Celebrity Product Placement, Where Are You Going?

Product placement is increasingly common and frequent nowadays, products and brand logos can be easily found everywhere, from Coca-Cola's giant red cups with top icons sit behind in “American Idol”, to the Apple iMac used by Anne Hathaway in “The Devil Wears Prada”, and various products in many other occasions like music awards, film festivals, charity events, sport events, etc.

Along with the development of social media and market environment change, there is a new trend in celebrity product placement. Influencers like internet celebrities, instead of traditional high-profile celebrities, are going to be the new favorites of celebrity product placement. And the carriers of celebrity product placement are shifting from traditional media platforms to online social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.

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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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Social Media Monitoring – 3 reasons why companies should do it Part 1

With almost three billion users in 2013, the number of people using the internet is enormous (ICC, n.d.). But what are all these people doing while they are online? Of course, the answer to this question depends on demographic characteristics, such as age and gender, but Social Media is certainly among the top online destinations.  A research conducted by wearesocial.net in 2014 showed that in the beginning of that year, European internet user spend on average 40% of their total online time on Social Media, which accounts for up to two hours per day in some countries (Kemp, 2014).

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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 Power of Social Media: A Case of Kentucky Fried Chicken in China

January 26, 2015

Written by Wanyi Wang

Introduction

In China, recent developments in web and Internet technologies produce some new things for people. The most popular online content, applications and services called social media which has changed people’s life. A lot of people are toward the use of social media. For example, “5,700 China’s Internet users have found that 95 percent of them are registered on a social media sites” (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [1]). Social media is a developing phenomenon in today’s marketing. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) Companies are beginning to use the fashionable tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in marketing strategies and campaigns. The use of traditional media has decreased since marketers have turned their attention to social media. (Akar & Topsu, 2013) It is necessary to state that China’s social media have something different than Western. No Facebook and Twitter, people use China’s social media such as Qzone and Sina Weibo. (Chiu, Ip & Silverman, 2012 [2]) Recently, there is a hot topic discussed on China’s social network and many people reblog it. The author would analyze why most companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media through the hot topic.

 

The purpose of this paper is to understand the power of social media. More specifically, the author using a case of Kentucky Fried Chicken (China) to analyze why companies display online marketing campaigns can create more value than traditional media.

 

Literature Review

In the past, consumers accepted messages from traditional magazines, radio, television and direct mail. The product-focused one-way interruption mass communication gives a lot of trouble and inconvenience to receiver. Some consumers do not trust the information which provides by traditional media. (David, M. Scott., 2007) The new types of social media named Web 2.0 which including many different types such as social networking sites, blogging platform, social search applications and social coupon sites(Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012). According to Chiu, Ip and Silverman (2012 [2]) describe, the most popular China’s social media sites are: Qzone, Sina Weibo and Renren. The basic function is the same as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The new online technology Web 2.0 has grown to a scale. (Hoffrnal & Novak, 2012) With the rise in social media, consumers are beginning to talk about brands and products. Social media produce the opportunities to people communicate and exchange information with each other. Consumers also can get information from social media, and then they can instantly give feedback or share their ideas without any technical knowledge. (Akar & Topsu, 2013)

 

Hanna, Rohm and Crittenden (2011) mention that “traditional media is all about reach which can be achieved in large numbers and it often does not translate into a true marketing exchange.” However, social media has changed the traditional mode of market information, consumer changed from passive roles to an active role in the marketing process. “They simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges.” (Kietzmann, et al., 2011) The interactive digital media sites allow consumers connect, share and create information and fundamentally changed the way marketers control marketing activities (Hanna, Rohm, Crittenden, 2011).

 

As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith, (2011) describe “billions of people create trillions of connections through social media each day.” Social media is a powerful and effective medium to communicate with millions of potential consumers for companies. Hence, companies who use social media may gain a chance of reaching a wider audience. (Bamford, 2012) Meanwhile, social media can help a company build a good relationship with consumers. Business uses two-way communication may provide an intimate and warm feeling for consumers. (DiPietro, et al., 2012) Moreover, consumers toward the use of social media in creating and exchanging message in today market. The message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012) When looking at the word-of-mouth effects, the effects of social media last longer than the effects of traditional marketing (Trusov, Bucklin, & Pauwels, 2009). Social media often has higher credibility and trust than traditional media (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). In addition, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). It means the exposure also increases. All the power of social media may lead a good consequence to sales (Dyer, 2013).

 

Case Analysis

Kentucky Fried Chicken is a fast food restaurant chain which famous for fried chicken and it also provides hamburgers and French fries etc. After KFC reach China market, it is intended to become the first fast food restaurant. In order to achieve the goal, KFC adjusts some products according to Chinese taste preferences and obtains consumers’ praise. In order to gain consumers’ attention and attract them to patronage, KFC promotes itself through making a series of advertisings and activities in Chinese markets. (KFC China, 2012)

 

In the past, KFC (China) devoted time and money to offline marketing such as TV advertising and posters etc to promote its products. Along with the social media is widely used and a large number of people fall into the trend. KFC is beginning to use social media as the communication tools. Recently, FKC (China) Company used social media to communicate a message and simultaneously involving the consumers in the campaign. (http://kfcpk.qq.com/) This message told consumers that, the classical “Original Recipe” stop selling five weeks in KFC China market from 30 December 2013. The new product “Extra Crispy” instead the “Original Recipe” is provided in this period. Consumer can join the campaigns to vote “the favorite fried chicken” to decide whether the “Original Recipe” will continue to sell in KFC China market. (KFC, 2013) KFC uses China’s social media sites Sina Weibo, Renren and QQ to develop the message.

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   谁能代表  KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

谁能代表KFC   (Who can represent KFC)

Figure.1 Who can represent KFC (KFC, 2013)

 

In the past 43 days, more than 13 million people vote for the KFC campaigns through social media. This result is not the final result and the number of voting people continues to grow. As Hansen, Sheiderman and Smith (2011) mention social media have the unique charm of billions of people create trillions of connections through each day.”In view of the large number of Internet users registered on a social media and be active in social network. KFC (China) decided to create an online marketing campaign and using social media to touch millions of potential consumers quickly. On the other hand, KFC’s main targets are young people in China. Most users of social media such as Qzone, Sina Webo and RenRen are precisely young people. Hence, creating and exchanging message through social media helps KFC accurately aim at its target group.

 

In this period of doing the campaign, consumers simultaneously act the initiators and the recipients of information exchanges through social media (Kietzmann, et al., 2011). First of all, consumers receive the message and then who like the new product “Extra Crispy” may offer a positive evaluation in social media sites. Then, they are willing to share the positive information and recommend the new products for their friends through the social media. This interactive communication provides an intimate and warm feeling for consumers, then building a good relationship between company and consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). From the recipients’ perspective, they are more likely to believe information which provided by friends than a marketer. Hence, a company use consumer as the recipients can bring higher credibility and trust (Akar and Topsu, 2013).

 

Of course, social media cannot avoid negative evaluation. Some consumers think the classical “Original Recipe” is the soul of KFC. They do not support using new fried chicken instead of the classical one and they hope to enjoy it unceasingly. Some of consumers hope KFC keeps both “Original Recipe” and “Extra Crispy” in market. As Papasolomou and Melanthiou (2012) describe the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication. More than 40 days later, many consumers still discuss this topic. Some consumers are waiting for a result of the campaign. Like Trusov, Bucklin and Pauwels (2009) mention, the effects of social media last a long period of time than traditional media. Launching the campaign only uses one day, but consumers’ discussion leads the campaign exists in people’s mind for a long time. However, if launching the new product through TV advertising. The effects will disappear with the stop of the advertising.

 

No matter the positive or negative evaluation provided by consumers through social media. The campaign “Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy” causes a fierce discussion. The hot topic increased KFC exposure and also improved search rankings (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). The results prove that consumers accept the interactive communication and willing to join the campaign. Consumers are beginning to contradict the traditional one-way communication which companies tried to control and decide how their products should be perceived by the customers. Sometime, consumers dislike the feeling that advertisings interrupt them when they watch TV or listen to the music.

 

From another aspect, social media can help the company improve sales (Dyer, 2013). No matter consumer tries the new product for the campaign or fierce discussion makes consumers want to try. A sustained rise in the sales of “Extra Crispy” from the campaign obtains consumers’ attention (CYOL, 2014). Consumers will continue to patronage the new product if they love the product. It also has opened the door to the sales of products in the future.

 

Conclusion

In summary, the power of social media is obvious through analyzing the case of KFC (China). The cheap social media create a great value for KFC not only result in sales, but also involve many aspects. First, social media provide a chance of reaching a wider audience for a company or a brand (Bamford, 2012). Second, social media help company to build a good relationship with consumers (DiPietro, et al., 2012). Third, the message exchanged by consumer themselves which result in creating word-of-mouth communication (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2012). Fourth, social media involve higher credibility and trust (Akar, & Topsu, 2013). Fifth, social media offer increased traffic and improved search rankings for a company or a brand (Hanna, Rohm & Crittenden, 2011). All these benefits from social media let companies shift their attention from traditional media to social media.

 

Social media have begun to explore a location in online marketing and have influenced companies and consumers to a large extent. Companies now pay attention to social media marketing. It is worth reminding, social media is a two-edged sword. We cannot say social media is a flawless approach. To be sure, companies need to consider both advantages and disadvantages of social media in the future. Using it in the correct way will bring more value to a company.


References:

Akar, E., & Topsu, B., 2013. “An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing”, Journal of Internet Commerce, 10(1), 35-67.

Bamford, N., 2012. “Why you should consider using social media”, Money Marketing (online edition), pp.8.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [1] “Understanding Social Media in China”, Mckinsey quarterly, 2, pp.78-81.

Chiu, C., Ip, C. & Silverman, A., 2012. [2] “China’s Social-media Boom”, Mckinsey quarterly, [online] Avaliable at:< http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/chinas_social-media_boom> Viewed: 11 Feb 2014.

CYOL, 2014. “Consumer support the new product ‘Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://roll.sohu.com/20140117/n393688672.shtml> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

David, M. Scott., 2007. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly”, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

DiPietro, R., Gustafson, C., Strick, S. & Crews, T., 2012. “The use of Social Networking Sites in the Restaurant Industry: Best Practices”, Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 15, 3, pp. 265-284.

Hanna, R., Rohm, A., & Crittenden, V., 2011. We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem, Business Horizons, 54, 3, p.265-273.

Hansen, D., Sheiderman, B. & Smith, M.A., 2011. Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL: Insights froma a connected world, [Electronic Resource], n.p.: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, A-Z Resources.

Hoffrnal, D., & Novak, T., 2012. “Toward a Deeper Understanding of Social Media”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26, 2, pp. 69-70.

KFC China, 2012. “About KFC in China”, [online] Available at: <http://www.kfc.com.cn/kfccda/about.html> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

KFC, 2013. “Who Can Represent KFC: Original Recipe PK Extra Crispy”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://kfcpk.qq.com/ > Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

Kietzmann, J.H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I.P. & Silvestreet, B.S., 2011. “Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media”, Business Horizons, 54, 241—251.

Papasolomou, I. & Melanthiou, Y., 2012. “Social Media: Marketing Public Relations’ New Best Friend”, Journal of Promotion Management, 18, 3, pp. 319-328.

Trusov, M., Bucklin, R. & Pauwels, K., 2009. “Effects of Word-of-Mouth Versus Tranditional Marketing: Findings from an Internet Social Networking Site”, Journal of Marketing, 73, 5, pp.90-102.

Dyer, P., 2013. “The Top Benefits of Social Media Marketing”. [online] Avaliable at:< http://socialmediatoday.com/pamdyer/1568271/top-benefits-social-media-marketing-infographic> Viewed: 12 Feb 2014.

LUXURY BRANDS CHOOSE SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING -- A WISE CHOICE OR NOT?

October 23, 2014

Written by  Liu Xue Fei

Introduction

Before the appearance of Web, business organizations always attracted their customers in two traditional rules: pay a lot of money on advertising or cooperate with a third-party from the media (Scott, 2013). With the development of Internet, communication became more easy and convenient. Some marketers also found their new opportunities and broke the traditional rules. The Internet and electronic commerce turned into a strategic necessity for business organizations (Al-Mashari). As Bemard Martin stated, 'traditional marketing involves talking at someone. Social media marketing involves talking with someone' (Atkinson, 2013).A one-way interruption marketing could not adapt current market conditions and understand customers' need, so some firms start to choose social media marketing instead. According to Akar and Topsu (2013), social media marketing could be defined as a company use social media channels in order to promote itself; the social media channels include social networking sites, cooperative projects, blogs, content communities, virtual social worlds, virtual game worlds and microblogging. If companies ignore social media as their online marketing strategy, they may lose an opportunity to reach potential customers (Kim and Ko, 2012). However, it is hard say that the social media marketing suit for every kind of industries or companies.

Luxury brand industry's product or service is different with commodity or normal industry, luxury Brand also could be seen as a symbolic, imaginary or social added value (Geerts, 2013). Nueno and Quelch (1998) defined luxury brand as that being at the top of the pyramid, which depends on products functional utility, price and the socio-demographic characteristics. In addition, luxury brands have specific features: uniqueness and exclusivity (Jin, 2012). While luxury brands choose social media marketing, their managers will face 'a dialectical tension between the need to keep up with the social media trend and the need to maintain their brand integrity and exclusive reputation'(Jin, 2012). Hence, the luxury brands managers need to consider a lot to decided in order to avoid or decrease the tension. This paper aims to find out whether social media marketing fit for the luxury brands.

Theoretical Framework

Social Media Marketing and Social media

Social media marketing is a process that companies present their own products or services through online social media channels, in order to communicate in a wide community (Akar and Topsu, 2013). Comparing with brand generated traditional marketing, social media marketing consist of three characteristics: multidirectional dialogs, participatory and user generated. Conversation is one of the core views in social media marketing, customers could generate, edit and share online information about company, and also create online communities and networks through social media platforms (Akar and Topsu, 2013), in another word, companies could communicate with customers or buyers directly (Scott, 2013).

Social media is the tool that social media marketing used to increase companies' visibility on the Internet, and social media conducive to establish social networks and information exchanging (Ontario 2008). In addition, using social media of brands also reduced misunderstanding and prejudice toward brands, and elevate brands value, because of the more directly communication between brands and customers(Kim and Ko, 2012). Kim and Ko (2012) mentioned that social media aims to facilitate interaction, collaboration and sharing of content, and it has different forms, for example: social blog, wikis, podcast, picture, video, social bookmarking and etc. Corcoran (2009) divided the ecosystem into three media types: owned media, paid media and earned media. Owned media is the one that could be controlled by companies; paid media is the one that companies need to buy from others; the media that companies cannot control or buy is earned media.

Online groups or virtual groups are formed by social media or social network. In this on-line groups, people share information and trust each others, word-of-mouth principles are stronger in this virtual world than real world (Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2013). As the statistics (DEI Worldwide, 2008) offered, almost half of customer searched for information via social media sites engaged in word-of-mouth. word-of-mouth is quite important in social media marketing, because the social media could affect brand's reputation(Kim and Ko, 2012).

Social Media and Luxury Brand

Although luxury brand industry was already success in 2010, it still need a growing necessity to ensure supplement income sources: combining luxury and the Internet (Geerts, 2013). Most luxury brands have its social media sites today, such as: Facebook and Twitter(Phan,2011). While luxury brands using social media to directly contact with its customers, they could create new products, service, business model and values together. Luxury brands also can gain more information and strengthen relationship with customers at the same time (Kim and Ko, 2012). However, customer also could use social media as a complaint forum to express negative or unsatisfactory comments (Jin, 2012).

'Young' is the word which belongs to both luxury brand and social media. Depending on Phan's (2011) survey, he found out that 'social media is extremely popular especially among the young adults who have actually grown up with the new communication technologies that are also progressively very intuitive and user-friendly which in turn increases their popularity'. Young customers are also the fastest growing segment of the luxury market who always desired fashion-driven products (Juggessur and Cohen, 2009). Hence, social media and luxury brands have quite similar target customers.

Functional and economic value of products or services are the factors that customers always consider about, but a luxury brand is 'a premium priced brand purchased by consumers for their psychological values' (Nueno and Quelch, 1998), it owns hedonic and symbolic goods. According to Dellarocas et al. (2007) and Smith et al. (2005) research, consumers prefer recommendations from other consumers rather than critics from professional reviews, especially for hedonic goods.

Cases and Discussion

The luxury brand Burberry was founded by a 21 years old dressmaker Thomas Burberry in 1856. The target customers of Burberry are the high-incomes young people, the average age is 18-35. Burberry is one of the earliest luxury brand choose social media marketing, it has accounts on mass popular social network website, for example: Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Youtube and etc (Austin Powe,2013) . Now, Burberry has over 16million Likes on Facebook and continually increased. In November 2009, Burberry launched an on-line project with Facebook called 'Art of the Trench'. This project launched as a Trench coat photo-sharing website, everyone who has a Facebook account could share the wearing Trench photo on 'Artofthetrench.com'. Besides, users also free to make comments or add Likes on other one's photo (Ortved, 2011). Trench project aimed to elicit admiration for the design of their trench coats and create more Burberry fans (Samsung Design Net, 2009). After this project, Burberry's online sales increased, it also earned more fans and good reputation. In 2012, Burberry decided to publish their new product on Twitter and Instagram in advanced, and also put its new conference Live on Youtube. After this promotion through social network, the amount of 'Likes' on these three social website rapidly increased (Xiao, 2012). Burberry's profit also increased, after it working through the mass social media marketing. Combining the Burberry case with theories, it is easy to find out that Burberry is well communicated with its customers through the Trench project. Burberry could observe or directly communicate with its customers in order to know their needs. No matter positive or negative comments that customers made, Burberry could discover them in time and made suitable changes. In addition, Burberry's target customers test ' young' theory again. Both social media and luxury brands target customers are young adult, Burberry's target customer is 18-35 which just fit to the theory. Moreover, according to Dellarocas et al. (2007) and Smith et al. (2005) research, consumers prefer recommendations from other consumers rather than critics from professional reviews. Burberry build the social media site provide a public place to customers, customer could gather in to on-line group by themselves. The recommendation of others will affect customer's decision making which is more convincing.

Conclusion

When other luxury brands still insist of using the traditional marketing, Burberry taken a courage step. Social media marketing helped Burberry to earn more customer and good reputation. The conditions provided by social media marketing which just satisfied luxury brand's promotion needs and motivated luxury brand's development. The social media marketing is fit for the luxury brands. However, luxury brands is still a high-ended and expensive brand, even though it promoted through social media network to common, how many customers could carry the price? And how to keep the luxury brand uniqueness and exclusivity while promoted it too popularization and frequently?

 

Reference List:

 Akar, B, Topsu, 2013. An examination of factors influencing consumers’ choice of social media marketing, Journal of Internet Commerce, 101 (1), pp. 35-67. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Al-Mashari, M., 2002. Electronic commerce: A comparative study of organizational experience. Benchmarking: An International Journal, 9 (2), pp. 182-189. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Atkinson, W., 2013. Adding Social Media Mariceting to tiia IViix, Distributor Focus. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Austin Powe, 2013. Burberry Case Study. [online] Available at: <http://austinpowe.com/Burberry-Case-Study> [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Corcoran, S., 2009. Defining owned, earned, and paid media. [online] Available at: <http://blogs.forrester.com/interactive_marketing/2009/12/defining-earned-owned-and-paid-media.html> [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

DEI Worldwide. The impact of social media on purchasing behavior. [Online] Available at: <http://www.deiworldwide.com/files/DEIStudy-Engaging%

20ConsumersOnline-Summary.pdf> [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Dellarocas, C., Zhang, X.M. and Awad, N.F., 2007. Exploring the value of online product reviews in forecasting sales: the case of motion pictures. Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp.23-45. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Jin, S. A., 2012. The potential of social media for luxury brand management, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 30(7), pp. 687-699. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

John, O., 2011. Is Digital Killing Luxury Brand? Business Source Complete, 52(31), pp. 54-57. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Juggessur, J. and Cohen, G., 2009. Is fashion promoting counterfeit brands? Journal of Brand Management, 16(5/6), pp. 383-394. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Nueno, J.L. and Quelch, J.A., 1998. The mass marketing of luxury. Business Horizons, 41(6), pp. 61-8. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Geerts, A., 2013. CLUSTER ANALYSIS OF LUXURY BRANDS ON THE INTERNET. International Journal of Management and Marketing Research, 6(2), pp. 79-92. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Guoke, 2012. [online] Available at:<http://www.guokr.com/article/124373/> [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Kim, A. J. and Ko, E., 2012. Do social media marketing activities enhance customer equity? An empirical study of luxury fashion brand. Journal of Business Research, 65 (2012), pp. 1480-1486. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Ontario. Social media marketing: Introduction to social media marketing. [Online] Available at: http://www.bruce.on.ca/tools/Social_Media_Marketing.pdf [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Papasolomou, I. and Melanthiou, Y., 2013. Social Media: Marketing Public Relations ‘New Best Friend. Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Samsung Design Net, 2009. Luxury fashion business using technology. [online] Available at: <http://www.samsungdesign.net/Report/Report/content.asp?an=589> [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Smith, D., Menon, S. and Sivakumar, K., 2005. Online peer and editorial recommendations, trust, and choice in virtual markets. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 19(3), pp. 15-37. [Accessed 14 Feb 2014]

 

Scott, D. M., 2013. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases. Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly. 4th ed. New Jersey: Hoboken.

 

Strong Brand Presence and a Political Consumer-Social Media Implications

September 15, 2014

 

Written by Rabail Junaid

 

Introduction:

Internet technology has revolutionized the world, it has revolutionized the way we think, behave and express ourselves. Today is the day of cyber-culture- where information is created, re-created, misinterpreted, misrepresented and even marred on several platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other strong social media platforms. Social media in this cyber-culture attracts more than 100 million visitors, creating trillions of connections media each day, disseminating phenomenal amount of information at incredible rate (Akar,& Topcu, 2011). Although tempted to see the wide implications of social media, the focus is on consumers, their behaviours and political attitudes towards the brand.

 

Today on an average, a consumer devotes 32% of his or her media consumption to online channels in 2010 as compared to 26% in 2008 (Fournier & Avery 2011). However to consumers, social media and social networks are by no means a medium for marketing or sales, but rather only conversations, connections and networking. Social media is a place where nobody is a ´consumer´ or ´audience´, but a participant in ´conversation´ (Fournier & Avery 2011). This is an interesting paradox which directs us to the notion of a ´Political Consumer´

 

Political Consumption is relatively a new phenomenon in consumption where the constant flow of information combined with mass media has let the consumers to form their own opinions and political ideologies individually  Larsen 1998; cited in Micheletti & Isenhour 2010). Foucult describes it as a source of liberation from traditional source of information recieval. With the help of Knowledge (as a source for liberating truths) and Power (as a force of ideological domination) (Foucault 1980; cited in Thompson and Tambyah 1999) in this cyber culture, individuals are free to create their own political ideologies which they think are powerful enough to challenge strong brands. This way, the societies are fragmented to form a world where there is no one truth, but rather a self-created personalized truth for each individual (Foucult 1980; cited in Firat and Venkatesh 1995). This self-creation and expression of individualized truths forms a political consumer: who believes he/she has the power to change strong brands through his ideas and expressions. A political consumer is empowered to express his/her viewpoint, which liberates him/her from a stereotypical non-political and traditional and one-way expression used by brands over offline media. Over the period of time, we have observed several forms of consumer politics on strong brands like boycotts against Nike, criticism of unfair trade on Starbucks, obesity accusations on McDonalds, health hazards on Marlboro and so on. However, a political consumer must not be only seen as trouble maker: brands like Dove, P&G and Apple are success stories of leveraging consumer politics on social media.

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   Political_Consumer_McDonalds.jpeg

Political_Consumer_McDonalds.jpeg

  

Strong Brand Presence and Consumer Politics on Social Media:

 

The common features of social media are that it is multidirectional, it is participatory and it is user generated (Akar,& Topcu, 2011). In social media where the presence of brands is strong, there is a constant creation and re-creation of brands in terms of ideologies and brand perceptions and brand equity. Consumers are turned from bystanders to hunters to participants (Hanna et al, 2011). Social media has transformed consumers into marketers and advertisers and they are empowered to create negative and positive impressions on the company with knowledge and power. Several examples of strong brand presence could be seen on social media; Dove is an ideal example. Dove´s real beauty campaign is attempt to empower the real consumers and present them as beautiful regardless of age, ethnicity, size and skin type. The campaign has received massive social media response.

 

Strong social brand presence can be traditional brands or open brands (Fournier & Avery 2011). Depending upon the strategic objectives of a brand, a company may decide upon having one or multiple touch points on social media like Facebook communities, Twitter accounts, YouTube Videos, Blogs, Pins, Photos and the like. However, the richness of social media does not exhaustive here. Social media makes brands open-audience indulge themselves into a plethora of information though User Generated Content (UGC) (Soares et al, 2012). UGC can be in form of facebook statuses, tweets, photos, blog posts, product reviews, pro-brand or anti-brand campaigns, websites and so on. (Aljukhadar & Senecal 2011) describe an audience category of social thrivers- a group that is most active and interactive on social media through UGC and using it as a source to freely express their political ideology towards brands. This content has a multiplier effects due to excess social connectivity.  

 

The notion that consumers are empowered to show their political ideology in case of brands is a big challenge for strong brands. The power of consumer collectives invites unintended and unseen consequences that challenge long established brand equity (Stuart & Jones, 2004). Due to the multiplier effect of social media contents, size of the brand has become a liability (Fournier & Avery 2011): the strong/bigger the brand, the harder. Brands realize that this is the age of bottom-up marketing where consumers are intelligent, organized, proactive and hold a political ideology and even a small mishap and the brand has to face the music (Hanna et al, 2011).  

 

Consumer Politics and the Case of McDonalds:

 

On social media, although most of the marketing is for free, it is also uncontrollable and multidirectional (Atkinson, 2013). Unlike traditional marketing, social media marketing is not about talking to someone. Rather, it is about talking with someone (Atkinson, 2013). McDonalds is very interesting example of strong social media presence. With the golden arches most recognizable symbol in the World, the success of the brand is unarguable. McDonalds have always been related to a fun filled, casual, fast and economical dining place with amazing service and quality, until consumer politics on social media took over. Social media has put the brand into unanticipated controversies that severely damaged the brand equity. McDonalds has been into serious accusations and lawsuits for spreading obesity epidemic and health problems among kids and elders. How has the brand perception suddenly changed while the food and quality was still consistent? The answer is a political consumer. While the brand moved from traditional, one-way communication to an open, non-traditional two-way communication, the consumer hijacked the brand and re-branded it with what he/she felt like (Winer, 2009). The viral content portraying McDonalds as unhealthy, immoral and mean brand spread to an extent of being uncontrollable. The Academy award nominee documentary named Supersize Me is a great story of the power to political consumer; the video has been viewed, shared, followed, re-made and written about million times.

 

Recently, the brand´s social media failure of "tweetjacking" is been called as one of the worst in year 2012. In order to make a stronger brand image, the company purchased a Promoted Tweet campaign, with the hashtag, #MeetTheFarmers. This was an attempt to create connection between quality or food and individual farmers. The campaign seemed to be doing very well until it decided to change the specific hashtag with a more generic #McDStories tag without specifying the context of its use. This allowed consumers to hijack the brand and spread negativity by quoting their own stories related to health, obesity, and other problems.

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   Strong_Brands_Social_Media_Political_Consumer.jpeg

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McDonald´s immediate response was to pull off the social media campaign altogether without any explanation further incited the audience By the time the disaster made the news, brand sentiment raged out of control.

 

McDonald´s could-be Strategies towards Consumer Politics on Social Media:

On social media, brands take different approaches; three of them are described by Fournier & Avery (2011). Depending upon brand´s strategy, one or more of these three strategies can be adopted: The path of least resistance, Playing its game and Leveraging Web 2.0.

By indulging in social media blunder, McDonalds actually took part in path of least resistance. The brand actually bowed to consumer pressures over social media and gave away the control to consumers. By not describing what #McDStories was intended for, it initially invited tweetjacking and after seeing the consequences, pulled off the social media campaign altogether. However, the brand should have adopted the strategy of leveraging web 2.0 by letting the consumers participate in #MeetTheFarmers stories. This hashtag was more specific and clear in terms of context of use. Playing its game is a strategy where strong brands participate on social forums where there is an on-going positive discussion about the brand, category or any related context.

 

Moreover, Hanna et al (2011) discuss three different strategies that could be useful in on-going developments of the brand on social media:

 

Improvise:

“Improvisation is not about doing one right thing (output view), but about continuously doing things right (process view)” (Vera and Crossan 2004; cited in Hanna et al 2011)

 

The process of improvisation is therefore more important than its outputs and it is the best tactic to deal with consumer politics on social media. Very often brand fail to improvise of current strategies and make clarifications. Rather, they prefer pulling the content off the social media. McDonalds did the same in hopes that it will neutralize the consumer sentiments. Instead, the consumers were more offended because it took away the charm of participation and two-way communication. The audience were turned from co-creators to bystanders.

 

Mange Tension:

 

Managing brand performances is about managing tension. (Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. 2012)

 

Managing tension does not mean managing outraged consumers and their political standings. It is about constantly providing the brand a chance to be talked about with support of a storyline, a brand ideology. Strong brands like McDonalds must have a constant tension management that can incite the audience, make them participate while controlling the brand at the same time. The idea of meet the farmers seemed to be working very well; the brand was successful in pulling the strings until the hashtag was changed to McDStories. The brand gave away too much power to consumers.

 

Understand the Audience:

 

The core purpose of social media should be to gain consumer insights (Barwise, B. & Meehan, S. (2010)

 

For strong brands like McDonalds, it is imperative to take into consideration what is consumers’ political ideology about the brand: what they think about and want from the brand. Social media platform is an ideal and cheaper way to do that. In social media where most of the brands are open, the consumers are participants, co-creators and disseminators of brand. The tension occurs when their political ideology and brand ideology differ. McDonalds seemed to take the consumer sentiments too lightly; while still being top and growing brand worldwide, it underestimated the social media in ruining the whole brand equity.

 

Conclusion

Despite of all the consequences for strong brands like McDonalds, social media and political consumer are here to stay. Therefore it is imperative that brands learn from mistakes, improvise for future, adapt to new dynamics and fine-tune their short and long term strategies to fit into the new environment. 

 

References:

 

Akar,E & Topcu, B (2011). An Examination of the Factors Influencing Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Social Media Marketing. Journal of internet commerce, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Aljukhadar, M. & Senecal, S. (2011). Segmenting the Online Consumer Market. Marketing Intelligence & Planning. Vol 29. No. 4. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 16 January 2014]

 

Atkinson, W. (2013). Adding Social Media Marketing to the Mix. Distributor Focus. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Barwise, B. & Meehan, S. (2010). The One Thing You Must Get Right When Building a Brand. Harvard Business Review. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 18 January 2014]

 

Firat, A.F., Venkatesh, A., (1995). Liberatory Postmodernism and its Reenchantment of Consumption, Journal of Consumer Research, vol 22, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 November 2013]

 

Fournier, S &  Avery, J (2011). The uninvited brand. Business Horizons. Vol 54. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Hanna, R. Rohm, A & Crittenden, V. L. (2011). We’re all connected: The power of the social media ecosystem. Business Horizons. Vol 54. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Micheletti, M., Isenhour, C., (2010) Political Consumption, in Understanding Consumption - a Nordic Perspective, Karin Ekström (ed.), Chapter 6, p 133-150

 

Soares, A.M., Pinho, J.C., a & Nobre a H., (2012). From Social to Marketing Interactions: The Role of Social Networks. Journal of Transnational Management. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 18 January 2014]

 

Stuart, H. & Jones, C. (2004). Corporate Branding in Marketspace. Corporate Reputation Review. Vol 7. No.1. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Singh, S. & Sonnenburg, S. (2012). Brand Performances in Social Media. Journal of Interactive Marketing. Vol 26. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 15 January 2014]

 

Thompson, C.J., & Tambyuh, S.K., (1999). Trying to Be Cosmopolitan. Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 26, Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 25 September 2013]

 

Winer, R. S., (2009). New Communications Approaches in Marketing: Issues and Research Directions. Journal of Interactive Marketing. Vol 23. Available through EHL Library Website http://www.ehl.lu.se/biblioteket [Accessed 17 January 2014]