I attended the TEDxUNC conference this afternoon, an independently organized TED conference held on campus here at UNC-CH. I’ve attended TEDxUNC the past three years, and every year I walk away feeling rejuvenated and motivated.
I was particularly enticed by a speech delivered from Naimul Huq, a social media specialist who focuses on branding through analytical data.
The takeaway from Naimul’s speech, at least in my eyes, is that branding is changing, especially with the rise of social media. This is obviously not a surprise to the majority of us who engage in social media everyday. Companies can no longer rely on just a commercial or billboard for communication to consumers. Companies must now engage us on a multitude of platforms. And sometimes they even have to pull crazy stunts that have little to do with their product in order to complete this brand image.
Take for example Red Bull and their work in the action sports world and beyond. Go to their website, and you won’t find a single reference to their product. They are not just an energy drink company but rather a ginormous encompassing brand that connects to consumers through incredible and breathtaking stunts and content.
Social media hasn’t just changed branding on the consumer side. It has drastically changed the information companies use when creating content and solidifying their brand image. Social media has opened the floodgates of information and data available for companies.
In the old days, focus groups were a popular method for gathering information about consumers. However, if you put a group of moms in a room together, which one of them is going to admit to giving their kids junk food? None of them will! Because they are conforming to the pressure of the group and expectations of how a mom should act, and that is tainting their responses. That’s one extreme example, but much of the information companies were receiving and using to drive decisions did not accurately represent the actions of their consumers. They couldn’t get to the hard truth about how consumers were engaging with their product and brand.
Now, companies can use social media to tap into the minds of the individuals using and buying their products or engaging with their brand. If someone loves a product, they might Tweet or Instagram about it. If they hate it, they’re now able to broadcast that into the world.
Naimul uses this kind of data on an astronomical scale. It’s through new developments like social media that he uses his knowledge of big data to help companies understand how people are truly perceiving and engaging with their brand today.