Social Media Branding: A Conversation That Creates Product Differentiation

Jack Prot

Differentiation is created when two “friends” have a “conversation”. Differentiation is the defining your product so strongly in the minds of your customers that they pick your product off the shelf without thinking of it. Differentiation is a critical element in creating world class, pre-eminent brands in the social media age. Differentiation is a strategy of perception.

Social Media’s great asset is its scale. This scale is both a marketer’s greatest friend and their biggest enemy. Social media has made it simple for a company of modest means to create and effectively market products. This is why our marketplace is flooded with products. At an average supermarket, there are 40,000 brands. The average consumer only needs 85. This is only the food space. How does a marketer get a consumer to focus and buy the marketer’s product, one out of 40,000? The simple answer to this is through engagement with the consumer. Simply put, a brand has to become a “friend” to the consumer.

This is the strength of social media. Social media revolves around the personal relationships that engagement brings about. Three critical elements on a Fan Page are the “comment” section, and the “Like” and “Dislike” section. The comment section is critical because it explains to a marketer how to improve the product. The comment section explains to the marketer about the real needs that a consumer actually has. By understanding exactly what a consumer really wants, a company can create products that have true differentiation from the other brands in their market space. The comment section explains to a marketer how to position the product so that strong differentiation is created.

A chief executive who understands the power of social media is Allan Mulalley of Ford Motor Company. Through Ford’s Facebook Page, and other means, Mr. Mulalley speaks directly to customers about Ford’s products. These conversations are monitored by Ford’s marketing, engineering, and product development staff. Mr. Mulalley has an engaging personality, with great people skills. He has the ability to get people to say exactly what they think of Ford’s products. Because of this direct customer engagement, Ford was able to refit their production lines to add and subtract features that customers wanted or didn’t want on Ford’s products. The customer discussions allowed Ford to produce cars that were differentiated from competitor offerings.

From these discussions, Ford was able to understand that what customers wanted was a car that was “fun”. Ford was able to understand that customers wanted a car that was more than just a means of transportation. This is how the concept of the Ford Fiesta was created and marketed. Ford was able to differentiate the Fiesta as a “fun” car. This differentiation was created by “conversations” among “friends”. With no conventional advertising, the Fiesta was differentiated so well that it sold 11,000 units in its first week of availability.

Dean Hambleton dnhambleton@gmail.com

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