Out of the cave or the mob will get you!
I can't believe that I still hear people say, "All press is good press." There was a time when this statement was true – however at that same time the ‘brand’ authority within an organisation had the power, influence and impact of a highly trained 'operative' to create an often elegant and always heavily orchestrated reality. Today this statement is anachronistic, as the ‘brand’ authority has little control over issues. The influence of the 'operative' has been relegated to the status of rent-a-cop.
The way it was, once there was public awareness of an issue, in a business it was the responsibility for the 'brand authority' to lead or direct the conversation. Now, the conversation is happening out there and there is no longer any way of owning the calibre of the content, the flow of dialogue or in any way dictating the terms of the conversation. Now one thing for certain, your 'Brand Guy' is now many parts of your organisation and they all must be part of the conversation, but its a conversation where media, consumers, stakeholders and agitators can all get involved, and where the argument and the issue run its course.
The Mob effect
Now very rapidly an issue or a cause can appear, be ignited, be taken over, gain scale and momentum and be almost impossible to ‘control’, its the Flash Mob effect. To a greater extent businesses and brands have lost control and they don't like it. This is not true solely in the commercial domain – its happening everywhere – for a recent example of this we just have to look to the London riots. The way the riots spread, were organised and became more than the response to a police shooting developed rapidly. The inability for any one source to control the issue, the reporting and debate around it was resoundingly clear. Sure, politicians still get air time – but the voice of the people can outweigh that by a significant factor – the call of the people can mobilise action and debate now more than ever. In fairness, many of the looters are being typecast as a disaffected minority – the issue though is on the lips of everyone across Britain and beyond.
The Mob in action
Recently the Arab Spring has seen extraordinary change right across the region. To look at the Flash Mob effect look no further than when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak thought that after leading his country his way for 30 years he could continue as he pleased. One person, one blog post proved a catalyst for change. Over these last few months, many Arab leaders chose not to engage with their people and not to discuss their demands for change, and before they realised it, the conversation was in full force and the Flash Mob effect of many Nation’s went to work and literally destroyed years and years of domination overnight.
What this has shown is that retreating to the cave won’t work. One party controlling the debate no longer does. And sometimes change happens because it should.
A local lesson
Away from politics and poverty – and back to the to the power of brands. In New Zealand recently Adidas found out how quickly an issue can gain momentum – and that old ways of dealing with issues don’t always suffice. When the furore over their pricing of replica All Blacks jerseys on the domestic blew up in New Zealand the Adidas line of response was flawed, the unison they had with NZRU and the logic they needed to convey ‘together’ all got lost in the fray. It was an issue more about the cost than the price. The fallout there is that their brand and that of the NZRU have taken a hammering short term, but will rebound when the reality of their co-dependence dawns on the locals. At the end of the day the fans are committed to the team, and that will bear out whether they pay the price for jerseys that are higher in local markets happily or unhappily. In short - the team can’t survive without a Sponsor like Adidas. The price of a replica jersey here probably reflects that.
In the end – the team winning the Rugby World Cup will place a true value on a replica jersey – and determine the size of the market of fans who will want to buy and wear one.
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