Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Web scraping, mash-ups and the evolution of brand management – 1

Posted in Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on April 5, 2011

I have at least briefly touched on branding and brand management a number of times in this blog, some in Business Strategy and Operations (e.g. see When a Great Brand Creates Big Problems – lessons from Toyota) and more in Web 2.0 Marketing (e.g. see Web 2.0 Marketing – managing your brand and content while giving site visitors their genuine voice.)

A theme that I have been developing in these and in related postings is that brand management has had to change, and profoundly from the impact of the interactive web and web 2.0.

• In a central publishing, web 1.0 and standard print oriented universe where businesses and organizations do most all of the talking and the communities they would reach out to and market to primary just listen – and buy, brand management is largely a matter of developing and maintaining strict control of message and image.
• When everyone has a voice and an opportunity to be widely heard, and when the public consensus is that the multiple voicing from, as well as to the community is good all of this changes. Brand management becomes much more a matter of influence and of tracking messages and brand usage that derive from the outside to respond to it in conversation.

I have touched on aspects of these points a number of times but I wanted to bring them and the second observation in particular into clearer focus. That is my goal for this posting. I would do that by separately considering each of a range of brand and message sourcing and sharing possibilities, that in practice may all be going on at once and at any given time.

1. Your business develops and markets a brand or a suite of mutually supportive brands and you reach out to the marketplaces and communities you seek to engage with, through them. Members of these markets and communities come to recognize and respond to your branding and message and they demonstrate that from the level and type of marketplace activity they bring to you. This is the traditional, central publishing paradigm which will continue to be followed – just not exclusively and in some cases not necessarily predominantly or even significantly.
2. You start out with a central publishing initial-message and brand as above, and members of your customer base pick up on it and transmute what your share with them as they viral market out into their own communities. As a simple example of this consider McDonalds and the crowd-sourced and viral marketing-spread MickyDs (which goes by various spellings) as a popularly used brand identifier. This has become in practice, one of McDonalds’ standard brands.
3. This type of phenomenon arises off-line and through any and all online channels and it happens all the time – every time the people you and your business would reach out to, share their take on who you are and of your message with others as filtered through the lens of their own experience with you – and with your competition.

I have written at various times about online review sites like Yelp and about social media sharing through resources like Facebook walls and Twitter. I have cited social media tools like StumbleUpon where members of the community outside of your business create and share messages and even branding about your business and independently of your marketing campaigns. Much of this is directed towards your message branding as you source it, and in direct response to your presentation as to who you are as a business. But branding diffuses out in other ways too, and in ways that can even disconnect your value created from your business as an initial source, and your core brand from your business.

I include mashups and the approaches collectively called web scraping there, and with this blog in mind as a working example I also include third party syndication and content and message replication as well. I will start with that and with an example close to my own experience.

I know my blog is translated into several other languages because I have in at least some cases been asked for permission to do that – Russian and Korean come immediately to mind. This has come about in conjunction with positive interest and response to specific series I have posted. For Korean, that initially started with a series I have run, currently with 19 installments on online stores (see Online Store, Online Market Space as posted on Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 20-33, 35, 37, 40, 41 and 55.) I, in all probability only know of a fraction and perhaps even just a small fraction of instances where portions of my postings, entire postings, entire posting series or more are reused, and perhaps in English and perhaps in translation and by third parties who may or may not offer source attribution or include my Platt Perspective brand identification. If this can happen for a relatively minor business and technology blog like this, and I know it does, it is something that can and will happen for any online marketing business or organization. I have seen this happen with both for profit and nonprofit enterprises, and for both their online content and marketing message, and for their name-recognition and branding itself.

And this becomes more complex as brands and content are transmuted through parody or non-business use as happens when they are used in perhaps altered but still recognizable form in YouTube videos. These forms of re-usage may only incidentally be tapping into your marketing message and online content, and your brand for unrelated purposes but to the extend they are recognizably connectable back to your business, they become part of your overall crowd sourced marketing and communications. This makes them important to you too.

I am going to post a follow-up piece to this posting where I will focus on responding to this flow of perhaps supporting, perhaps competing message.

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