Jordan Julien offers a useful framework for branding through social media, suggesting 5 primary models brands can use for communicating with their customers via social media:
- Direct Communication: Occurs when a brand communicates its message directly to the audience.
- Communications Catalyst: Refers to a brand that encourages or provides the means of communication between two or more customers.
- Cooperative Communication: Is a type of participatory marketing, where the brand proactively participates with its audience.
- Participatory Definition: The opening of a brand to influence, or re-design by its audience.
- Brand Embodiment: Happens when an individual, or group of individuals, develop such a strong affinity for the brand that they will recommend it without being prompted. (Of course this also means, that if prompted they’ll recommend the brand, and also means that it’s their brand of choice.)
I think this is an especially useful way to help businesses manage expectations and recognize the risks and rewards of competing social media strategies. Everyone wants to achieve that Apple-level of Brand Embodiment, and sometimes products are so amazingly crafted – the perfect marriage of aesthetics and functionality – that the effect is almost automatic. However, it’s more likely that Brand Embodiment is achieved through a process that includes a transferral of trust from brand to customer, and vice versa. If these models are viewed as a hierarchical arrangement ordered by degree of risk (least to most), I think Brand Embodiment may be considered the culminating point of one’s ascendance up the ladder.