It seems these days that every article I read laments the death of design and creativity as we know it; victims of the explosion in social networking and digital media. Design experts, brand strategists and marketing gurus are sounding the last post for traditional graphic designers and creatives, warning them that if they don’t put their Twitter pants on and start doing the Facebook tango, they will become fossils fused to their drawing boards and keyboards.
Undeniably, social networking in its various forms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, even MXit and BBM) is here to stay and offers a whole new way for the world to interact; and this is something that every discipline, (especially graphic design, branding and marketing) needs to take on board and plan for. But it is an over-reaction to declare the death of designers and creatives as we know them? Replacing them with net-savvy, texting ninjas is, in my opinion, throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
Understanding the blogosphere is critical for corporate brand strategy, but this does not mean that corporate brands should be embedding themselves in this arena for no good reason. Do we really need more brands in the blogosphere? Already, Google has compromised the YouTube experience with endless advertisements. Mercifully, Facebook has kept advertising to a discrete corner of the screen. But is anyone really interested in a corporate Facebook fan-page, or a Twitter feed about a company? The truth is that unless you have something valuable to say or offer, no-one is going to be interested in your brand – if anything, they will execute you at dawn if you waste their time trying to sell them your corporate identity.
The truth is that the online space is a cyber “Wild West”; it’s dirty, dusty, rude, out-of-control, hurtful at times, unfair at times, unpredictable and all at the same time – wonderful, because of this. But developing a brand strategy for the digital world is like choreographing a ballet for cats – someone’s going to get their eyes scratched out and it’s probably going to be the corporate. Unless you have factored this into your strategy, you could end up hurting your brand rather than helping it.
You can’t control it, therefore you shouldn’t try. But you can control your brand identity in cyberspace by taking advantage of all the new platforms we have to design for, such as mobile devices and electronic publishing. For me, it seems like a more natural progression for creatives and designers to be concentrating on how to take advantage of these new creative tools at their disposal than stressing about social networking.
Successful branding exercises in this new space hinge on a few simple rules:
- There must be something “buzzworthy” to justify your presence. Just existing is not a good enough reason.
- You must be prepared for all input, including the bad and sometimes the downright insulting.
- You must be prepared to eject and walk away licking your wounds if things go pear-shaped.
- You must monitor it obsessively and constantly and let the input inform your next move. It is fluid by nature and just leaving your brand out there in this space unattended is suicidal.
BY: Mike McFadyean
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