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Content 2.0: Can Brands Be Trusted?

By: NMK Created on: July 24th, 2006
Bookmark this article with: Delicious Digg StumbleUpon

Content 2.0's head-to-head debate on June 6th 2006 saw influential thinkers and strategists on marketing and branding Alan Moore and Shel Isreal discuss the reasons for brand mistrust and explore possible solutions...

Content 2.0 Head-to-head Debate: Can Brands Be Trusted?

Content 2.0's head-to-head debate on June 6th 2006 saw influential thinkers and strategists on marketing and branding Alan Moore and Shel Isreal discuss the reasons for brand mistrust and explore possible solutions...

Report Deirdre Molloy

[Register and post your own comments on this article below...]

Download this session from the Content 2.0 Podcasts!

Alan Moore CEO, SMLXL

We are a social species by design, Alan stated, and mobile communications especially allows us to go back to the social fundamentals. He spoke of the pro-Am (professional amateur) revolution, and curated consumption, referencing his key analogy that Companies Are From Mars & Customers Are From Venus. Alan cited Glen Urban of MIT who said that trust-based marketing is no longer relevant in the era of consumer empowerment, and this is a problem for brands.

Brands need to be life-enabling, life-simplifying and navigable, he continued. Its a different value exchange. Its about passion-based marketing and networked audiences. Michael Bayler commented that its a bloody tall order how do we make it happen and measure it all?

Shel Israel author, Naked Conversations

Shel said he disagreed with Alan only in regards to some things about the future. He then looked at Dell and asked how many people in the audience had ever owned a Dell computer [quite a few hands raised] and how many would be buying Dell in the future [practically none].

Shel explained that Dell has spent $25m on advertising but their popularity is declining. Media commentator and blogger Jeff Jarvis had a bad experience and discovered the Dell community of users chatting to each other online about Dells inadequacies, ie. people like me are telling me that Dell cant be trusted any more. They used branding to build a reputation over a decade but it all fell apart very quickly in a year or so.

It used to be that companies built company towns; now they build gated communities to create monopolies. But from the other side of the fence, we now have brand mash-ups.

Ford tried blogging about improving their cars for 3 or 4 years the engineers became the marketing guys
- Shel Isreal, Naked Conversations
Alan countered that it is also about belonging. He told the story of how the Tour de France was started up by a declining newspaper that came up with the idea and it became a massive financial success. The paradigm shift isnt just about new media and social media, but also socio-economic shifts. Lego might not open their blogs tomorrow but they might open them sooner rather than later.

Shel commented that he trusted people like himself. They can even send me irrelevant products and Ill still trust them, he said. Ford tried blogging about improving their cars for 3 or 4 years, and you could follow them trying to make the engines better and accelerate faster. The engineers became the marketing guys.
We will create the reputation, not the brands themselves
- Sam Sethi, BT Web Services
Sam Sethi raised the potential of microformats (Wikipedia entry), whereby you can attach reviews, ratings and recommendations to brands so we will create the reputation, not the brands themselves.

Michael Bayler spoke of the [very interesting notion] of the brand as an aggregate of people like me. Marc Canter countered that you can buy trust just take your marketing budget, hire some hackers and give away the code for free.

Alex Barnett cited the case of Richard Edelman hiring A-list blogger Steve Rubel as Edelman PRs chief blogging consultant, but Shel countered that PR are ranked just below lawyers in the trust ecosphere. Managers and marketers might like to keep techies away from the frontline, but technologists are among the most trusted disciplines.

Alan Moore described how Bob Lutz is leading laterally within the organization at GM Motors by being so transparent. This reveals a different window on a company and a brand, like Scoble [did] at Microsoft.
Web 2.0 makes trust a two-way process, so its not just about what brands do you trust - companies and brands have to start trusting customers
- Miko Coffey, NESTA

Shel reasoned that marketing has such a bad rep because they keep shovelling crap out the door and calling it quality. Alan cited Rory Sutherland at Ogilvy, who is part of the Boeing open source development and feedback community. Compare TV ads and peer-to-peer recommendations who do you trust and which is cheaper, Alan asked.

All this underscores the need to listen to communities, Alan said, and blogging and social media allows brands to hear incredible feedback. HBO built all their online sites off the back of community platforms, and have been developing the script of The Sopranos on the basis of what the top 150 Sopranos commentators say. Mini are also very involved in listening to their customers and their conversations.

Last comments came from the audience, with the delegate from the Science Museum observing that it was difficult getting marketing to stop wanting roll-up posters and realise the incredible value of social media. Miko Coffey of NESTA said Web 2.0 makes trust a two-way process, so its not just about what brands do you trust - companies and brands have to start trusting customers.

Content 2.0 - 2006 conference website:

About Alan Moore:
Alan is CEO of SMLXL and co-author of the acclaimed book Communities Dominate Brands (Futuretext, 2005) with Tomi Ahonen. As a creative business and brand strategist, Alan has consulted for a range of global businesses and brands throughout his 16 year career, including the Coca Cola Company, Saab, Nokia, H&M, and Diageo. SMLXL produce cross-platform communication strategies and campaigns, operating at the intersection of business strategy, interactive technology, and media and marketing communications. He has also written a series of articles: From Customer to Community, The Story Of Mobile Versus TV, and Digital Immigrant Or Digital Native? for NMK.

About Shel Israel:
Shel Israel writes, speaks and consults on blogging, innovation and communications for an occasional living. He has recently completed the book Naked Conversations - how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers,' with the legendary Robert Scoble as co-author (Wiley--January 2006). Shel describes himself as a "recovering publicist". He used to own a PR agency specializing in tech startups, and was involved in the initial launches of Sun Microsystems, PowerPoint, Filemaker, SoundBlaster, Napster, MapInfo, Virtual Vineyards and quite a few others.


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Content 2.0: Folksonomies - What Are They Good For?

Content 2.0: Search & Enjoy Forum

Content 2.0: The Invisible Culture

Beers & Innovation (music special) @ Content 2.0


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