The Dissident Spin Doctor: Dear Brand Manager, your social brand strategy bores us


by Emma King (@EmmainSA) We’ve all been cornered at some point in our lives. Cornered by an acquaintance or co-worker into listening to lengthy and detailed descriptions of holidays (we did not get to have), all while living through a computer avalanche of accompanying slides.

Surely, they know we don’t care.

We see brands spending more money and time trying to tell stories about themselves to their consumers, and it’s becoming ever more prevalent as we see digital and social media channels as a way to pump out our stories – our ‘content’ – to the reluctant consumer. Brands have become the yapping co-worker who cornered us to listen to a detailed account of their holiday itinerary.

Do we care that your brand product, for example, was first formulated by a nomadic people, eking out an existence in a remote jungle by making vodka from a rare root, distilled over the pure leaves of a rare orchid?

I’m not sure we do. In fact I’d go as far to say that all most of us care about is that the products tastes good (or feels good, or looks nice), is as cheap or as expensive as our wallet demands, and essentially makes us look cooler/hotter/thinner/more trendy when we are seen consuming it.

And when it comes to social media, I’d be willing to bet that the only reason most of us follow a brand is;

a)      To get something first, before our friends (like  the new Nando’s ad)
b)      To get something cheaper or for free
c)       To be entertained…or even better, if that entertaining thing will make us look funny/clever if they can share it
d)      [and to bitch – ED]

Not one of us, I would wager, are there to be bombarded with a brand story or ‘reason for being’.

So why do brands spend so much time trying to pump out this stuff?

There is of course the ego thing – when we are so consumed by ourselves we think that other people are interested in the minutiae that surround us. And then there is the attempt by brands to try to develop a personality, to be more human, often an attempt to try and differentiate in a crowded market place.

To be fair, some brands have done this well, spinning compelling stories about how they work and how they became to be. Google has created a mythology about how it operates, a fantastical story about its legendary offices and the way it works, a brilliantly spun story that positions them at the forefront of innovation, and attracts some of the best young talent to work there.

Ben and Jerry’s brand team, too, have worked hard to tell the story of their origins – a charming tale of two outcasts brought together by their love for ice cream and a passion for inventing new ways to make and eat it.

But most brands don’t have an authentic tale to tell about how they began or how they operate (apart from a non glamorous story of endless market research and being manufactured in a factory). And in an attempt to create one, they patronise a smart consumer, when their efforts could be better spent elsewhere.

Likewise the obsession with brands creating their own branded ‘participation platforms’ where they can pump out their own content. Do  consumers really want to join yet another social media platform or be dragged in to brand’s media channel?

I’d argue not.

Red Bull is a brand that does social well. There are no elaborate stories of how it is made, or where it comes from. It just focuses instead on developing a strong – indeed powerful – brand identity, and on being curators and publishers of entertaining content, rather than churning out brand stories. And they use these stories and engaging content in a way, and in places, where consumers already are and want to be.

We don’t all need to create convoluted stories about our brands. And we don’t need to force consumers to join or sign up to our exclusive brand platforms. We just need to be creative and entertaining in the places where they already are, and with the kind of stuff that they want to see and already are doing.

Emma King is Head of PR at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Cape Town). She is a columnist for MarkLives on PR and communication issues. You can find her on Twitter at @EmmainSA

– Industry news you’ll make time for. Sign up for our free newsletter!


Published by Herman Manson is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter -

3 replies on “The Dissident Spin Doctor: Dear Brand Manager, your social brand strategy bores us”

  1. Interesting argument. Don’t know if I 100% agree though.

    Part of knowing, or believing, that Brand A makes us “cooler/hotter/thinner/more trendy” than Brand B is based on the story and associations we have with Brand A, and those associations are linked to that brands’ story.

    Of course, if all your brand is doing in its communications is telling its story, that will turn off a consumer. There has to be a mix between telling your brand story, and to use your Red Bull example, giving your audience entertaining content, and the other elements needed to have a fully developed social strategy.

    To, again, use your own analogy. A good social strategy for a brand should make that brand the coworker who you know always has an interesting piece of gossip, or entertaining story that makes you enjoy spending your coffee break with them. If that’s the majority of your interaction, when they do decide to tell you about their holiday, you don’t mind.

    In fact, with this coworker always being interesting and entertaining why can’t their holiday story be entertaining and interesting too?

  2. Hi Mvelase

    I think we’re actually in agreement :)

    Although my examples were pretty extreme, in order to make a point, if a brand gets the fundamentals right (i.e. they are creative, entertaining etc), then we’re all ears when they want to tell us their brand story.

    It’s just when they forget about the fundamentals, become caught up the minutiae and try to force consumers to go somewhere do something they are not already doing, or don’t want to do, we turn off and move on…

Comments are closed.

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist