Many people I meet, tell me that the brand is everything and for a very few brands, this maybe the case. This is Kamala Harris speaking to Joe Biden on the phone after it was announced that they had won the President and Vice-President of the United States.
That's the power of the brand. We all know it's Nike, the brand even has its own name, "the swoosh" and even has its own Wikipedia page. That's the power of brand. But while having this power is a marketers dream, how many people can really, really, really achieve this and at what cost?
Here is tail of how big brands have lost out to employees that had personal brands and had been empowered on social. The "power" has shifted to employees, regardless of if you like it or not and regardless of if you support it within your company.
Here are some powerful brands
They decided to form a break away league for football (soccer) called the European Super League. This announcement was made at 11:00 PM (UK time) on Sunday 18th April 2021.
Then what happened?
Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United one of the players (employees) signalled opposition on Instagram.
Marcus Rashford of Manchester United (one of the players / employees) tweeted this epithet from Sir Matt Busby about football is about supporters. It has 512,000 likes. Which would have made it the second most popular tweet of 2020.
Then the power of the football teams fans, or should I say customers cut in
More "employees" and "customers" voiced their opinions of on social media
The Luke Shaw, who plays for Manchester United, this is again, one of Manchester United's employees.
Then Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City, another employee uses his power and personal brand on social media
The Ed Woodward quit Manchester United from his post as executive-chairman
Then Liverpool's entire squad posted the same message on social media at the same time "We don't like it and we don't want it to happen". The action was lead by Jordan Henderson the Liverpool captain. Jordan had canvassed opinion of the whole Liverpool team from the players Whatsapp group and only went ahead when he had all the responses back.
He also canvassed opinion from all the premier league captain's via a whatsapp group that had been set up during the first Covid lock down to coordinate responses to "Project Restart", "NHS Together" and "Black Lives Matter".
Employees have the power to organise, communicate, for free, all at the speed of light.
(My employees have social media groups that I don't have access to and so do your employees).
By midnight on Tuesday 20th April, Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal and Tottenham had pulled out of the ESL.
What happened to the brands?
How social media has changed the world of business
"Had this stunt been pulled 20 years ago, the players would have had no voice, nor would the coaches." one of Britain's leading football agents said. "Their voice comes from social media and 24/7 sports reporting. The players of the last generation couldn't have organised themselves in a way that's so effective".
A business and set of businesses have evolved where leaders (managers) and the employees (players) can communicate to enormous audiences on social media, while club owners, bosses and executives really speak. In fact, from the lack of PR from the ESL, they were replying on old school press releases to get their point across. And they lost.
Abbramovich, Sheikh Mansour, Joel Glazer, Stan Kroenke and Joe Lewis made zero public utterances during the situation. Here we have CEOs completely out witted and misunderstanding the way the world works today.
The only "CEO" that made effort to communicate was Liverpool's, John W. Henry and he had to do that through the Brand's own medium, he does not have one of his own.
He apologised to the manager, players and fans for the disruption he caused.
The moral to the tale
The genie is out of the bottle. 55% of the world's population actively use social media. It's changed society and change the way we do business.
The power of the brand is over, the only unique selling point (USP) your business has today is your employees.
Your employees are unique; their experiences, their outlook, their purpose. The brand has no power, you must as a matter of urgency empower them to speak on social media. Why? Because they are already there. They will already have whatsapp groups, my employees do, all businesses do.
This is where you will try and control it or put your head in the sand and hope it will go away, probably because either you don't understand it or are scared of it. We all try and control what we don't understand.
This is your time to embrace social media and by doing this you will control it. Treat social media just like you treat health and safety, diversity and inclusion you train your employees on it. You explain what is good behaviour and what is bad behaviour and this is how you start to transform your business to a digital (social) organisation.
Probably should end this with a piece of advice, the world is littered with businesses that have tried to do this themselves (try and understand something they don't understand) and have made mistakes they have had to backtrack on. One business admitted to us, that their do it yourself (DIY) approach had cost them $1 Billion (yes Billion) being wiped off their market cap.
You need to get in people, who have seen this and worked with business before. People that understand social media and more importantly have the business acumen to back it up. People who are not afraid to speak up and challenge, it could save you $billion in market cap.
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Thanks to The Sunday Times for the inspiration from their article.