Respond-Embrace-and-Own Economy Drives It.
Once upon a time, in an economy not too long ago, life was simple. And in that simple time, smart executives at companies issued simple commands to employees and customers. And the commands were clear and simple and good. Employees followed these commands and built products and services and global brands around them. Consumers came to trust the brands with confidence and comfort they experienced.
Life was simple. There were limited choices for employees, customers and. . . the messages needed to sustain this economy. Commanding/communicating/controlling expectations, employees and customers alike, was accomplished with relative ease through message discipline.
Message discipline is repeatedly delivering the same message with the same slogan through the same outlets. Take a simple message, repeat it endlessly, consistently, in every media outlet. And you're able to effectively to insure customers and employees sustain the correct understanding.
And back in this economy, with limited media outlets, this was doable. PR agencies, with corporate marketing departments, would create a single message (content, text, font, colors, graphics). The message would blitz, overwhelm (overrun) the few media channels available. It worked.
Ignorance is bliss and we were all happy.
That was then. This is now.
Now, we have been forced to look (layoffs, recessions, flawed leadership, flawed business models: derivative financials + dotcom bubbles) for something beyond this horizon of comfort.
Now, we know there's more. The world's neither flat, nor does it end at the horizon built for our comfort until now. And we want it.
And we've created the tools to either bring to this world beyond our old horizons, take us beyond the old horizon or create a world beyond the old horizon.
I access 4 major news sites before my first espresso is finished. I have over 300 sources for news and commentary in my RSS reader. My 1000+ friends and I on Twitter serve as our news sources and perspective on brands and the brand's stories. . . daily, hourly, minute by minute.
That's just me and mine. There are millions of others with similar resources for news and conversation. There are thousands of other tools and resources.
And they're available for everybody who creates or discusses, evangelizes or harasses a brand: consumers and employees. Oh. And management, too.
The command and control economy is no longer possible. There are too many tools, too many media outlets and too many conversations for a brand and its management to effectively command and control.
Commanding and controlling it is as effective as commanding and controlling the shape of a water-balloon. Squeeze it here. . . and it squirts out over there. Squeeze it tighter and the balloon, your brand, is gone, leaving a mess to clean up.
Some global brands persist in trying.
GM's a classic. Their message of Built-in-America accompanied by John Mellencamp's "This is our country" was effectively delivered for decades on TV, radio and print. But then overseas manufacturers built their cars here in our country. Now, their cars were our cars. And no amount of message discipline could hide that from the roads and parking lots. And when GM's CEO was chastised publicly for using his private jet to meet with Congress and ask for a loan, GM commanded their PR agency control this discussion with a press release. Given the response of the public, I think it's fair to say that balloon burst.
Respond-Embrace-and-Own replaces Command-and-Control.
GM's but the most recent casualty of companies and brands whose equity was built on a Command-and-Control foundation. And with all, the news reaches them of their crumbling foundation. . . from the millions of media outlets that could replace and expand their brand's foundation. Those micro-media outlets are their customers and their employees.
What about those brands that understand this change and how it impacts their brand? IBM's embrace of the Linuz engineer community is an excellent example of a brand's success in our Respond-and-Own economy. IBM reached out to the tens of thousands of engineers and the open-source evangelists for the Linux operating system.
Now, those tens of thousands of engineers and their passion for Linux drive IBM's growth. And IBM's embrace of Linux and its engineers drive theirs. This case study is profiled briefly in Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force.
They responded to the changes in their industry. They embraced the evangelists for this change. And they continued to own their brand.
And their brands are bigger as a result. Bringing in each other under their tents, Linux under IBM's and IBM under Linux's tent, only served to make their tents bigger, stronger, more unflappable.
We'll have more examples in the coming weeks and years of global brands trying to squeeze their balloon. More companies will find their foundation of command-and-control is crumbling or disappeared. The question is will they react or respond? Will they react with commands to control their brand. Will they fight to retain ownership of their crumbling building resting on an imploding foundation.
Or will they respond and invite the millions of micro-media sites, consumers and employees, to share in building and owning their brand?
Sharing a great big tent with your evangelists is better than having your own tent, even with all the tatters and flaps to yourself. Don't you think?
Respond-Embrace-and-Own drives our economy, now.
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About the Author: Zane Safrit's passion is small business and the operations excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane's blog can be found at Zane Safrit.