The Wiki is an endearing, but flawed concept. It is the idea that the majority is always right and the written more valuable than the verbal. Yet the Wiki, with its ability to democratize history and shopping may sometimes be wrong. High school students frequently discover this to their cost when quoting from Wikipedia believing everything written there to be accurate.
Wikipedia® is the prime embodiment of the Wiki in action. ‘Experts’ write stuff, and then others edit and augment it. Peculiar comments are highlighted in yellow by ‘moderators’, suggesting that an article needs references, or padding out, or substantiating in some way. That’s all well and good, but brand democratization doesn’t have this safety net.
Brand Democratization refers to the ways that customers define brands based upon their requirements, and experience as customers. Like Wikipedia the feedback is instant. Upset a customer and they will be on a forum, or be blogging, complaining about your company, product, or service. There are even specialist review websites that encourage this. Trip Adviser is a popular one where customers provide their reviews and rate holiday experiences.
Businesses can “position” themselves ‘whatever’, but unless they can deliver on their promise their wiki-status will implode overnight. Today everything is transparent, truly, no X-Ray specs needed.
Large companies sometimes sponsor philanthropic causes in order to demonstrate that they are socially responsible!
This trend has resulted in a rethink by a number of prominent brands, notably McDonalds. Larry Light, McDonalds’ Chief Global Marketing officer says: “Identifying one brand position, communicating it in a repetitive manner is old-fashioned, out of date, out of touch.”
But wait a minute, if you don’t position your company how do people know who you are? If you don’t possess a brand how can people identify with you? If you can’t put your toe in the water how will you create ripples?
Well, of course, you do tell your story. You do create a logo, even if it has to be one of those airy fairy ones made with colored smoke and children’s crayons. You create products, you blog, but most of all you behave decently and you deliver on your promises.
When Ernst & Young and McKinsey & Co. announced that the number of branding failures, many based on positioning exceeded 90% back in 2005 people were wrong to conclude that positioning kills brands.
The Internet has succeeded where, ‘Which’ the British consumer magazine struggled, by capturing imagination and led to a rise in consumer emancipation as far as knowing what products to buy, and what brands to trust. It’s good, isn’t it, that cigarette manufacturers can’t provide us with bogus research that claims that more doctors smoke this brand than the other fellow’s, or that shoe companies will no longer get away with producing premium priced products in galvanized iron sheds somewhere over the blue horizon?
But that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t make meaningful brand statements, or have a logo that is recognizable, or write advertisements exhorting the uniqueness of their offer. It simply means that they must be able to deliver.
Wikification is a godsend to intelligent business-people. It provides fast feedback on how products are perceived and how services are recognized. Improve your products and services based upon what customers say and your profitability will soar. It’s as simple as that.
Be the business that listens most to what customers are saying 😉