Brands : Beyond the Five Eras of the Social Web

About a month ago, Jeremiah Owyang posted his views, as a Forrester analyst, on the evolution on the Web, providing us with an insightful vision of how brands and customers will expect from each other in the near future.

From a branding point of view, I think that Jeremiah missed a point: brands, the most successful and noticeable ones at least, aren’t just products and customers; they support and express a vision. The spreading of this vision itself in the Web will have a tremendous impact on the interaction between consumers and companies. Let’s call this evolution the Era of Social Responsibility.

We are not consumers, we are people

The relationship between brands and customers did change a lot for a few years. Environmental concerns, corporate social responsibility and other ethical subjects are now involved in day-to-day consumer choice. A recent survey from French agency Ethicity shows that only 37% of consumers trust companies, and 69% of them changed their consumption habits toward Sustainable Development during the last twelve months. To restore trust, companies not only will have to engage more with customers, but to directly address these concerns.

Brands dissolution?

In the fifth Era depicted by Jeremiah, the Era of Social Commerce, products and services will be defined and designed by communities, and some early examples of this attitude already exist (have a look to Crowdsourcing blog for some). In such a world, brands will need to share and emphasize on other parts of their DNA than products to avoid dissolution. They will have to share and herald a vision, their vision, and set the interaction at a higher level.

Social responsibility

Companies have now an important role to play around societal concerns, as more and more people are asking for that. In the social media space, brands cannot afford to be evasive about these subjects anymore. While enticing them to keep some valuable influence among consumers and to recover trust, engaging with communities in a responsible and active approach will also enable them to positively shape the future, the way people already want them to. Not to disappear in the evolution of the Web, brands are bound to succeed.

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