Friday, July 6

Branding Online: Do We Need People To Act?

Anytime I read an article with a steep promise it never delivers — How To Be Unforgettable Online — it makes me wonder. Do we want to make every interaction emotional? Is that really the end goal?

The premise isn't new. Advertisers have long maintained that consumers act on emotion more than logic. When the ideology is confined to advertising, it makes sense. An advertisement either generates an impression about a brand or makes the case for a specific call to action.

After repetition (assuming it reaches a viable prospect), the general idea is that you will eventually adopt some notion about the brand (doubly quick if others say the same thing) and test the presumption with a purchase. The point of purchase is also the moment that the brand will sink or swim.

So when I read the article that conveyed branding works much the same way, it made me wonder.

Can branding be boiled down into a series of emotional responses too?

If it can be boiled down in that way, then I think the relationship must be shockingly shallow. In fact, you might equate it to some of those acquaintances you follow on Facebook or Twitter or even offline.

You know the folks — the people you really don't know but are connected with them for any number of reasons. Maybe you met them in a conversation. Maybe you accepted a friend request because of their relation to someone you know. Maybe you thought they were a possible prospect. Maybe you liked their profile or something they did that someone shared. Whatever. They're trial connections.

Does that connection have anything to do with branding? Not really. The brand relationship between you and the connection will likely occur in the days and weeks that follow. It will not be based on your emotional reaction to each interaction, but their overall ability to prove there could be a relationship.

If they don't, you'll likely server the connection in time, doubly fast if they spam you, have polarizing opinions, or don't offer any particular value. It doesn't hurt to do it. There are no tears. You move on.

But now think of the people you do know. Maybe they are family or long-time friends. And maybe they don't always live up to your expectations either: soliciting an argument, sharing something inappropriate, or even spamming you with all sorts of nonsense that you never expected.

Even so, it might not be as easy to sever the ties. Why? Because unlike the other folks who solicited an action from you, you have a relationship with them that transcends any action. The sum of that relationship generally trumps the emotion they might generate with any statement or share.

Brands need to stop thinking short term and start thinking long term. 

Did you ever visit the Aol front page? Most of its news stories are teased in a way to generate an emotional response and action much like the authors of How To Be Unforgettable Online subscribe.

The one-line quips promise you something important, shocking, surprising, unbelievable, dangerous, and fantastic. Spend some time there and you will eventually find one article that will tug at you to click the link. When you do, there is an 80 percent chance that the tease doesn't match the draw.

So the question becomes ... how many times will you click those links for less than was promised?

If you are like most people, you will dump the page for a better source of news. And therein lies the takeaway. Branding is much more than generating high exposure and an emotional tug to get people to act. It's about developing a relationship strong enough to survive the hiccups, bumps, and other stuff that happens along the way. It's not all that different than a real relationship. Don't get dumped.

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