If you search for the "Holy Grail of Marketing", you'll realize one very important thing: there is no consensus on exactly what it is. I researched the first few pages of results and decided to introduce a new element to the confusion, er, mix - Buzz.
Admittedly I've been inspired by this latest release from YouGov - their 2019 Buzz Rankings. 433 brands have been ranked, globally, locally and even by industry based upon their "buzz" over the 12 months of 2019. This is how they defined it:
"Buzz or Net Sentiment generated across all media (advertising, news, word of mouth)"
"Net sentiment" by the way, is determined first by assigning a score to the feedback, which can range from -100 to +100 and calculated by subtracting negative feedback from positive. All scores are based on data from the 12 month period from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019.
Here's what that means:
a. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback; and
b. The higher (lower) the score, the lower (higher) the amount of negative sentiment expressed about the brand.
Go ahead, knock yourself out (link is at the bottom). Go see which brands were the most memorable, and see if you're lucky enough to be working with/in/for a brand that is featured.
The main reason I found this interesting enough to Passle was this: I have discovered in the course of my work and research, that customer experience is intricately linked to what people say about you when you're not in the room.
Astute readers would have recognised you could actually substitute "customer experience" with "BRAND". But I digress...
My point is simply this: when it comes to "experience", people remember 3 things - their highs, their lows and how the experience ended, and particularly the latter. In other words, our memories of an event or experience (or how a brand delivered its products and services to us and how it made us feel) play a key role in whether an experience was good, bad, great or nothing special.
Back to YouGov's Brand Buzz rankings. "Advertising", "News" and "Word of mouth" are specified as the 3 media quoted when asking respondents to assign a sentiment for what they have heard or recollected.
Now, I don't know the details of, and nor do I want to criticize, any element of this analysis. However, I do want to pause and urge you - as a brand owner - to consider how you might want to more effectively "game" this system. Here's some food for thought.
Buzz = Attention + Awareness + Sentiment
Think of this as "SEO for human memory". Search engine optimization is the process of getting traffic from search results on search engines; it is the process of enhancing your content, to make it as relevant as possible to enquiries such that it appears at the top of (or very close to the top of) search results on search engines. (Quote me at your own risk, by the way; this is simply how I explain SEO to my 7yr old daughter).
It should be relatively obvious why I say "Buzz" is the human memory equivalent of SEO; surveying respondents about their sentiment on brands they may have encountered on- or offline is basically asking them to recall memorable (good or bad) brand experiences.
Wouldn't you just love to have created that Buzz, so that your potential and actual customers, and their family, friends and colleagues et al would have been left with not only memories - but great ones - to talk about when they are approached by the likes of YouGov?
The question is - How?
Obviously, your core product and/or service needs to deliver as promised. Recall how you felt the last time your checked-in bags were lost, flight got cancelled or re-routed, or how unfriendly the service staff was to you. Almost nothing can overcome a basic product or service failure.
Advertising & News - this is a no-brainer. Generate enough revenues, set aside enough budgets, pay as much as you can to advertise. Or, release whitepapers, organise events, get speaking gigs at industry conferences, pay agencies for PR and to get you on global news programs or other media. Anyone with deep enough pockets could do all this. But, what if you don't have this money, or there's so much fraud and uncertainty that you can't be sure what you're paying for anymore?
Word-of-mouth - this is indeed powerful. My wife started her bespoke rugs and home decor business and grew this in her first 2 years almost solely through WOM to become the most well-known brand for rugs & carpets in Hong Kong in 2019. When you're a global brand though, and no longer a "startup", WOM becomes the by-product of your success, not the primary marketing and growth strategy of choice.
So what then? Here's a little, not-so-secret, secret I'd like to share:
I did say it wasn't such a secret. It does not refer to spamming people on social networks, or selling products through WeChat, TikTok or any other digital means (a.k.a. social commerce). It's not merely "branding" (personal or otherwise). It most certainly isn't running more adverts on LinkedIn, FB, or Insta.
Social empowerment is about fundamentally transforming your business to connect internally (with employees) and externally (with the market) in a more meaningful, authentic and trustworthy manner.
Business and commerce have changed for all brands, bar none. Ecosystems are intricately and intimately connected with social media, no matter how you deny, ignore or disbelieve this. It is stitched into the very fabric of society, underpinning how and when we communicate with each other, and how trust is developed, or broken. Everyone is on social.
Don't believe me? What did you think of the last time you Googled someone (a friend, potential employee, a client, partner or your boss) and either didn't find anything or found something questionable? How did you search and find information on a competitor, or a desired supplier, and then how did you contact them? Why have organisations like Microsoft and Facebook, or apps like Slack made such strong headway into the corporate collaboration space globally?
So here's how to get your brand buzzing
Position social media as a strategy (not just a channel) in your organisation, across silos, not a part of one (usually marketing or customer service).
Implement a strategic social plan, incorporating your MVV and purpose, even as you identify the progressive change-makers internally who can help illuminate the way forward. (Hint: these aren't the guys who've "always done things that way"). These are the people who will help unlock the intellectual capital which is hidden within your already existing networks to transform the way your business needs to be done in a constantly changing world.
Empower your teams with the right tools, frameworks, mindsets and habits that will allow them to blossom as brand ambassadors for your business and purpose. Encourage them to tweet, blog, talk, exchange, connect and network on social because conversations and (informal) connections are the basis for longer term trust and authenticity.
Just imagine if you augmented those boring press releases/white papers/advertorials with just 1 piece of content, produced weekly by 20 engaged, socially-savvy employees, sharing and distributing them on the platforms and networks where your market was hanging out, generating reactions, questions, conversations and follow-ups - much like I will get after posting this.
How's that for "SEO for human memory", or brand Buzz, or customer experience? Boom.
Do you want to know exactly how to put in place a proven, robust, habit-changing social strategy and program for your organisation? Let's have a chat.
The 433 brands in YouGov BrandIndex were ranked using the Buzz score which asks respondents, “If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” Scores are net scores, calculated by subtracting the percentage of negative responses from the percentage of positive responses for each brand.