Monday, May 25, 2009

Social Media Myth #3: Why Change?

I've talked about two other social media myths here and here. My third Social Media Myth is based on the train of thought that if my brand has been successful for the last 30 years doing advertising the way we do, then why change.

The problem with this logic is that the last 30 years have no relevance whatsoever to what will happen over the next 30 years. It ignores all the factors that can drastically impact your business - like technology, public opinion, common sense, global governments, economics and competition.

In GM's glory days of the 1950's, revolutionary auto designer Harvey Earl warned that people, although still buying behemoth's for cars, were starting to take interest in the smaller cars offered by foreign (not yet established) competitors. The public opinion was shifting. Harvey was ignored - GM had been on a growth blitz for over 20 years dominating the market place selling well over 50% of cars in the U.S. Why change? People were still buying big. They were established. They owned the market. I don't need to finish this story as the downhill slide is a favorite topic in the media. Similar examples can be found in the music/record label business, your regional newspaper mix and the U.S banking industry.

Okay, so those examples are beyond the scale of your organization. Let's try something else.

There is a whole generation of people about to enroll in university who have been online their entire lives. They never used a rotary phone, owned a record/eight track/tape/CD collection, and can text message quicker than they can call a friend. They are currently a low value consumer. Meanwhile, your primary loyal consumer base is aging and shifting their spending to match their fixed income retired lifestyle. You know them well. Their loyalty is social across their generation. Delivering on one good promise set you up for a lifetime of loyal spending. However each subsequent generation of people is less loyal. Less loyal and louder. Delivering on one promise isn't enough. They can be in love with your brand but one bad experience and they are gone. Plus that slip up will be video taped, photographed or transcribed online and archived forever. You don't get credit like you used to. You blame 'that target market'. You focus your money and attention on the dying consumer instead. Meanwhile a competitor realizes that loyalty comes at a higher price. They change their communication model. They shift their culture to embrace the criticism and react. They win.

This social media myth is the most poisonous. Not just because it ignores the opportunity that comes from talking to people who will pay your salary (and make your shareholders happy) but because it reflects a far worse, underlying problem in corporate culture.