How (And Why) Should Corporations Communicate CSR Activities through the Internet?

This study describes how and why a company benefits from communicating its CSR activities online. Both through the corporate website and social media. Including case examples.

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The impact of social media on customer communication and modern day marketing

The 21st century has been characterized by various developments, shifts and changes worldwide. Many of these shifts and changes, especially within a marketing context, have been fuelled by the nowadays omnipresent Internet and all the platforms and tools found within.  Businesses need to adapt their ways of interaction with their customers and clients. Here fore, several authors offer several approaches on which path to take in order to maximize the potential offered by the World Wide Web.

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Does Social media marketing mean the end of traditional advertising?

The use of social media marketing is increasing rapidly among companies (King. et al., 2014). Much attention is paid to social media’s role in the marketing mix, not least in relation to traditional media (LaPointe, 2011). LaPointe (2011) states that it’s becoming more popular with marketing strategies that rely entirely on online tactics. At the same time, many marketers are still unsure of how to go about this ocean of platforms and opportunities called social media, as pointed out by DeMers (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2014/08/11/the-top-10-benefits-of-social-media-marketing/) and Hanna et al. (2011). Let us therefore have a look at what research has to say about social- versus traditional media! Could it be that companies are too quick with planning the funeral of conventional advertising? 

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How is eWOM becoming a part of marketing strategies? And what are the consequences? Part 1

Customer advocacy is defined by marketers’ attempt on building mutual “transparency, dialogue and partnership” (p. 5) and is becoming an essential part of a marketing strategy (Lawer and Knox, 2006). However, the marketers’ presence in the user’s activities online can been seen as avoided or causing irritation (Cho and Cheon, 2004). Therefore, the following paper sets the question of how can marketers influence customer advocacy and word-of-mouth (WOM), without causing irritation or avoidance. As a result, the paper will begin by identifying the problem of advertising avoidance on the internet and the three main reasons for it (Cho and Cheon, 2004), followed by e-word-of-mouth marketing (eWOMM) as a phenomenon and eWOM types. The aim of the paper is to give the ground understanding of who talks online – the marketers, the influencers or the end users. Part II would provide a follow up on the topic, which will explore the notion of avoidance in eWOMM and the theory in practice, meanwhile providing implications for building customer advocacy while minimising the threat negative response.

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Social Media Marketing for Building a Strong E-loyalty

In the past few years, we have seen radical changes and advances on the Internet, which has brought new opportunities and challenges in not only our lifestyle but also various business over the world. The Internet has a great power beyond imagination. Especially, The Internet is more meaningful when it comes to business performances. It is not optional anymore but mandatory to make use of the Internet in business perspective.

The start of the digital marketing is probably from the advent of web 2.0. People started to use the terminology, web 2.0, to illustrate a new platform whereby content and applications are not created and issued by individuals anymore, but instead are continuously updated and changed by all users on the Internet where people can easily access (Kaplin & Haenlein, 2010).

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Social media has changed the marketing landscape and enabled consumers to be more interactive – what can marketers do to better adapt to this new landscape?

With the emergence of social media the marketing landscape have changed, and marketers have to develop a new approach to there marketing strategy. Traditional media such as TV, radio and newspapers are now challenged by social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and YouTube. Social media has also enabled consumers to be more interactive through different platforms, where they create and share information, opinions, thoughts and experiences about a specific brand or in a consumer community with other consumers. This paper will highlight how consumers now have more power to influence marketing activities and what marketers should do to better adapt to this new marketing landscape.

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The Nature and Impact of Anti-Branding Hate Sites and How to Handle Anti-Branding on the Internet Part 2

Written by Renske Wolters

In part 1 of this article the nature and impact of anti-branding hate sites has been discussed. This part will focus on how managers should handle when under attack of such a hate site. Kucuk (2008) divides anti-branding hate sites in four different types that can be handled in different ways. The Experts, the Symbolic Haters, the Complainers, and the Opportunists

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The Nature and Impact of Anti-Branding Hate Sites and How to Handle Anti-Branding on the Internet Part 1

Written by Renske Wolters

Tourism, studying abroad, foreign trade, spread of technical knowhow… Globalization has brought so many great advantages. But WAIT! When you think about that, have you ever thought about the drawbacks? And what about the effects of those drawbacks? Let us have a look at a few examples of globalization drawbacks that Ger and Belk (1996) pointed out. It brings social inequality, class polarization, stress, materialism and threats to health and environment. There is an increasing awareness that global companies play an incredibly big role in this negative globalization points... 

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WHY LEAN STARTUP APPROACH TO CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY IS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER

January 22, 2015

Written by Iryna Velykokhatko

INTRODUCTION

Prior to taking marketing course, I have read a few marketing-related books this fall (I am mostly referring here to “Inbound Marketing”, “All Marketers Are Liars”, “Unleashing the Ideavirus”). Having discovered a great deal of interesting information there, the most important message that I took with me was that content matters.

Regardless of simplicity, this point is definitely brilliant as it requires minimum costs, is relatively easy to implement and yields great results. However, getting into the core of this idea, it got me wondering, what actually makes good quality content, how it fits into online marketing and what strategy to undertake when implementing it?

As the field of marketing is still emerging and constantly changing there is currently no set recipe for creating good content and good strategy for it but rather some suggestions, tips and guidelines. Traditional 4P or 7P approaches do not seem to fully satisfy the need of online marketing related to content especially in the case of early stage companies. In the end it is about trial, error and effective learning – principles, as I discovered, are very much integrated into the concept of lean startup. So why not give a closer look at it and analyze whether it is possible to make a good case for successful content marketing using lean startup approach focusing on companies in the early stages of development?  

THEORY

There is no need to revert to old truth that with the rise of Internet the world has changed and so did marketing. It is important, however, to investigate the nature of this change.

For the first time technology has given consumer a chance to walk away from information that he or she does not want. Due to this we observe a huge power shift from companies to consumer brining to en end the era of outbound marketing. There will no longer be annoying phone calls, junk ads and brochures in our mailboxes or useless emails in our inboxes. Or at least there shouldn’t be (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2009). At the same time, users are starting to take maximum advantage of their power. Using existing social media platforms they are actively engaged in creation of their own content. Much of it is often related to their user experience of different brands which could be both positive and negative and consequently do a great disfavor to companies (Winer, 2009; Kietzmann et al, 2011).

Of course, current state of things alerts marketers. Loss of control over customers poses a serious threat of declining revenues in their eyes and who wants that? But, really, that’s old news. What is more compelling is emerging array of solutions to deal with the challenge brought up by this power shift.  

This is why the field of inbound marketing is becoming widely popular. This approach includes a number of interesting and engaging techniques of customer acquisition (Halligan, Shah, 2009). Content marketing is a great part of it. Recent research conducted by the content marketing institute, suggests that “content marketing is gaining traction at many companies, and some may argue that it is now mainstream. According to the 2013 content marketing research reports for B2Band B2C industries by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B marketers and 86 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing. In addition, 54 percent of B2B marketers and 55 percent of B2C marketers will increase their content marketing spend in the next 12 months” (Royse, 2012).

So what is good content and what place does it take in marketing? 

According to the Content Marketing Institute (2014), content marketing is defined as “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action” Content varies in a number of ways. It includes texts, info-graphics, tables, charts, pictures whatnot basically. There are a number of characteristics that fit the definition of good content. For instance, Arabella Santiago (2013), content marketing advocate at Scoop.it suggests that good content is valuable, consistent and dynamic. However, according to Nguyen Quoc Binh “killing content” is interesting, inspiring and relevant (Duc Le M, 2013). Now, go figure how to create something of the sort that combines those features and on top of things satisfies the taste of my target audience and would also help to acquire new customers. 

The challenge becomes even more difficult if to add the notion of content marketing strategy. I mean, let’s say you have put a lot of effort and created, what you would call, a remarkable content. However, there is no expected positive feedback from your customers: no engagement with the content, no sharing, no leads, basically zero response. This is exactly why definition of “good content” might be a great place to start with but not enough to produce desired results. The major problem here is subjectivity. What is believed to be valuable, consistent and dynamic, aka great content, by one group might not be perceived the same way by another one. The challenge might be even more difficult for early stage startups that do not have 100% market assurance regarding their project. Therefore, to succeed one has to start with developing an effective content marketing strategy instead not only great content per se.  

What is a good strategy for creating effective content marketing?

The field of content marketing is relatively new and, therefore, there is no orthodox methodology or proper way of doing it. Traditional marketing strategies that have proven to be effective earlier such as 4Ps or 7Ps are no longer the best choice as they are not taking into consideration power shift that was discussed earlier. So no wonder that content marketing practitioners have come up with a vast array of new techniques and models based on their experience. While not all of them are researched and validated, I believe that their major contribution is in stirring the discussion which will be beneficial for further search.   

Recent publication in the Harvard Business Review on the subject of content marketing strategies by Richard Ettenson, Eduardo Conrado, and Jonathan Knowles (2013) suggests modification of 4Ps. The authors offer S.A.V.E framework that focuses on solution, access, value and education instead of traditional product, place, price and promotion. Offered change is motivated by the need to fine-tune old models based on the changes occurring in the Internet space and with regards to B2B field. In a nutshell, this approach is customer-oriented on the receiving side and holistic on the marketing side as it requires cooperation with sales department in the company (Ettenson, Conrado, and Knowles, 2013)

Another approach is offered by Pulizzi and Barrett (2009) in their recent book. They are talking about B.E.S.T. methodology for B2C markets according to which companies should use behavioral, essential, strategic and targeted, formula when approaching content marketing. Each category has a set of questions, answering which helps creating effective content marketing strategy. Examples of questions include: “How do we want our customers to feel? What effect must we achieve with them? What action do we want them to take? etc.” (Pulizzi and Barrett, 2009). 

The above approaches along with some other ones that are not covered in this paper are useful tools for online content marketing. However, I have spotted two challenges with them. First, they are static. They are useful in mapping out important questions to address for setting content strategy. However, they are not very useful in suggesting what to do next. Or what to do in case there is no desired response from the market? Of course, the answer might deem obvious – you should reconsider your strategy, ask those questions again and adjust the content based on the feedback. The problem is that it makes the process very cumbersome and costly.

The second issue is that these models are complex in their terminology and not straight forward enough. This should not be a problem for professional marketers who know their subject to the core, but this could create a problem for companies in early stages that do not have the means to afford professional marketing assistance or might not even be sure if their product/content is going to evoke customer interest.

As an addition to existing models that would help to address the above issues, I suggest to look into lean startup model and evaluate whether it could be useful.

What is lean startup?

The concept of lean startup was offered for the first time in 2011 by Eric Ries and has been gaining popularity among businesses ever since. In essence the idea seems quite obvious as it is based on early hypothesis testing. The novelty, however, is in the fact that this has not been done in business field ever before! Traditional approach to business dictates the need for thorough business plan, with well-defined marketing and financials (Ries, 2011). Unfortunately plans prone to fail especially when dealing with new and unknown and something that could not be controlled, like markets. This is exactly where leans startup approach comes in so handy.

Lean startup approach has three key principles. First, instead of engaging in complex research entrepreneurs start with a hypothesis and then write it down on the business canvas, focusing on the most essential questions. Second, it uses customer development approach. Entrepreneurs get outside to directly ask customers about product’s features, pricing, distribution channels etc. The key is to be agile and fast by employing minimum viable product concept. Based on the feedback, necessary product adjustments are implemented and hypothesis is pivoted. Third, lean startups use agile development approach working with their customers. This way they develop products iteratively and incrementally with a minimum waste of resources. (Blank, 2013).

So, applying lean startup cycle to content cycle, we the get the model presented below. What is different in this model is that it is simple, dynamic and based on constant feedback from customers. Applying this methodology allows for early hypothesis testing and correction of content based on the results which end up in producing better, more valuable and interesting content. This seems like a very obvious way of doing things, however, this is not always the case as we, as individuals, are often prone to concentrate on extensive planning and in-depth research prior to implementing something. This is not bad of course, but in the Web 2.0 where things happen with the speed of light and where customer has power dominance too much planning might be useless (Hodges, 2014).


   
  
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   <img src="lean-content-marketing.jpeg" alt="Baby Crying" />

<img src="lean-content-marketing.jpeg" alt="Baby Crying" />

Figure 1. Applying lean startup cycle to content cycle (Santiago, 2013)

Instead, according to the model, it is far more effective to research the field and see what competitors are doing and then get to content creation right away. It is important to have it out there, evaluate customer response to it, modify it based on learning experience and repeat the cycle until success formula is retrieved (Santiago, 2013). 

There are a few things about lean startup approach that I find compelling. First of all, it is quite easy and requires minimum expenses. As testing is happening in early stages it does not cost much to modify products or services. Second, lean startup approach is quite universal and therefore suitable not only for early stage companies but also for established sizable businesses. They even have an advantage here in terms of financial and human resources. Finally, you can actually get a meaningful validation of your idea through reaching out to your customers and see whether your business will fail or succeed in the future (Laurie & Harreld, 2013). These are also some of the reasons that could be beneficial in content marketing.

DISCUSSION

When setting off to write this paper, my goal was to explore an area of marketing that I have thought was rather under-searched due to its novelty. In the course of writing I have discovered much new to myself and also tried to establish the link between two different areas: marketing and entrepreneurship through investigating whether it is possible to apply lean startup methodology to content marketing strategy. To sum up, I have discovered the following:

-       The notion of good content is very subjective

-       Existing content marketing strategies are useful in mapping out important questions that should be a part of content marketing strategy but are missing dynamic component  

-       The concept of lean startup adds missing dynamic component and allows more simplistic approach to the strategy

-       In addition lean startup approach offers extra values in reduced costs and accessibility by not professional marketers 

There is still much left to the discussion on the topic in this paper. At the moment most of the information available on the topic of content marketing and content marketing strategy comes mostly from content market practitioners. Therefore, there is lack of scientific research and standardized models in the field.

 

References

Blank, S. (2013). Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything. Harvard Business Review, 91(5), 63-72.

Content Marketing Institute. (2014). What is Content Marketing? Retrieved from http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/  

Duc Le M. (2013). Content Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/62104/Duc_LE.pdf?sequence=1

Ettenson R., Conrado E. and Knowles J., 2013. Rethinking the 4 P’s. Havard Business Reviews, January/Feburary publication. 01.01.2013. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=1846e276-d666-4122-be79-18e30b54f31c%40sessionmgr111&hid=104

Halligan, B., Shah, D. (2009). Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs. John Wiley&Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

Hodges, A. (2014, February 6). Validating Your Content Marketing Business Case Using Lean Startup Methodologies. Retrieved from http://www.stateofdigital.com/validating-content-marketing-business-case-using-lean-startup-methodologies/

Laurie, D. L., & Harreld, J. B. (2013). 6 ways to sink a growth initiative. Harvard Business Review, 91(7), 82-90.

Kietzmann, J., H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I., P., Silvestre, B., S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media Retrieved from https://liveatlund.lu.se/departments/BusinessAdministration/BUSN32/BUSN32_2014VT_50_1_NML__1281/Lists/CourseSchedule/Attachments/3/Kietzmann%20et%20al%20social%20media%20get%20serious.pdf

Pulizzi, J. & Barrett N. 2009. Get content, get customers: Turn prospects into buyers with content marketing. 1st edition. McGraw-Hill.

Ries, E. (2011). The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. Crown Publishing Group.

Royse, 2012) (http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2012/12/effective-content-marketing-habits/)

Santiago, A. (2013). Leaner, better, faster: More impact with your content marketing. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/arabellasantiago/market-campsf-prez

Winer, R., S. (2009). New Communications Approaches in Marketing: Issues and Research Directions. Retrieved from https://liveatlund.lu.se/departments/BusinessAdministration/BUSN32/BUSN32_2014VT_50_1_NML__1281/Lists/CourseSchedule/Attachments/2/new%20approaches%20in%20marketing_Winer_2009.pdf

Threats of Brand management in social media Why Strong Social Media Presence Magnifies Brand Weaknesses and How International Brand Managers Can Address This Part 2

January 19, 2015

Written by Jenni Väisänen 

Demand for Transparency 

Strong presence in social media is a threat for brands due to the fact that all pieces of information, no matter negative or positive, ever published in the Internet, can be found conveniently and quickly with a few “clicks” (Akar and Topcu 2013). The availability of information via Internet has changed the marketing atmosphere and its rules: there are no secrets. Previously companies have been privileged to market brands and sell products to consumers without a true demand to be transparent in their messages and operations, whereas nowadays companies and brands need to be more accurate in their actions. As it seems to be, truth, no matter how ugly, will be tracked down and brought to public, and to social media. This, in turn, has a negative impact on brand equity and reputation. (Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati 2012). (Fournier and Avery 2011)

 

In case consumers find discrepancies in a brand’s external and internal image, its users and customers can point out their observations quickly in social media. (Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati 2012; Fournier and Avery 2011) Unilever’s famous Dove-case represents ideological differences between Dove and another Unilever-brand, Axe. While Dove fights for Natural Beauty, Axe promotes the idea of a total opposite of a Dove-woman, craving to get a piece of an Axe-man. Women in Axe-commercials are far from Dove-women in terms of their looks: they meet the standards of beauty industry. This created a wide conversation, questioning and threatening Dove’s authenticity. (Singh and Sonnenburg 2012) Pictures 5 and 6 below demonstrate the different perceptions of women between Axe and Dove. These kinds of cases, where a company’s actions are criticized can have a remarkable negative impact on brand reputation (Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati 2012).


   
  
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   The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, 6 women with a "normal" BMI

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, 6 women with a "normal" BMI

Picture 5: Dove Real Beauty

(Dove U.S. Homepage 2014)

 

   
  
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   Axe Lynx Effect commercial stating "the cleaner you are the dirtier you get". Skinny blonde woman holding bikini top at its place.

Axe Lynx Effect commercial stating "the cleaner you are the dirtier you get". Skinny blonde woman holding bikini top at its place.

Picture 6: Axe Lynx Effect (Claudiu, 2011)

 

Another example of brand management gone wrong is the case of BP. When the Deep Water Scandal proved that the beyond petroleum -rebranding practices were implemented not throughout the company, but only as a public relations –trick, the brand and corporate reputation were deeply criticised. (Fournier and Avery 2011) This, lack of authenticity and transparency, generated a lot of negative publicity for BP, decreased brand equity, and made the company look like a travesty of an environmentally-responsible firm (Ritson 2010).

 

Stand for your values

Corporate integrity is not any more dependent on the company operations only, but also on its employees and brand image. In order to establish transparency, authenticity is a key factor. To become authentic, brands need to correspond to what they claim to be, and employees must stand for the same values as the companies they work for. Hence, both product and corporate brands’ external and internal images must correspond with each other, and enhance similar values. (Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati 2012; Fournier and Avery 2011)


Constant criticism 

Consumers have become more critical, and as they are connected in social media, they also interpret brand messages and values as a mass of people. Hence, if a brand message is supported, consumers are prone to show it by “liking” or “sharing”, whereas unaccepted brands are roughly criticized web-wide. Constant evaluation of companies and their brands either work for the brands as networks endorse them, or against them as consumers share negative experiences or pure hatred towards the brand. (Fournier and Avery 2011)

 

Because social media enables convenient opinion and experience sharing, consumers seek reliable comments on the internet. They perceive other consumers as the most reliable sources of information. (Blackshaw and Nazzaro 2006, cited in Akar and Topcu 2013)  According to Muñiz and Schau (2007), the source of information does not have an impact on the dispersion of it: even consumers’ perceptions about brand-stories, which used to be created by brand managers only, can spread as rapidly as if they were originated by companies (cited in Singh and Sonnenburg 2012). Pitt et al (2002, cited in Fournier and Avery 2011) point out that when negative comments are published, they travel fast and reach a wide audience. Therefore, Homer’s (2008) findings about the relationship between brand image and quality encourage companies to support and protect their brands. He found out that brand image is perceived as a more important factor than the actual quality of a product. (Homer 2008, cited in Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati 2012)

 

As Dell and Pampers’ have witnessed, trying to control, and moreover, enhance positive brand image, requires resources and time. Dell actually created a new job position for one of its employees, in which he works as a real-time help desk, solving consumers’ problems online (Fournier and Avery 2011), whereas P&G’s Pampers, suffering of mothers’ social media accusations of causing diaper rash to their babies, remained convinced about their new product’s safety. However, it was only until a third party, Consumer Product Safety Commission, was involved to the case, when the buzz around the sensitive issue and angry mothers started to calm down. (Barwise and Meehan 2010; Geller 2010) Below, Picture 7 shows, how experiences regarding Dry Max-diapers were shared through Facebook.


   
  
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   Pampers Dry Max Diapers -anti-brand Facebook site; people sharing skeptical questions.

Pampers Dry Max Diapers -anti-brand Facebook site; people sharing skeptical questions.

Picture 7: Dry Max Facebook conversation (Recall pampers dry max diapers! 2010)

 

Online word of mouth can, at its best, concentrate on promoting a brand and work as a co-operative force in enhancing the brand. However, when world-wide communities focus on attacking a brand, they generate rapid, negative, and widespread electronic word-of-mouth and hence, reputation, by reaching a large number of consumers. Especially strong brands have been associated with “anti-brand sites”, which share negative perceptions about the brand. (Awasthi, Sharma and Gulati, 2012) Krishnamurthy and Kucuk (2009) identify three reasons why specifically strong brands are threatened by communities. First, the more known the brand is, the more attention one can draw and hence, try to influence the industry. Second, as strong brands tend to dominate the market, damaging their image can cause changes in the market shares, and third, the fear of decreased brand equity can make larger companies to listen to boycotters’ requests and mission. (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk 2009)

 

 Learn, develop, and communicate it!

Constant criticism can, however, encourage companies to learn from their mistakes and lead to an improved brand image, which, ultimately, strengthens brand equity. By listening to consumers’ unhappiness, companies can identify constantly occurring problems with their products and find out their root causes. This can lead to improved products and more satisfied customers. Companies who have been actively communicating online about their learning processes and attempts to compensate claims, seem to be appreciated by consumers. (Fournier and Avery 2011)

 

Conclusion

Nowadays, strong media presence and publicity have greater than ever impact on brand equity, corporate reputation, and company profitability (Fournier and Avery 2011; Krishnamurthy and Kucuk 2009). Therefore, it is vital to know the new environment and its rules when introducing and managing brands online. As the environment allows people to form strong online communities in which they exchange ideas and experiences, negative brand image is probably one of the most horrifying issues brand managers can think of.  And managing that image is more and more challenging due to the fact that in social media, brand managers do not possess full power over their brands. There, in the jungle, also consumers own the brand and take part in creating it. By realizing the new conditions of survival, learning from others’ (and their own) mistakes, and being constantly aware of the possible consequences of their actions, brand managers can not only survive at the era of online marketing, but also manage their brands successfully, together with consumers.

  

REFERENCES

 

Akar, E. and Topcu B. 2013. An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing. Journal of Internet Commerce, [online] 10 (1), pp. 35-67. Available at:

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Irakli Kopaliani, 2013. Dove Real Beauty Sketches – Men. [Youtube]. 19 April. Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBoyf9HWiDQ> [Accessed 8 February 2014].

 

Pictures:

Adweek – Advertising & Branding. 2013. Low Self-Esteem Is Not a Problem in Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches … for Men [online]. 18 April. Available at: <http://musicvalleygroup.com/2013/04/18/low-self-esteem-is-not-a-problem-in-doves-real-beauty-sketches-for-men/> [Accessed 9 February 2014].

 

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