Branding used to connote something done with a hot iron to mark ownership of a steer. If there was a relationship quality to this it was only in the fact of being an owner of the thing possessed. It was certainly not about building a relationship, or any important social bonds, with your livestock.
What happens when we talk about customer relations, however? Suddenly we put these folks at arms length. They are only connected through “marketing” or “management.” Even when we understand that it’s as much about pull as push, it’s still something we do to them, rather than something in which we engage with, and receive from, them. Brian Solis, author of The End of Business as Usual, has posted provocatively on the subject, asking: Are You Building a Social Brand or a Social Business? He notes that businesses are evolving from traditional CRM to social CRM. It’s no longer about “branding” as it’s traditionally been conceived. It’s about our very essence. Solis notes:
With the advent of social media, coherence suddenly became a lot more difficult to manage. Branding has been around since the industrial revolution, but application of branding to the technological revolution is relatively new. We can no longer keep our relations at arms length. Customers are interacting with our brand every minute, even while we sleep. And in their interactions, they are pushing back at whatever we try to impose. The cattle are stampeding.
Shared responsibility for the brand extends internally. Just as we can no longer separate who we are (brand identity) from our relationships with our customers (CRM), we can no longer separate responsibility for customer socialization. Customers don’t care what department we work in (I’ve recently posted on how this is particularly true for nonprofits, who tend to have two separate marketing departments with different names!). Customers see the business as a whole. They
aren’t just looking at our (social) media; they’re looking at our entire (social/interrelated) business. IBM’s recent “From Social Media to Social CRM” report is revelatory in that it shows how much responsibility for social media is siloed within marketing, marketing communication, or public relations. Notes Solis in the aforementioned blog post: