Monday, July 13, 2009

Social Media Is Not The Savior. Brand Is.

I just finished scouring this morning. Not surprisingly, the top two most viewed stories pertained to social media.

I'm here to give you a different take on "new" media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Instead of more ideas on how to leverage them, I'm focusing on the lesson you can learn from them.

I believe many people, particularly marketers, view social media as a means to create, reinvent and build brands. Even the lead story on, Is Bob Lutz the Right Guy to Lead GM's Marketing, is about whether it should have looked to a more digital savvy marketer than a 46-year vet of the industry. Is it really change as GM promised, some are questioning in the article.

I have no way of knowing if Mr. Lutz is the right choice or not. But I believe a successful turnaround is predicated less on him and more about whether or not GM reengineers it's thinking. It needs to reinvent itself from the inside based on the three integrated Ps: Products, positioning and people. In a nutshell, think brand!

Everything in the Ad Age article spoke to creative design, advertising and communications as Mr. Lutz's role. There was no "real" talk about brand whatsoever. If brand isn't in his job description, it should be. In fact, it should be his focus. At companies where the focus is brand, it's every one's responsibility, from CEO to janitor.

One of the first things on Mr. Lutz's agenda is to meet with "key officials" to review proposed work and messaging of GM's remaining four brands. My first agenda item would be to get the CEO, brand, product, engineering and design teams in the same room and determine what tangible, meaningful, real distinction - between sibling brands and competitor brands - is being created, and how the culture is being changed at all levels, from CEO-to-dealers and everyone in between. That should be job one, to steal a line from a competitor from the past.

Reading between the lines of the Lutz story, and from other sources, everything still seems compartmentalized at GM, not woven together through brand, and approached from the outside-in. Isn't that business as usual?

My approach: Create authentic brands first and reengineer the culture to bring those brands to life (walk the walk). Then create the strategic messaging (talk the walk). Lastly, determine communications, creative and media channels (take it on a walk).

Don't take this as an attack on Mr. Lutz. This is the part he's been assigned. He might be a terrific addition to the cast. My issue is the play itself seems to be the same old script.

Coming back full circle, leveraging Facebook and Twitter is one thing. Learning from them is another. The thing you should really pay close attention to more than anything else is both are unique, simple, focused and memorable concepts. Those are the key ingredients of any powerful brand. Facebook is social networking. Twitter is status (as in updates). This is no different than Google is search, Victoria's Secret is sexy lingerie and Wal-Mart is low prices.

If you're not focused on "brand" first and making sure your culture bleeds your promise in everything you do, media - traditional, social, digital, etc. - isn't going to be the savior. Brand is. Always.

These are my Guts Feelings.