Imagine a desert island occupied by no more than 20 people. They are living in their own little village. Over time, one of the inhabitants finds that their skill at tanning opossum skins is more and more valued, so others are willing to bring fish and breadfruits to the tanner. Over time, the tanner has a business. He’s literally raking in the clams.
The enterprise grows – perhaps the proprietor ends up hiring other villagers to join in the labor, or even his own family. A strategy is developed to grow – perhaps to bring the tanned opossum skins to other islands.
The man’s purpose is to make a living, to increase his wealth. It’s a very base purpose to have a business, but it’s his purpose, never the less.
Over time, the business world has grown — there are colleges for business, and magazines, and clubs, and all sorts of thinking going on around the idea of business. The thinkers come to the conclusion that a purpose like “increasing wealth” is just too primal — and gee, why should the customers care about whether you are becoming more wealthy or not? They like your opossum skins.
The world of business has matured — and those that adopt greater purpose in what they do can grow beyond the simple selling of commodities — they begin to trade in the realm of greater purpose. They develop brands — and those brands begin to take on more meaning than a name or logo.
It’s called brand equity. What is brand equity? It is when people identify with brands, and are willing to pay a premium, or be more loyal. Either way, the business that has a brand creates value where there was none before. They create a whole that is worth more than the constituent parts. There is value there beyond the value of the factories, the desks, and the contracts in place.
In order for an organization to define brand equity, it must possess a culture that supports that brand: a set of shared values. Values, vision, purpose, all of those big organizational development words really are important, after all. Sum it all up into a special spark of magic, and I call it the Brand’s Passion. The organization still exists to create wealth, but all of that other stuff has grown to a point where it has taken on its own life.
fast forward to social media
Now Opossum Skin Tanners Inc. has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, even a Pinterest.
This is their big opportunity to focus on their Brand Passion. The beautiful thing is, social media and Brand Passion go together like grits and butter, or avocados and toast.
People are happy to connect with you in that playground on shared passions. If you start to talk about your products, or your unique selling points, you’re just going to lose them.
Check out Coca-Cola’s Pinterest board. It’s an example of the company actively managing brand equity with social media. Sure, plenty of the images have a bottle of Coke in them, but the primary themes are things like, “be together,” “be active,” “be giving,” and “keep discovering.” We all love being together, and being active, and being caring. We’ll forgive the images of cola bottles.
In the process, Coca-Cola Company is increasing the value of their brand, thereby creating brand equity, by celebrating the underlying passion of the brand. They have succeeded in building a culture, with values, purpose, and vision.
Making money is important; we have to pay the electric bill. But it can’t be the main reason for being in business, and it most certainly can’t be the driving force of social media communications.