“Reason to Choose”
Part 2 of 3
In Part 1 of our conversation with Fred Burt, the managing director of Siegel+Gale London, described the role of his company’s philosophy that elegantly simple brands are better brands. We also discussed the importance of trust to brands as well as the crucial role his literary favorite, Beowulf, plays in the patterns of meaning that we convey in language everyday. This Old English epic poem, produced sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, acts as a pivotal link to modern language.
Need to Choose To Engage, You Can’t Force
A tinny echo was briefly audible as one of my questions still reverberated over the VoIP connection. Then, Mr. Burt’s voice buzzed to life, “Social media has turbocharged the need for transparency and authenticity,” he stated assuredly. “You can’t just churn out the usual corporate stuff and expect the audience to be interested.” In keeping with the theme of simplicity and authenticity that had come to shape our conversation, he advised, “They’ve got to choose to engage; you can’t force them.”
Social Media Dialogue Creates a Reason To Choose
Since customers know, now more than ever, when they’re being sold something it was evident that Burt advocated this social media dialogue to create a “reason to choose.” In Part 1, Burt had mentioned this “reason to choose” was fundamentally what he believed defines the term “brand.” Therefore, to create this both emotional and functional advantage, a conversation can, as Burt put it, “Cut through and differentiate. But…in an authentic and highly credible way.” Thus, as traditional media channels may become stale, social media can almost immediately reveal the underlying value a brand holds in its end consumer.
Instantly, this portion of our conversation brought a comment David Weinberger had once written to mind from The Cluetrain Manifesto. In a chapter he penned, The Hyperlinked Organization, Weinberger addressed the concepts of openness, simplicity and dialogue in a business world undergoing, at the time, very early transition into the era of social media platforms. Weinberger proclaimed to business executives:
“What are you protecting your customers from? The obvious truth they know and live with everyday? Just exactly whom do we think we’re fooling? Companies that let their customers and suppliers into the process…forge the bonds of trust and delight that are the only ones that work in the ‘frictionless’ Web.” (The Cluetrain Manifesto, 2000)
Many Brands Don’t Have Sufficiently Interesting Content to Engage
And so, while it appears that both Burt and Weinberger subscribe to similar schools of thought regarding brand authenticity, Burt had a further observation. He cautioned, “Many brands don’t have sufficiently interesting content to engage audiences in a social media environment.” This comment struck me as exceptionally honest, and a realization with which many brands continue to struggle.
Social Media Is An Ear To Consumer
A tendency has emerged allowing tactics to drive strategy, as a seemingly infinite supply of new platforms emerge and brands work to keep pace with their competitors. Overall, brand strategy in the social space begins to take a back seat while thoughtful consideration of objectives may be marginalized. Yet, while Burt spotlighted this content hurdle for some brands, he proposed that it by no means limits them altogether from the benefits of the social arena. “It’s not that social media isn’t relevant to them – it’s a case of listening. Social media is a great ear to the consumer. I think brands are foolish not to use it,” he summarized.
We hope you enjoyed Part 2 of our conversation with Fred Burt. Much as we added a social layer onto our discussion in this post, the series finale, Part 3, promises to look more broadly at Mr. Burt’s thoughts on the role of creativity in shaping effective brands. You won’t want to miss it – trust us!