Brands don’t talk; people talk.

Posted on November 9, 2012

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Since my last post, I have changed both agencies and continents, moving from the black sheep agency, BBH in Singapore to the ‘Unbound’ agency, Mullen in Boston. But that’s not why I’m posting. This post was actually triggered by a Facebook update this morning in which I said: “When you hear agencies talk about managing brands’ conversations on social media, you know that it’s code for running ‘call centers’ on Facebook.” I guess I’d just grown tired of hearing agencies spout vacuous, self-important statements that seem detached from reality.

I then followed up with an (obvious) point: “Brands don’t talk; people talk.”

This, in turn, triggered a few comments and questions, such as: “Brands dont talk? So why do we catalyse ‘brand conversations’? Why do we have a ‘brand language’? If a brand is built around a relationship, doesnt silence make that relationship flat and one dimensional if not a monologue?…. Discuss….”

That comment alone most certainly sent the man pictured above out on a mission, but I took the opportunity to elaborate on my rather blunt statement:

We definitely rely on metaphor a lot to describe how brand comms should look, feel and behave, as we say. A little too much sometimes, I think. You’ve probably heard Bullshit Man hovering just below the ceiling in meeting rooms. But what employees say about companies/brands on social media is not the same as saying that this is the ‘brand’s voice’. Rather, it’s the voice of employees – people working for companies  - answering questions about brands just as they would in a call centre. (The difference being that everyone is able to listen in.)  Brands are not people. They don’t talk. People talk. 

When call centre businesses realize there’s money to be made from answer questions on Facebook on behalf of businesses (and not just over the phone) they’re going to get many a social media agency a good run for their money.

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