When the web started to become a little bit mainstream, brands did nothing but digitizing their paper communications with showcase sites. A couple of years later, with the advent of “web 2.0” and internauts starting to have a voice, they applied the brakes not to join the movement.
It was inconceivable that common people could comment a press article, brands did not understand not accept that a blogger can talk about them. Then social networks came and, once again, they refused to join the conversation with their clients, with their audience because they considered themselves untouchable and superior to the crowd.
Brands eventually started to talk with their customers
This time is over and brands eventually understood that if they don’t join the conversation the conversation will happen anyway, and without them. They understood that what they used to see as a communication tool was also a channel for servicing. And they globally understood that what was said about them was the perception their clients had, was their image, and that breaking the thermometer or refusing to look at it does not lower the temperature.
They also got that in a world where we are over-stimulated and bombed with messages, the client attention was scare they had to get it through brand content what, we’ll discuss this in a future post, sometimes brought them close to bad taste by focusing too much on buzz.
Everything was doing pretty good for the benefit of both brands ands clients, in a benevolent context.
10 years later we are forced to admit that the client has changed.
More mobilized, less tolerant, easily irascible : the client has changed.
Is it only because now that nearly everyone is online and uses social networks, the online world is the exact copy of society as it is offline ? More and more irritable and les tolerant toward what does not match one’s opinions ?
Is it because the amount of ads and brand content one is exposed to has reached a limit, that there’s no benevolent attention left anymore ?
Is it because, as in the “real world”, the only people who speak are the least tolerant ones and the others have given up ?
Is it for any other reason ?
Anyway, the internaut/client is more and vindictive and irritable regarding brands. Beyond legitimate complaints, how many senseless and disproportionate attacks ? Globally, people get outraged and affected very fast for anything and the level of mobilization and aggressiveness raises as fast.
Some brands are getting more and more touchy about their brand safety. “Yes we can’t affort not being there but we’re starting to fear being soiled in public for any reason”. Some are caring more and more about their exposure, discourses and interactions even if it make their communications less personal.
Some others are taking very seriously the risk of having their ads displayed at places they consider harmful for their reputation, that do not match their image. For instance L’Oreal is very reluctant regarding displaying ads on YouTube because it’s not seen as safe for the brand. Understand : “our ads can appear in videos we don’t endorse and we don’t want to be criticized or soiled in public for that”.
Is digital a new minefield for brands ?
Of course it’s legitimate for a brand to care about such things. Of course there are videos no one wants to be associated with. But the violence of reactions that make a brand react this way leaves me thoughtful since it’s easy to understand that the problem is only caused by Youtube that’s incapable of guaranteeing a safe targeting for ads.
I won’t event elaborate on customer reviews which deviance are making regulators in some countries pass laws to ensure transparency and fairness. Here it’s not only about the client but competitors that are becoming more and more malicious.
That’s a weak signal but it’s the evidence that the web can become a dangerous playground for brands and that it would be a pity that the behaviors of some make them step back regarding their digital presence and engagement. Of course it depends on what a brand finds acceptable in terms of brand safety and exposure to risk but a benevolent relationships between a brand and its audience can’t be one-way. We’ll get brand behaviors that customer behaviors deserve.
In 2018 digital is a mandatory playground for a brand. But brands should be more and more cautious about how they secure it and what they do on it.