Life at the Edge of Your Brand

One of the most interesting aspects of social media is the way in which communities adopt technologies. For in the consumer space, which is different from the enterprise, an application is not determined by its functions, but by its use. This means that while social media technologies are designed for a certain type of use and/or function, this can often be discarded by those who begin to use it. Twitter is a great example.

When Twitter first appeared, it asked a simple question (“what are you doing?”) and encouraged us to share our current activities with our network of friends and followers. But shortly after launch, the communities using Twitter transformed it … they realised that Twitter was far more useful as a way of building conversations, maintaining relationships and sharing facts, links and data with their personal communities.



What Twitter was experiencing was “life at the edge of their brand”.

On the one hand there is the product of service that a business has spent time and effort creating. On the other is the population of consumers you are hoping will engage with your offering. And in the place where the two collide is the brand – but this is not your grandfather’s brand – it is the brand that is created in the flux and chaos of interaction between your offering and those who consume, use, engage, love or hate it.

Those consumers who commit to your product in a profound way, come close to the heart of your product. They know it intimately. They understand its features and its benefits. These people live close to the Arc of Satisfaction.

However, those people who take your product into THEIR hearts live on the Arc of Experience. For these people, your product/service and your brand is inextricably linked in the ways in which they live their lives. Think iPhone.

What is clear, and what is important for marketers to understand is this – both consumers and brands are behaving in transformative ways – facilitated by social media. As Dina Mehta says:  

The pace of change is really rapid, both in the behaviour of brands on the web and in terms of customer behaviour.

The challenge for marketers is to be able to deal with this changing landscape – to sense and respond. It requires continuous digital strategy. And in a difficult market (and let’s face it, when has it been an EASY market?), those who are able to sense and respond to such changes are likely to fare better. The question to ask yourself is “where are your consumers – and do they live at the edge of your brand or someone else’s?”.

UPDATE: There is a great extension of this discussion of this topic at the Italian NinjaMarketing blog. I used Google translate to explain it to me 😉

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4 thoughts on “Life at the Edge of Your Brand

  1. Hey Gavin,
    LOVE this graphic and this article. So true. I want to question an assumption at the beginning. You state “For in the consumer space, which is different from the enterprise, an application is not determined by its functions, but by its use.”
    It sounds like we are separating (if I oversimplify) purchase from emergent use. In the consumer space, things that must be purchased are likely colored similarly. ie: people make the decision based on its functions.
    So is not the opposite potentially true? That in the enterprise use of a tool is far more emergent than any executive involved in purchasing a technology would ever care to admit?
    Would love to know your view on this as you are working in a space where technology is purchased for insane $$ amounts. ie: It makes my stressful $400 used chair purchase seem like the steal of a lifetime. 😉

  2. I guess there is a complete revolution here they are even making me “sell” or at least advertise for a site… it does not make me feel like I am selling… but I guess I am …
    Twitter is a very simple idea and because of that … it is be great…and I am just starting in this 2.0 wave this … but I was in video conferencing first social internet interaction in 96 … but it was just about discovering new possibilities of communicating… 🙂

  3. Sean … I was wondering if anyone was going to pick up on that 😉 But I love the way you are questioning it – and think that “emergent use” is exactly where this web 2.0/social media is going for the corporation. Will post more on it soon … promise.
    Lisi … we are still operating on a frontier – many of the business models around web 2.0 have not been tested. How this plays out in the longer term will be interesting. For example, we have seen a great maturing over the last 12 months – so who knows what the landscape will be like in another two years – let alone 10!

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