There is a disturbing misconception these days that the equity of a brand is a measure of the number of likes or the number of followers the brand profile has garnered over a period of time. The frenzy of marketers to indulge in a social dialogue has paved the way for an unhealthy new benchmark of brand health – ‘likes’. The advent of social media has indeed revolutionised the way brands communicate with their target audience. The marketers now have so many new avenues to interact with the consumers and build a positive brand sentiment. It has propelled them to be proactive and invest in new, better ways to listen, share, co-create and otherwise communicate with consumers. But the objective of such efforts should not be to increase likes, as if they are votes of brand equity, because they are not. In fact going by the principles of brand management, it’s difficult to understand why any good brand manager would want everyone to “like” his or her brand. They should be aiming at acquiring genuine brand advocates, a growing group of people to love their brand, even if it means another group doesn’t.
Simply being liked by everyone isn’t really the point of branding. From UCB to Godaddy.com, successful brands often appeal more to a specific set of consumers -in some cases developing a unique identity with cult-like status – while completely turning off other consumers, who simply do not understand the brands’ communication or even actively dislike the brand’s values. Polarity can actually contribute to good branding. Having a strong and clear set of values and beliefs is what builds genuine equity and not some quasi -measure of popularity.
However, the real area of concern is that brands do not offer anything special other than product features and benefits. The sole purpose of a brand’s existence is to solve consumer needs in the most compelling and unique way, and offer a clear point of view. Take Red Bull for an example, an icon of young energy and extreme sports, proudly thriving on the edge. For youngsters, Red Bull is a part of the conversation-and not about energy drinks-about the extreme and adventurous lifestyle that it instigates. They successfully leveraged the opportunities and the dynamicity of social media to establish a sustainable meaningful connect with the consumers.
Another alarming concern is just how out of control ‘liking’ has gotten. A simple Google search on ‘Facebook Likes’ will yield hundreds of results of companies offering to sell fans that is supposed to make the brand popular. There are companies which promise “500+ guaranteed Facebook likes delivered within 48 hours” for meagre $8 USD. They even reassure that these fans will be “all humans”. Sounds awesome! Now, brand can go sell!
It is critical especially for brand managers to understand the true meaning of brand management and engage in much better ways to build a genuine equity for their brand. Brands need to stand firmly for something that they believe even if it means alienating a group of consumers.