As a central feature of their digital strategy, companies made huge bets on what is often called branded content. Social media would allow your company to overcome traditional
media and establish relationships directly with customers. Great stories, connected with them in real time, your brand becoming a hub for a community of consumers. While companies have put their faith in branded content for the past decade, brute empirical evidence is now forcing them to reconsider. In YouTube or Instagram rankings of channels by number of subscribers, corporate brands barely appear. What was wrong?
The problem companies face is structural, not creative. Big companies organize their marketing efforts as the antithesis of art worlds (producing innovative popular entertainment requires a distinctive mode of organization called an art world). They excel at coordinating and executing complex marketing programs across multiple markets around the world. But this organizational model leads to mediocrity when it comes to cultural innovation. Crowdculture has turbocharged art worlds, vastly increasing the number of participants and the speed and quality of their interactions ; no longer do you need to work a long period to get funding and distribution for your short film.
Social media allows fans to create rich communities around influencers, who interact directly with them in a barrage of tweets, pins, and posts.
To brand effectively with social media, companies should target crowdcultures. Today, in pursuit of relevance, most brands chase after trends. But this is a commodity approach to branding: Hundreds of companies are doing exactly the same thing with the same generic list of trends. It’s no wonder consumers don’t pay attention. By targeting novel ideologies flowing out of crowdcultures, identifying conventions to leapfrog, brands can assert a point of view that stands out in the overstuffed media environment. Axe, Chippottle, Dove are examples of such approach.
- Dove leads the body-positive crowd. Dove was a mundane, old-fashioned brand in a category in which marketing usually rode the coattails of the beauty trends set by fashion houses and media. By the 2000s the ideal of the woman’s body had been pushed to ridiculous extremes. Feminist critiques of the use of starved size 0 models began to circulate in traditional and social media. Instead of presenting an aspiration, beauty marketing had become inaccessible and alienating to many women. Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” tapped into this emerging crowdculture by celebrating real women’s physiques in all their normal diversity—old, young, curvy, skinny, short, tall, wrinkled, smooth. Women all over the world pitched in to produce, circulate, and cheer for images of bodies that didn’t conform to the beauty myth.