Branding inside-out making progress

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece saying I thought branding should be turned inside-out. That is, brands should be established by the experiences customers and consumers have with goods and services, not by the phony advertising that we’re exposed to. In the old days of mainstream media with few channels of expression, it was possible for highly-paid professionals to feed us "messages" about how they wanted us to perceive a product or service: truth be hanged. I said in an internal email to some friends the other day that I’m waiting for Consumer Reports or JD Powers to set up a massive database so consumers could pour in ratings and comments about the real experiences the have with products and customer service. As a consumer, that’s what I want, not mind-games. These "reputation systems" are in use on many internet consumer sites like Amazon, but I’m looking for something more comprehensive.

But there’s another source of consumer reaction that’s having an impact: blogging (yay!). Companies are plowing through the blog-o-sphere with powerful tools to cull the chatter that’s going on by thousands of people. According to an article in today’s Wash Post:

Following online conversations is the latest attempt by companies to grapple with the growing clout of their customers. Empowered by the Internet, consumers can broadly express their skepticism of brand icons, demand the lowest prices and mobilize for action. In recent years, many companies have tried to influence consumers by generating their own favorable word of mouth. But measuring sentiment expressed in cyberspace — whether provoked or not — has always been difficult. The high-powered new technologies aim to fill in the missing pieces by searching, tabulating and assessing Internet postings….The technology can scan for specific companies, products, brands, people — anything searchable. It can slice data into a range ofcategories to quantify the number of times a subject was discussed online, the individuals who mentioned it and the communities where it appeared.

So, you got a statement to make about the quality of something you bought or about the customer service–or lack thereof–for something? Blog it.

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