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Digital Influencers Usher in a New Era in Branding

Brands are taking two tough punches right now: 1) the economic downturn has continued to spur consumers to buy private label and 2) digital social influencers are taking control from brand managers. The question is not just how brands can survive, but more importantly, how can brands thrive?

Brands are taking two tough punches right now: 1) the economic downturn has continued to spur consumers to buy private label and 2) digital social influencers are taking control from brand managers. The question is not just how brands can survive, but more importantly, how can brands thrive? We’ll hand over the discussion to our three industry commentators: Ana the Analyst, Creo the Creative and Connie the Consumer.

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Creo: Brand managers have to face the facts: the web has created nearly endless consumer discussions about products and services that did not exist 20 years ago — at least on the scale that we see today. Yes, brand managers are ceding control, but it is not inherently a bad thing.

Brand managers that take a proactive approach and work with social influencers will thrive on the web. The online environment is much different than offline media. It’s about two-way communication, meaningful relationships and reciprocity. It is an opportunity to enrich and interact with consumers in new and fun ways that was never before possible. Those brand managers that realize this paradigm shift in marketing will thrive.

Ana: To add to what Creo’s saying about working with the grain, not against it: there is a directional shift in online media consumption. Ultimately there are two roads diverged in marketing world: down one is traditional, disruptive marketing and the other is social influencer marketing. The majority of marketers take the former path. That disruptive form of marketing is increasing in the digital space. In fact, eMarketer recently release some interesting statistics: Online ad spending forecasts from GroupM put digital spending at 17% of total US ad spending in 2010, up from 15.4% this year and 13.9% in 2008.

Creo: Connie, to find out about a product or service, do you click on a banner ad or do you see what other people are saying about it?

Connie: Online is a great way for me to find out about new products and services. I recently downloaded the UrbanSpoon app on my iPhone 3G and I love it. I’ve found some incredible new eats based on the ratings and reviews. Generally users are right. For example, I wanted to review this terrible cafe around the corner and another user beat me to the punch: “Yes, their coffee does taste like chemicals.”

Creo: There is not much brands can do to curb recessionary buying behaviors. However, brands can do something about the digital transition. It’s not about how can brand messages interrupt consumers; it’s about how can…

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