitalize on that loyalty.
A recent Forrester Research study showed that 59% of all online consumers engage in social networks at least once a month, and as this time spent with social media increases, so too do the opportunities for brands to connect with customers. Perhaps, at present, the interaction with customers is most effective in a niche area, as indicated by a study out of Rice University which found that a relatively small part of a brand's customers are likely to become Facebook fans, but this is an area brands must master, as the Rice research also indicated that "fans" were significantly more likely to by loyal and spend more money on a brand.
Hormel's Spam is a brand that has been dragged kicking and screaming onto the online space by virtue of its unfortunate association with junk email. It has gamely tried again and again to capitalize on this. And gamely failed again and again. (After a brief period where it fought the association with the other spam -- Hormel once even sent a letter threatening legal action to MediaPost when an issue of OMMA featured a can of Spam on its cover to refer to the inbox stuffing sort of the stuff).
The @Hormel_Spam is the latest such failure. It's a good example of a brand being on a social media platform without making any attempt to actually be socialized. The feed asks questions that seem like so much rhetorical existential noise when they go unanswered: "What's your favorite time of day to eat SPAM® products - breakfast, lunch or dinner?"
And worse, it often just seems to function to, well, there's no easy way to say this, spam followers with promotions driving to ads and promotions. It uses CoTweet, a business tweeting service, and most often seems to operate in a vacuum, as if it were scheduling banner ads, instead of engaging its passionate (if quirky devotees).
For instance failing to notice and bring attention to the fact that a cooking community was playfully endorsing the product so that the brand could engage with the audience is a missed opportunity. The @Hormel_Spam feed has 93 followers. The food blog that sent this tweet pointing to Spam recipes on its own blog has 6,947 followers. The two bloggers who tweeted back and forth about wishing there were a Spam booth (my god) at an upcoming food event have 989 and 4,927 followers respectively.
Granted Spam (the brand not the junk, which has been there from day one) has only been on Twitter a little more than a month, but you have much to learn, delicious potted meat friend.
If anything Spam should be taking advantage of what is surely the perfect storm for the storied brand: the social media explosion and the great recession.