Online consumer’s reviews on social media have significant effects upon brand’s image. This paper will explore in the first part, markers’ responses to online consumer’s bad reviews from critical and appreciative perspective. Further, there will be analyzed the differences between responses based on old marketing tools and unconventional tools. Examples from LIDL retail will be presented to show how bad reviews on Facebook were or not changed into a marketing strategy. Further, at the end will be illustrated the main actions that should be taken to create a strategy of response which will help marketers translate the consumer’s online insights into a successful marketing approach.Read More
November 17, 2014
Written by Yasmine Najjar
The internet implementation in marketing process is a great opportunity for brands as it’s inexpensive, delivers instant international real time feedback and allows them to reach broader audiences (Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2013). It’s the chance for brands to communicate with the consumers in a more honest and genuine way than advertising, to know them better and build a strong relationship. But to “harness the power of the web to reach consumers directly you must ignore the old rules” (Scott, 2011). The “rules” of communications are different in the virtual world: brands don’t talk at someone anymore but with someone. If they try to take the same approach than in traditional media, especially in social medias, and just speak their message out, it’s not going to work, they need to create conversation (Armelli and Villanueva, 2011).
Research has highlighted the impact that can have online communities on perceptions of brands. Firms are vulnerable in this context especially brands who have a poor pre-existing brand image and face unfavorable consumer-generated content in online communities (Varadarajan and Yadav, 2009). Yet, it’s a powerful tool to interact in a more personal way and reinforce your brand image. The messages brands send to consumers via traditional advertising can sometimes be interpreted in different ways, blur their positioning and brand identity. Facebook and Twitter can be great for brand image as it allows sending direct messages and more importantly, humanizing the brand which is more effective than anything for brand image. Like when having a talk in daily life with someone, consumers will get a better understanding of whom the company is as a brand. Online, you are what you publish but control branding is yet impossible because of the e-WOM (Christodoulides et al. 2006, in Christoloudides 2009). People are selective about where to spend their time on social media platforms; they look for entertainment, knowledge, socialization… as a brand you need to fulfill these criteria otherwise you end up creating a ghost community abandoned once participants discover you don’t (Seraj, 2012). As Vries, Gensler and Leeflang reminded us in 2012 “Entertainment leads people to consume, create or contribute to brand-related content online. For Einsenbess, Bechscmidt, Backhaus and Freund (2012), consumers have three motivations to engage in this virtual world: socializing, creativity and escape. They agree that without responding to these motivations a brand can’t make the most of social media platforms.
It is essential that brands take the cultural aspect in matter: we don’t address people from California and Paris the same way, their motivations for being on internet, their sensitivity are different. It also involves a consequent time commitment to manage online brand image properly. Brands need to make daily efforts to produce interesting content and foster a community around their identity and values. The main risk in going online is exposing the brand to bad and very straightforward feedbacks, visible to everyone. Negative comments on the Internet negatively affecting the brand image as perceived by other consumers (Sandes and Urdan, 2013). Brands need to address these complaints very fast and try to find a response that satisfy the consumer or at least clarify the situation. Managing these situations improve your brand image.
Blogs are also a great tool to manage your brand image. Why are they so interesting? Famous and established blogs have often more credibility than brand websites, as the content is supposed not to be controlled by a firm. The reality is that more and more brands use these blogs as a PR tool or what we could call disguised advertising as the consumer is not even aware sometimes the blog received money to produce fallout.
Blogs are also participative which allows brands to get closer to consumers, have lots of feedbacks and a good view on how consumers perceive your brand as they speak very freely when the blogger produces an article about one of your product. There are many ways to participate in this blog phenomenon. Most of the brands send products to bloggers so that they can test them. However, the brand doesn’t control anything after: they lose control of the message because bloggers have their own voice. So, every time a blogger has a good product experience and decides to talk about it, brand image improves as the audience trust their judgment. On the other hand, every time his feedback isn’t good and he decides to expose it, it can damage brand image. Organizing a contest with a blogger is a good way to arouse interest and trigger liking. The most interesting opportunity is certainly to make partnerships with these bloggers by proposing to them to participate in a product creation for example. Their audience, very loyal, sees these partnerships as a caution from the blogger, like a go to love the brand themselves as consumers.
However, relationships with bloggers can be complicated. There are lots of codes in the blogosphere that brands need to be familiar with in order for it to be a great tool for their image. When a brand sends products to a blogger, they need to avoid chasing him up so that he writes an article. Not only is he going to find it irritating but he also wants his feedback to be as authentic as possible, it’s his dedicated space, he’s the one who has the “power”. Also, as bloggers are a lot solicited, the brand has to show them its interest in their blog (why do they want to work with them) and to personalize their messages when they get in touch with them. Bloggers need to see the humans working behind the brand; they need to create relationships between people so that it can work.
Partnerships with online versions of traditional media can also be very interesting to develop or change brand image. By teaming up with one of them, these media share their audience with the brand but not only: they have their own identity which is going to reflect on the brand. It can be really effective when a brand wants to change its image for example give a fashion touch to its identity by teaming up with the online version of fashion and renowned magazine. By having a presence on their website, the media gives you a “guarantee”. This partnership can be a dedicated space on their website, a contest to win prizes from the brand, and other very innovative presences on the media. The aim of this kind of partnerships is to advertise without doing it obviously, it needs to be very well integrated to the content of the website. For example, Tex by Carrefour, a clothing brand from the famous French supermarket, suffered a cheap old fashioned image. The brand wanted to have a more glamorous and “hype” image and teamed up with French ELLE to do so. This partnership impacted the perception the audience had on the brand as ELLE is known for appreciating fashion and cool clothes.
What about buzz marketing? How can it impact brand image? According to Deighton and Kornfeld (2009), buzz marketing is an umbrella term for the mobilized power of the culture to pass on a marketer's message. People don’t have the impression to share advertising message but something novel, entertaining and of the moment. The video ‘Evolution’ by Dove, in which a simple woman is transformed in a model thanks to make-up and Photoshop, was a huge success for Dove brand image. Dove wasn’t anymore any cosmetics brand; it was the one close to women, fighting against beauty stereotypes so that women can accept their beauty. It was effective because it created engagement. The downside of buzz marketing is that you can be easily parody on sharing platforms like Youtube which can affect the message brands were trying to pass on.
Internet has been a revolution as it tremendously changed consumers, empowering them. Most brands need to go there if they want to survive but as we have seen in this paper it’s a tricky place for brand image. It offers lots of opportunities to build a strong bond with consumers and manage your brand image when you know how to use the different tools it offers. We can wonder as soon as brand will have figure out how to make the most of internet, will we go back to brands having the power over consumers? Do they want that to happen? Maybe internet, even with its risks, can actually be seen as a benediction for brand image as brands have now a great insight of consumers’ perception and can adjust their brand image in function.
Armelli, G. and Villanueva, J. (2011), “Adding social media to the marketing mix”, IESE insight, No. 9.
Christodoulides, G. (2009), “Branding in the post-internet era”, Marketing Theory, 9, 141.
Deighton, J. and Kornfeld, L. (2009), “Interactivity's Unanticipated Consequences for Marketers and Marketing”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 23, p. 4-10.
Eisenbeiss, M., B. Blechschmidt, K. Backhaus & P.A. Freund (2012), “The (Real) World Is Not Enough:” Motivational Drivers and User Behavior in Virtual Worlds”, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26, 4–20.
Papasolomou, I. & Melanthiou, Y. (2013), “Social Media: Marketing Public Relations ‘New Best Friend”, Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328.
Sandes, F.S. & A. T. Urdan (2013), “Electronic Word-of-Mouth Impacts on Consumer Behavior: Exploratory and Experimental Studies”, Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 25(3), 181-197.
Scott, D.M. (2011), 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 or latest edition.
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. *
Varadarajan, R. & M. S. Yadav (2009),” Marketing Strategy in an Internet-Enabled Environment: A Retrospective on the First Ten Years of JIM and a Prospective on the Next Ten Years”, Journal of Interactive Marketing 23, 11–22.
Vries, L. & S. Gensler & P. S.H. Leeflang, (2012),” Popularity of Brand Posts on Brand Fan Pages: An Investigation of the Effects of Social Media Marketing”, Journal of Interactive Marketing 26, 83–91.*
November 13, 2014
Written by Yasmine Najjar
The last decade has definitely changed the world we live in. Internet tremendously impacted our daily life and changed our behavior as consumers, the brand-sphere, its marketing strategies and operations consequently had to adapt dramatically. We were able to notice every year the shifting in power from companies towards consumers especially thanks to the emergence of web 2.0. Now, people don’t just read information but interact and share experiences about products and brands notably. In the virtual world, perception of brands personality is influenced by many factors, brands are not anymore in control. Companies have understood this reality for a while now and, like consumers and customers, use the broad range of tools that internet offers in order to face it. But there is quite a difference between doing something and be good at what you do. As consumers, we have all experienced the difficulties brands sometimes face to manage their image. Everyone said to himself one day “Ouch, this is an unacceptable response” while reading the brand’s response to a complaint on their Facebook page. Being on the internet is very demanding for brands, it does not take much (a negative story one day) for a company or brand to see its image damaged. On the other hand, internet offers lots of opportunities for a company to grow its brand, to build a unique personality, to create a “real” bond with its customers. But first of all, they need to understand the major change in consumer behaviors and to leverage new technologies. What is internet about today? What portrait can we produce for 2014 consumers? What are the opportunities and risks brands have to deal with to manage their image? How to make the most of the internet to protect and build brand image? Many questions we’ll try to answer in this paper.
We are now 2.4 billion internet users around the world, and this figure doesn’t stop growing. The first version of internet, Web 1.0, was mostly about websites where people were limited to passive viewing content. The current version of internet has nothing to do with this anymore: it’s about learning in a very active way, interact and collaborate with each other.
Every moment of our lives ends up on the internet: we picture, video, click, share thanks to social medias. In 2010, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations defined social media as the term commonly given to websites, online tools, and other interactive communication technologies which allow users to interact with each other in some way, either by sharing information, opinions, knowledge, or interests (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2013). In daily life, we usually use the term “social media” to speak about social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are also called consumer-generated media (CSM) e.g new sources of online information that are created, initiated, circulated and used by consumers (Blackshaw & Nazzaro, 2004 in Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2013 ).
Blogs are also considered as CSM: more and more consumers write about their opinion about brands and theirs products on their own dedicated space. They share experiences; give feedbacks to other consumers, usually in a “specialized” field that they have a strong interest in. These blogs have become a phenomenon especially in the fashion or cosmetic field which even got a name: the beauty-sphere. It is quite hard to know the audience of each blog, but it can be thousands and more people following the same blog every month. Blogs audience keeps growing but more importantly their influence has become substantial. According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs would even outrank social networks for consumer influence (31,1% for blogs vs 30,8% for networks are most likely to influence a purchase).
What is the place of brands in this virtual world? In the old days, brands would build their image through advertising campaigns and consumers experience of their products and shops. Internet has been an “important communications revolution” for brands (Scott 2011), that offers a wide range of tools to communicate on their image and identity. Moreover, with the emergence of social media, companies are now going beyond simply maintaining a website for basic transactional purposes and traditional promotion. They are rather finding new ways to interact with customers, in search of a more long term relationship rather than a one-way communication which most websites are confined to (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2013). One specific way to foster relationships with customers is to create brand fan pages on social networking sites. Companies place brand posts (containing videos, messages, and other material) on these pages. Customers become fans of these brand fan pages, and subsequently indicate that they like the brand post or comment on it. This liking and commenting on brand posts reflects brand post popularity (Vries, Gensler and Leeflang, 2012). and are a good way to see if people adhere to a brand identity and what it reflects. Building relationships with bloggers, who are customers but with influence, also starts to be important for brands image. Combined with good products, these relationships usually built on trust, human and partnerships are always a great booster for brand image.
As Christoloudides pointed out in 2009, the internet and its related e-technologies have to a large extent upset the asymmetry of information that for so many years worked in favor of brand managers. In effect, with the diminishing information cost and the large number of information you can find on internet nowadays, consumers are better informed. Internet allows them to get the information from multiple sources, particularly in the web 2.0, whereas in pre-internet era brands were the principle source. Today, people actually exhibit a preference for consumer-generated content in online communities relative to other online sources that are viewed as being directly controlled by a firm (e.g., a firm's website providing product-related information) (Varadarajan & Yadav,2009). Brands must realize that consumers are turning away from traditional elements of the promotion mix, by reducing the reliance on advertising as a source of information (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, 2013). It not only enables them to express their identity and reinforce their individuality, it also allows them to satisfy their social needs through sharing of consumption related experiences (Christoloudides, 2009). Suspicious of brands honesty, consumers seek for one another opinion when they want to make up their mind on a brand’s identity or product. This behavior is further shifting the balance of power from firm to consumer (Bernoff & Li 2008, in Christoloudides 2009). An illustration of this customer empowerment is that more and more brands involve the consumer in fundamental stages of the brand building process which shows that companies are aware of the change.
The monologue that many firms were used to practice towards consumers has been replaced by a many-to-many communication where consumers not only interact with the firm but also with other consumers (Hoffman and Novak 1996 in Christolidoudes 2009). The consumer empowerment doesn’t come that much from the multiple sources of information but much more from the e-WOM, word-of-mouth on internet. Word of mouth, or WOM, is the influence of someone’s informal opinion about products and brands derived from consumption experiences (Sen and Lerman 2007 in Sandes and Urdan (2013)). Internet is great to share your insight as it offers many tools to do it: social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter…), forums and blogs. As Levine et al (2001) said ‘There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone”. The web gives the floor to consumers, the liberty to give their opinion without any fear of judgment as they are behind a computer, so in a very honest and easy way. This e-WOM can be a great opportunity for brand image but also a high risk that they need to address.
In the context of Internet, consumers are very busy and solicited therefore more demanding towards brands. They expect brands and their companies to engage with customers and their fans (Papasolomou and Melanthiou, 2013). They expect “more and different”. As a brand, it is necessary to stand out to attract them and then make a great amount of efforts to build this strong bond that will create engagement and loyalty on their part. They need a good reason to go on your Facebook page and a much better reason to stay on it. They need innovation, unusual, entertainment to be attracted. They also embrace a visual culture, where pictures and videos have sometimes much more influence than words. But the most important thing to know about those customers: they want human. Internet is definitely the place where brand needs to be personified. People need to know the people working behind these brands; brand identity, positioning, brand messages need to be strong and honest so that people can bond with the brand. Furthermore, they expect true exchange and not a one-way communication (brand towards customer).
Internet is full of great tools to communicate on brand identity and build relationship with customer. Brands don’t always realize the opportunities it offers but also the damage it can be for their image. When they do realize it, lots of them don’t know how to make the most of it. We will address this matter in the second part of this paper: between risk and opportunity, how to make the most of internet for your brand image?