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People Are Talking

When it comes to discussions of modern marketing, it is not uncommon to hear people, myself included, state something like “people are out there talking about your brand.” The more I hear this statement said, the more I question its accuracy.

The premise is not entirely wrong. In fact, it is accurate in the sense that communication technology has evolved, empowering people to more publicly express their views to the world. This includes sharing stories of delight or displeasure experienced with companies and brands. From “Dell Hell” to “Comcast Must Die” to myriad other outcries for consumer justice, the Internet has given us all a soapbox that is wired to the world, and we are using it to broadcast our stories to friends, family members, and total strangers. As a result of this people now have the capacity to tell stories that may involve your brand.

However, most people are not talking about your brand at all. “What?” you say. “Wait, the marketing nerd is saying that people aren’t talking about brands on social media?” “Has he lost his mind?”

First, most brands do little do encourage people to actually talk about them. They are not edgy enough to be hated, nor incredible enough to be worthy of discussion. Most are just adequate, and people don’t tend to spend time talking about adequate. There are just too many other things to discuss. Yes, if you screw up frequently or are wildly unethical people may voice their displeasure, but generally most are too busy to care about you. The reality is most people have no idea your brand exists.

This brings me to my other thought on why the idea of “people talking about your brand” is slightly off the mark. Even when they mention you, people are not really talking about you. They are talking about themselves. They are the hero of the story, not you or your brand. People are talking about their frustration with the problems they encounter in their lives. They are sharing their joys and triumphs over adversity. They are telling their story, not yours.

If you really want people to talk about you, focus on their story. Practice empathy and put yourself in their shoes. How does your company make their story better? Think about their problems. Understand their hopes and desires. Then, do something that can make their story more interesting, more satisfying, and more remarkable. Smart brands, the ones that understand the power of word of mouth marketing, figure out ways to go beyond adequate, and create meaningful experiences that are worthy of talking about. Your story should be about improving your customers’ stories.

This article by David E. Bowman was originally published in the November issue of DaytonB2B Magazine.