I was privy to a very interesting discussion yesterday at a Wesleyan University Communications round-table. The conversation focused primarily on Wesleyan’s brand strategy and its use of social media.
The consensus around the table, from industry experts to web wannabe’s (read: me), was that the old process of developing a singular brand, targeting a specific audience, and shouting that brand through those channels that most efficiently reach that audience, is no longer relevant.
In a world where content creation is fully distributed and costs nothing, the notion that brands should try to ‘control the conversation’ – to the degree that it was ever truly possible – has become utterly unrealistic. Maintaining a one-size-fits-all brand is no longer possible – but more than that, it does not take full advantage of the strengths of the social web. Marketers have always known that word of mouth is the best form of advertising. The web has enabled word of mouth to an extent never before imagined!
Trying to find authenticity in a one-size-fits-all message is an oxymoronic exercise. For a place like Wesleyan, which prides itself on a liberal arts education that prepares its students for EVERYTHING, there should be no doubt about the fact that its brand means different things to different people.
Build an architecture for the conversation: enable your best thinkers, speakers and writers to engage with your prospective audience in their own way. Spend the time usually spent on ‘brand management’ interacting with your audience, solving problems, and debating what matters. I think we’ll find that the ‘authentic’ identity of Wesleyan will emerge along and above these myriad conversations.