For years, people built brands (really their businesses, we didn't know about brands then) by learning how to deliver a consistent experience across everything they did. The product, their service, everything was teed into their business and they're profitability. They got instant feedback from the people who were their customers and word spread, both good & bad, based on the experience that was delivered. If you think about it, it was really all viral and social marketing back then, we just didn't have the technology at we talk about today.
At the start of the 20th century, we saw the industrial revolution change how business was done. It was no longer about a handmade product made in your local town, products could now be mass produced in factories that could be very far away. The product no longer had any connection with the local community. The consumer didn't know where the product came from and, thanks to the lower costs mass-produced allowed, they probably didn't care that much about what they lost in the mass produced world.
In the middle part of the last century, branding was introduced. We cerated characters that became the icons of a brand. We pretended for the most part that brands had a personality and that there was something foe a real difference between product A and product B. The titans of the advertising industry created emotional reasons for us to buy a product. We heard slogans and saw characters come to life in radio and then TV. It was a new world for brands.
For 40-50 years, we build brands as a specially crafted and scripted experience. It was like being on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney. We liked to pretend that our skipper was coming up with these lines off the top of his head, but really, it was a well scripted experience. Every touch point was carefully controlled. We didn't mind, it was still a good ride.
At the turn of this century, as the Internet boomed, we saw the rise of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Amazon, Zappos. We suddenly new technologies and new brands being launched every day. We talked about building a relationship with our consumers. We talked about the transparency that the new social media world demanded. We talked about moving beyond the scripts to having a dialogue with the consumer. We talked about authenticity and engagement.
Then came the movement that said you don't control your message. Your audience controls it. You need to give up control. Be free. Allow your audience to co-create your brand. Let them be your partners in this branch new world for brands. And companies started acting like they were listening. Some companies even did listen. In my experience, most just continued doing business as usual.
Maybe we're heading back to the brand that existed before the industrial revolution. One where everything was local. One where good WOM built a company. And bad WOM buried it faster then anything else could. A world where the consumer expected and demanded to speak to the "man in charge." A world where complaints were taken seriously and dealt with as swiftly as possible. A world where your word had meaning and both buyer and seller took your word seriously.
But the honesty, transparency and need to create a great experience from beginning to end are here, possibly stronger then ever. And despite what you've heard, you do control the message.
You can read all of my posts about the future of customer experiences at Polinchock's Ponderings: Customer Experience.
Image source: Stuck in Customs