Branding through social media - challenges and opportunities for marketers (Dove & Benetton)

Written by Rami Al-Salih


An important substance that keeps on developing is social media, which is creating new evolutionary ways for companies to connect with their target groups and reach out with massages to consumers. The era of web 2.0 has been the reason for these new rules within marketing. Social media is a category name, and contains many different pieces such as social networking, blogs, mobile applications, chat rooms and video and photo sharing.  The idea of bonding with them over social media is to get a two-way communication and create a deeper and closer relationship to the consumers (Scott, 2011)


The fact that the social media and the internet in general have changed the game rules for marketers is no surprise. But whether is should be a part a companies marketing strategy has been an ongoing debate. There are no doubts that more and more marketers use different social media tools to get closer to their consumers and build a deep relationship with them. But as mentioned before with this relative new tool and strategy there comes both challenges and opportunities. This paper will therefore declare this by giving example from cases where this evident. The paper will also illuminate the factors necessary for success by using social media.

The limit of words in this paper reduce the space and narrow the framework and hence the discussion. The topic and area of social media as a branding tool is very broad and therefore this paper will only focus on a few challenges and opportunities for marketers to get a deeper understanding. The paper will also provide examples where challenges and opportunities of social media are clear.

I will to start by clearing out my purpose of this paper and then frame the theoretical part where I will go through a few aspect I think could be useful. The paper will also point out two cases that give the discussion reality.

The purpose above can be summarized by this sentence and hence will be the main focus in this paper:

”Branding through social media - challenges and opportunities for marketers”

Theoretical part

Armelini & Villanueva discuss general how social media serve a different function regarding relations than conventional advertising. The authors discuss how social media can affect companies both positive and negative. Marketers can use social media to build brand recognition and start conversations but the authors also discuss how the results can be hard to predict and how it is hard for marketers and companies to control the outcome. Armelini & Villanueva also points out that the use of social media can do serious damage to the brand. A positive aspect is the cost of the marketers and companies instead of using traditional marketing, with social media the cost will be lower but of course there will appear some hidden cost as well (Armelini & Villanueva, 2011), (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

With increasing internet use, more companies are trying to manage at least one platform to try to support their work (Seraj, 2012). Another platform that is getting more common is marketing via mobile, and the social media connected to it. Marketers have now more opportunities to promote, communicate and do market research through this type of marketing (Kaplan, 2011).

George S. Day and Paul J.H. Schoemaker make it clear that scanning the periphery is something vital for markets and companies due to the danger and opportunities that relies within that area. To be able defining the scope, ask the right questions and learn from the past are a few factors that have to include in a marketers thinking when wanting to spot danger or even situations that could lead to a possibility for a company  (Day & Schoemaker, 2005).

Another writer named Frederick F. Reichheld believes that it is important to get the consumers to become promoters and to figure out what your customers tell their friends about the firm. According to this article word of mouth is strong correlated to growth and it is a way for companies to gain their loyal costumers. Reichheld also think that forgetting about loyalty can be a big danger because it could lead to a non-promoting act (Reichheld, 2003).

According to Barwise and Meehan there are a couple of factors marketers have to get right to succeed with consumers. They have to manage to deliver four basics: offering and communicating a clear customer promise, continually improving the promise, innovating beyond the familiar and building trust by delivering on it. According to this paper marketers should only use social media primarily for insights. They should use this rarely marketing to learn about the costumers. One way is Facebook that have a tremendous reach and could lead to a lot of opportunities for the company (Barwise and Meehan,2010).

Sean Duffy also made it very clear that trust is something valuable for marketers and company due to the use of the internet. Because of the social media, companies would like to have access to information about the customers in order to offer them product they might be interested in. Therefore a trust between the customer and the firm is valid to have if one wants this to work. (Duffy, 2013)

Another paper discusses the topic brand community and explains it as “specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand” (Muniz & O’Guinn, 1995, pp.412). The authors also discuss three traditional marketers of community: rituals and traditions, sense of moral responsibility and shared consciousness (Muniz & O’Guinn, 1995). An example of this is the Nutella community witch is very big in many countries, especially Italy. These people share this common passion and therefore together make a big community (Cova & Pace, 2006).

Empirical examples

A lot of companies made tremendous changes with and without social media. One company that succeeded was Dove. They managed, after doing market research, converse with women and consulting with experts to build up a brand with high value and made the company a real buzz in the world. These activities mentioned before led to “the Champaign Real Beauty” that started 2002. The company used social media in terms of YouTube where it became one of the most downloaded commercials ever on YouTube (Deighton, 2008).

Not every company and marketers succeed with the market strategy like the brand Dove did. One brand that suffered a lot was Benetton that created pictures, which upset a lot of people and damaged its brand. These pictures was everything from a good and evil child posted together and where the black child’s hair was shaped like a devil or Hugo Chavez kissing president Obama and so on.  (Veronika, 2012)

The reason that I am giving these two as an example even though it do not have much connection to social media is because of its results. It can be explained pretty easy with social media how things could have been and not. Basically I am going the have a discussion and include these two examples, my theory and my own thoughts. These cases will make it clear how social media can have a impact on brand building for marketers.


The Dove phenomenon was back in 2002 and social media was not that advanced yet but the reason why mentioning it is because of what could and could not have been due to social media. I will explain my argument further in this part. Obviously there are a lot of opportunities and challenges with social media and therefore I will through these two cases explain what Dove could have done it with social media rather than traditional marketing to be as successful as they where. I will also explain how Benetton could have hindered the damage on their brand with social media and with that said hopefully clear out the opportunities and challenges for marketers with social media regarding branding.

Starting with Dove, the marketers could have scanned the periphery like the authors George S. Day and Paul J.H. Schoemaker discuss in their paper which I think its vital because one can find threats but more important according to me, opportunities. One also need to communicate their value and promise and keep on innovating like Barwise and Meehan argues in their article because I consider it to be important to develop a trust between the company and the consumers. This is phenomenon that Sean Duffy agrees upon after having a lecture that touched the subject trust.

To me it is also important to get consumers to become promoters due to its effectiveness and as Frederick F. Reichheld writes about in his article. Dove could through social media accomplish all this by using and thinking of all these aspect that mentioned above. My point is that marketers could accomplish the same outcome, maybe not as controlled as Armelini & Villanueva discuss in their paper. Dove could avoid challenges and create opportunity if marketers choose to use social media due to these aspects discussed above. Dove managed to succeed without that many social media tools put I consider it to be an option to traditional marketing, even a complement.

Benetton that damaged their brand could have avoided this though social media because they could have seen this coming though using tools such as Facebook. This is a great possibility when wanting to discover opportunities and get insights. Marketers also need to avoid this damage because of the brand communities. These people adore the brand and something that would make them loose faith in the brand would be a big loss for them. Especially how Cova & Pace explain these people as passionate consumers. For me Benetton also broke the trust between them and the consumers because of these shocking pictures, which goes against the principle of trust I would say.

Going back what this company and marketers did wrong, they did not think of the consequences, which could have been avoided through social media. By taking the step to the consumers on social media first and then going “all in” I think could have done a big difference. Consumers also tend to talk to other people (word of mouth) and therefore a negative impact could spread easy. Therefore marketers have to make that consumers do not become promoters in a wrong way. This could be avoided due to scanning the periphery though social media.


Marketers can create opportunities through social media and build up a brand just like the Dove. They could have used social media to get scan the periphery and to detect threats or even possibilities. Through social media marketers can deliver: trust, promise, get people to promote, build brand communities and so on. That is why using social media can lead to an opportunity for marketers to build a brand.

On the other side, social media can also lead to tremendous damage because it is not controlled as traditional marketing. One could easy damage the brand just like the company Benetton did. Markers therefore need to be careful men using these types of tools and maybe ask person on social media and have a debate before actually doing something that could change the brand, especially negative.

The reason why I used Dove and Benetton is because they are two good cases how it could turned out to be when using marketers using social media and how it could lead to an opportunity or as in the last example a challenge (damage) for the company and the brand. I am aware that these two cases did not use social media that much, but hopefully min discussion made a conclusion that made it clear what could or not have been with social media.






Scott, D.M., The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 3d edition.


Armelli, G. and Villanueva, J. (2011),”Adding social media to the marketing mix”, IESE insight, No. 9.

Barwise, P. and Meehan, S. (2010), “The one thing you must get right when building a brand”, Harvard Business Review, December.

Cova, B. and Pace, S. (2006), “Brand community of convenience: new forms of customer empowerment – the case my Nutella The Community”, European Journal of Marketing, 40(9/10), 1087-1105.

Day, G. S. and Schoemaker, P. J. H., “Scanning the Periphery” Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec. 2005.*

Deighton, John (2008), “Dove: Evolution of a Brand”, Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Frederick F. Reichheld (2003), “the one number you need to grow”, Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2003, pp. 46-54.

Kaplan, A.M. (2011), “If you love something, let it go mobile: mobile marketing and mobile social media 4X4, Business Horizons, 54.

Kaplan, Andreas M. and Michael Haenlein (2010), "Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media”, Business Horizons, 53 (1), 59 – 68

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Muniz, A.M. & O’Guinn, T.C. (2001) Brand Community, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27, pp. 412-432.

Seraj, M. (2012), We Create, We Connect, We Respect, Therefore We Are: Intellectual, Social, and Cultural Value in Online Communities, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26, 209–222. *


Sean Duffy, lecture 2 & 3, 28 januari and 4 ferbruari, 2013

Veronika Tarnovskaya, guest lecture in brands & branding, 22 november, 2012.