The company must be more human, more open

We are indebted to Franklin D Roosevelt for the quotation ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ In fact, one of the reasons that people had not explored the unknown seas before the great explorers of the sixteenth century did so was the fear of this unknown. It was thought that there were chimeras lurking there. The same is true of genetically modified organisms in France today: fear dominates thought and action.

For brands, a new reality is making itself felt: the technology is there, it will expand, and it has already been adopted by the customers themselves. It must therefore be used, and made into a friend. It is understandable that brands fear technology: it profoundly changes all consumers’ habits, and above all gives them power.

Recall certain inescapable facts:

  • More mobile phones are sold worldwide than televisions. Does the brand’s media strategy take this into account?
  • In developed countries, the under-35s spend more time on the internet than watching television.
  • In the United States, Americans spend more time on video games than at the cinema.
  • More than 15 per cent of people who use the internet read blogs.

If during the first internet revolution there were only prophecies, Web 2.0 makes its mark because the internet works, is used everywhere and makes money. The characteristics of our world can be summed up in four words: on demand, interactive, collaborative.

  • Nowadays everything is provided on demand. With Google, everyone finds what they are looking for. On iTunes, people can find the tune they have been seeking for years without success. On tomorrow’s television, we will no longer ask what a channel is showing this evening, but say, ‘I’d like to see a Clint Eastwood film. Where is one being shown?’
  • Nowadays the audience have developed a taste for interactivity: they no longer wish to be passive. They want to participate actively, give their opinion on everything and read the opinions of others. Blogs and forums help them to do so.
  • The new generation is collaborative: they help one another, and remain switched on in order to continually seek the opinions of others. The blogosphere is a world of collaboration. Everyone’s opinions on everything are exchanged, circulated, and diffuse like viruses.

For marketing, things have now come full circle. Marketing was born from the end of physical markets. The merchant and marketplace discussions between customers were replaced by self-service and television advertising. Now with the internet and 3G mobiles, other people’s opinions are accessible about everything. The brand no longer has the monopoly on communication. Wishing to control everything, it must now compound with consumer, or customer, power, the power to broadcast another truth: their own. It is the end of broken product promises. It is the end of unethical or non-citizen brands.

The internet and blogs have revived conversation with an unequalled power: rumour and word of mouth now have a weapon of mass diffusion. The conversations, however, are also the best way of getting to know each other better, and of appearing human. They are a way of bringing down the barricades of mutual ignorance. The image of Microsoft in the United States has changed a great deal since Robert Scoble, a Microsoft employee, created his blog in 2004, attracting the visits and participation of nearly 3,500,000 people.

Robert Scoble believed that Microsoft’s image was too far removed from what he experienced within the company: it was not the ogre, the demon that others described it to be. He was not a communications director, or a public relations or marketing manager. He did know how to create a community around his blog, a trust connection. Since then companies have come to understand the value of these spontaneous corporate ambassadors: they give the company a human face, and build a trust network with the community they create.

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