To Thine Own Self Be True

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Who owns your brand?

I don’t mean this in a "does you consumer now control the brand?" kind of way. I mean it in a, "where do people go to connect with your brand?" kind of way. I was flipping through an in-flight magazine yesterday and noticed a two-page spread for a diaper company. There was a massive call to action in the bottom right-hand corner of the print ad that said something like: "to lean more, please follow us on Facebook." I found myself asking a very simple question: "what is this brand of diapers doing on Facebook that is so unique to the brand experience that it can’t be done on their own website?" The answer (after a quick review) is nothing. This brand’s Facebook page isn’t doing much to leverage the power of the social graph or use Facebook’s functionality to extend the brand narrative in a unique way. They’re just using Facebook as a place to have a less-interactive and less-branded website.

Why is it less-branded?

What’s better: one clear message or five messages on the same page? When you have you own website, you control the amount of messaging and the engagement. When you have your brand page on Facebook (and I’m using Facebook as a euphemism for any online social network, be it Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or whatever), your brand is housed within the Facebook branded experience and there could be ancillary brands (or advertisements, whatever) in the mix as well.

The tough question.

Brands have to start asking themselves one very tough question: are we on Facebook because it makes our brand experience better and leverages the power of these millions of connected people, or are we on Facebook, because there are a lot of people there and we have been unable to garner that level of attention with our own digital experiences and spaces? Facebook isn’t bad. Facebook is great. But, Facebook is only great to the brands that people care about, and it’s only great when those brands are already connected to their consumers and leverage the Facebook experience to do a whole lot more.

Brands are getting lazy.

It’s not just brands, it’s also the agencies that serve them. With each and every passing day, I’m seeing more and more brands forgo their own web and mobile experiences to use social media environments as their primary place to connect. Years ago, I cautioned against this. It became a more prescient concept when MySpace collapsed as Facebook began to gain its momentum. At the time, I had many of my musician friends suddenly lose their entire audience. Back then, it was much easier to build and update a MySpace page than it was to build and nurture a unique website. The problem is that when everyone started bailing on MySpace, the bands were left with little community. On top of that, they had no way to take the sweat equity (content, connections and more) to another platform. They didn’t own it. MySpace did. When MySpace changed their rules, the bands were affected but couldn’t do much about it. Same with Facebook: it’s their playground and they can take their ball and go home whenever they want.


Today, more and more brands are doing the exact same thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Google + or whatever. They’re allowing their brands to not only play second fiddle within the compounds of these online social networks, but they’re selling their brands short with the shiny, bright objects du jour instead of looking out on to the horizon. Why is this such a big deal? We’re seeing our world become more and more mobile. Facebook, Google and everyone else have yet to demonstrate how they’re going to take their current connections of users and migrate them over to a mobile platform that is just as engaging and compelling as what we’re seeing in the current browser-based format. What makes any brand (and agency) think that they’re going to get this right? Immediately, any brand can create a new website in HTML5 and leverage responsive technology to develop a platform that is – at the very least – manageable across all devices and screens. At the same time, these same brands can spend as much time and money as they wish creating a better brand narrative – without the restrictions and limitations set out by any other digital media company.

Fear is the mindkiller.

It’s just easier to play in someone else’s sandbox, isn’t it? Fear is holding everyone back. Unlimited creativity and opportunity is holding these brands back. It’s a shame. A brand that can provide a true experience and extend that brand narrative by providing utility and being there – wherever – the consumer is, will be the winning brands of the near-future. If consumers want to shop the brand wherever and whenever they want, but these brands are locking themselves in to other channels and platforms, they’re missing the biggest opportunity that social technology has brought: the ability to create a powerful and direct relationship with a consumer.

What’s your take?


  1. Excellent points Mitch! I don’t understand why brands add additional steps for their prospects when they can send them directly to their own home online as you said.
    Continuing with your Facebook example, once someone logs in to FB their attention is tested immediately. They are so easily distracted by friends & family that paying attention to what the brand is doing on FB becomes secondary.
    Great post my friend. As usual! 🙂

  2. Yes, yes, yes! If there is one thing about businesses is that they like control and stability. To me giving both up to an advertiser, which is what they are, has been truly baffling to me. Isn’t the genius of the Internet that businesses can go direct to their customers rather than trough a distribution channel? How is a company going to resonate their uniqueness if they are restricted in what they can and can’t do by a third party provider. Isn’t it better to be on the open web and unleash your your own creative?

  3. Love this. I have been wondering about this ever since I started noticing the same thing on big brands’ TV commercials.
    Personally, as a small business marketer, I don’t think you can replace the value of a customer or prospect coming to my website and clicking around and learning more about my company. There is much more opportunity for that guest to learn something they didn’t already know about me.
    Maybe big brands don’t place the same amount of value on that as I do.
    Great stuff.

  4. Mitch – the problem is these brand managers don’t know any better. They yield their presence to ‘perceived popular’ trendy platforms without any sort of data or rationale. A different generation is still in charge, thus the insanity of what you’re seeing (I’ve blogged stories like this many times).
    Excusable? No. These marketers need to do a better job.
    Will it continue? For the time being.
    In the future? We’ll have a generation of digital natives who hopefully steer companies in a better direction and actually use technology in a way that makes sense.

  5. The only benefit I’ve seen is for smaller companies and organizations that don’t have the means/budgets to build a great website, let alone one with a CMS. Creating a Facebook page takes seconds and gives you a slew of tools to share messages, photos and interact with people without having to spend 1 cent.
    I agree however that big brands need to be weary of putting all of their eggs into one basket.

  6. Thanks for the points. If we just let go of fears and come out with our comfort zones we can do all things that we can turn impossible things to reality. Just take for example the post of Oreo in their Facebook page. The post drew more than 52,000 shares and 177,000 likes in 24 hours. Although many moms said that they’re decide to boycott from buying the products but still many are those who believe in the brand stand strong with Oreo’s side.
    A very courageous move indeed!

  7. Great post. The only thing that draws me to a “brand” Facebook site (et al) is the offer of coupons. In addition, I rarely go to the brand web site unless I want more coupons or need more information about a specific product (e.g., what scents of fabric softener does Downey now offer).
    As baby boomers – who have a traditional interaction with brands (TV, magazines, newspapers) – move on, how will brands market to these up and comers. If someone can pay a fee to use an application (for example) in which there are no ads, how is the brand message doing to live on?

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