Tech4Africa

Web brands just as important

2010-08-13 15:06
Brand expert Alex Hunter has said that internet brands are just as important as “real world” brands. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Brand expert Alex Hunter has said that internet brands are just as important as “real world” brands. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Information wars begin - expert
Information wars begin - expert

The expansion of the internet in developing countries and the resistance by governments signals the start of the information wars, an expert says.

Johannesburg – Internet brands are just as important as “real world” brands, despite the difficulties that web-based companies face, says brand expert Alex Hunter.

“Brand value is extended through every touch point with the consumer – from the interaction in the store, to how the receptionist answers the phone,” Hunter told News24 at the Tech4Africa conference.

He contradicted the popular wisdom in allowing employees to engage with social networking sites.

“Companies do well to allow their employees to engage with social networking sites and message boards because people see that engagement happening in the public space and they go, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ and it makes the company more accessible and increases its brand,” Hunter said.

“When you tackle a problem head on in public, and you are upfront about the problem, people respect that,” he added.

Legacy of quality

He cited the examples of Toyota and Apple who have come under fire recently for build quality issues.

“I think that both Toyota and Apple handled the situation reasonably well. Apple said: ‘We’re the biggest and other smart phones also have problems. This is what we’re going to do to fix it.’ Toyota has a legacy of quality and if their problems had happened to an American manufacturer, the fallout would have been a lot worse,” said Hunter.

He said that companies have to be transparent about their business and allow interaction to build their brands, but be aware that the brand isn’t just the “name and logo”.

Hunter had critical words for Cell C in their recent customer service campaign.

“What a terrible Cell C campaign. When I first heard about it, I thought the first part was funny, but one thing they overlooked is that in today’s world of high speed communications, you’re going to get found out.

“The painful irony for me was that I thought the first part was nice; the follow-on was funny, but the part in the middle caused a huge amount of brand damage. On the plus side, it’s a pain-in-the-ass to switch your number and I can’t see that lots of people will change from Cell C and a year from now, I doubt whether many will even remember it,” Hunter said.

Hunter said that there was a fundamental difference between online and “real-world” brands, but smaller brands were nimble enough to move quickly.

Personal brands

“You can’t compare Facebook and Coca-Cola because Facebook can’t quench my thirst, but smaller, nimble brands have had to innovate and the internet make the cost of entry lower, which also makes the cost of competition lower,” Hunter said, but he warned against companies who looked to quick fix solutions.

“I’d like to say to companies that if you think that social media is going to save your business, you should punch yourself in the face. Quality in important,” he said.

While he said that the playing field was levelled in terms of brands, he was cautious when questioned about personal brands.

“You’ve always had people who have had massive personal brands, and that’s great for companies, but it’s troubling if the personal brand is bigger than the company brand. Can anyone name all the Coke CEOs of the 20th century? What happens when Steve Jobs leaves Apple?” he said.

He said though, that ideally, the personal brand and corporate brand should mix and that a great personal brand would then be a plus to whatever company that person would work for.

The Tech4Africa conference ends on Friday, and you can follow the News24 Tech4Africa blog here.


- Follow Duncan on Twitter

 

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