Does social media cause branding problems?

23 Jul

Part 2 of 2 blog post

In the previous post on my blog,, I referenced a thought-provoking article in the recent edition of Marketing Management, the magazine published by the American Marketing Association.

The article was written by Laura Ries, president of the Atlanta-based marketing consulting firm Ries&Ries (yes, she’s the daughter of legendary marketer Al Ries). In it, she makes a very good case for the importance of visuals in marketing and advertising. Without a single, consistent visual that conveys your brand promise (or as she calls it a “visual hammer”) you can’t nail your message into the emotional section of a consumer’s mind.

Examples of visual hammers include:Coors Light’s Silver Bullet, the Budweiser Clydesdales and the Aflac duck. When you see these images, words are not necessary to convey the brand message.

The reason Ries believes social media causes branding problems is that it’s a verbal rather than visual form of communication. Unfortunately, Ries does not go on to expand on why social media causes branding problems.

I agree that social media, if not done right, may cloud the message in the mind of the consumer which may not advance a company’s branding.

However, here are three examples where social media is helping to build the brand.

* McDonald’s – all I need to see are the golden arches in their Twitter feed and I either start thinking about one of their new fruit smoothies, or fries…usually fries

* USA Today – when they post breaking news using social media it reinforces that their brand is a source you can count on for important news

* Oprah – her Twitter feed reminds me to Live My Best Life, her Facebook page shows her in casual settings that makes me feel like a trusted friend

Social media is not the exclusive culprit for branding problems. We marketers have managed to dilute our message using all forms of media over the years.

Let me know your thoughts.

Follow me on Twitter @KDOreilly


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