Brands rush in where angels fear to tread

light brigade.jpg
The The Charge of the Light Brigade is in so many ways a lesson for brands that think of social media as just another channel.

As you may know my basic philosophy about brands and web 2.0 is proceed…with caution. Social media is unfamiliar territory for brands and their representatives – largely because the rules are created by the community not the communicators – and they should steer well clear unless they know exactly what they are doing.

Unfortunately unscrupulous advisers and naive brand owners rarely employ this level of discretion and like the proverbial fools that they are rush in to this hostile environment ill prepared and end up as canon fodder for an angry community.
As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote of the catastrophic charge at the Battle of Balaclava:
Half a league half a league
Half a league onward
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
‘Forward, the Light Brigade
Charge for the guns’ he said
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
I sketched out some rules for brands and social media here. But the man who really knows is of course Hugh over at Gaping Void. I rarely post abut other people’s posts but you must read his analysis of why blogging has been so successful for English Cut and his stable of microbrands.

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4 Replies to “Brands rush in where angels fear to tread”

  1. Thy branding is smart
    and thy planning insightful
    An ad of pure art
    with direction delightful
    But of web two beware
    hasty scriptures of feral
    if thou dost not take care
    then ye blog at thy peril
    Wise words Richard

  2. Apologies in advance for the format of this post – I can’t work out how to make paragraph breaks work because I’m a bit simple… Anyway… for me, a really interesting example of exactly what you’re talking about it Capital One’s which apparently launched in the last week of September. I don’t believe there is a more glaring example of how not to do it. Fatuous, contrived and banal in the extreme it really is dreadful, in my opinion.
    It is a brilliant demonstration of what happens when the planning process becomes the creative execution: OK, so Capital One is trying to find an innovative way to get its “change your credit card to us” message across, for which they should be applauded; but you can just see the planners thinking, “We should use the notion of “change” as a unifying theme here, so what changes do people make in their lives?”
    The paucity of the theme is clearly illustrated by the output. I really don’t believe there is even the remotest connection between changing your credit card to Capital One and changing your lunch habits to watch a stand-up show; nor changing your credit card and changing celebrities (mind you, it’s difficult to be precise on this one as – sinfully – there is was no content at launch). And last, the risibly transparent “user generated content” bit, which looks for all the world like it was hacked together in the office 20 minutes before the website went live, is just terrible.
    As a marketer, Capital One is in the business of trying to find a way to cut through a massively over-supplied mature market, which is never easy; but it is phantasmagorically obvious they and their advisers don’t understand this whole social-networking, UGC thingy and as a consequence, the website is practically the dictionary definition of, “if you can’t add to the conversation, don’t start talking”.

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