From a branding perspective, Iâ€™ve come to appreciate a potent comment by Scott Degraffenreid, author of Embracing the Nude Model – The Art and Science of Referral Marketing. In a conversation several months ago, he suggested we think about networks rather than markets.
No one says, â€œIâ€™m a member of the market for pink, hip-hop-toned cell phonesâ€, but theyâ€™ll passionately admit to being part of a MySpace community of teen-aged girls who adore Eminem. Networks have common interests and might even have an agenda. They are populated by like-minded and like-motivated individuals. Some â€œresideâ€ on the Internet and some are locally connected.So our goal in branding and marketing is to become part of selected, relevant networks. Donâ€™t try to â€œmanageâ€ those networks or even manipulate them. Just relate in positive ways. Contribute meaningfully to them. Support them in their common quests to achieve whatever the network represents.
Once members â€œresonateâ€ with you, once they see your goals are their goals, you build trust, and for some, an obligation to do business with you.
For larger companies with national or global distribution and traditional infrastructures, this will be a significant paradigm shift; one that most will not make even if they so desired. Too much baggage. Too many â€œold schoolâ€ practitioners. Too few visionaries.
But small organizations, particularly those oriented to local markets, can surely benefit from thinking in terms of networks. Individual entrepreneurs and franchise operators could certainly embrace marketing to networks.
Hereâ€™s an example. If I were a dry cleaner with shops throughout a metro area, I might approach schools about helping to raise money for band uniforms or to finance a bowl trip. If I both contributed to those funds and made my shops collection centers, Iâ€™d gain recognition and appreciation. I might even clean uniforms for half-price and clean flags and banners for free. Iâ€™d not only gain appreciation from band members and their families, Iâ€™d probably get their regular cleaning business as well.
The idea of branding on the Internet takes on greater significance if you wish to explore Web2 and the implications for social networking. Here the possibilities become almost limitless. Iâ€™ll be blogging about this phenomenon and how it could affect your branding process in the coming weeks.