The biggest lesson for any marketer – or any leader, for that matter – is that we no longer have control. We demonstrated this in a very radical way when we launched our current brand.
The reasoning was sound: by choosing a catchy, short phrase and putting a # in front of it, we instantly turned it into a search term in Twitter that others could tap into.
Our research was pretty easy: see what was already happening on the #sy hashtag. Not much, as it turned out – and we were monitoring it for about a month. The only common thread was references to Sonic Youth … not a bad brand association.
Then, about two days before launch, we started getting the weather report from Damascus. Why? Damascus is the capital of Syria … or for short, #SY.
That’s okay. We can share the weather. We even tried to make conversation, but the weather forecaster wasn’t interested.
But as time has gone on, we have met some of the stupidest people I have ever come across. People who tweet foul jokes about sex, but can’t bring themselves to spell the word “pussy”. Instead … you guessed it, p##sy.
If you know me, you know I’m pretty easy going and will roll with the punches. But as the launch faded and we weren’t using the hashtag, and others were (to misspell “pussy”!) it was less and less a reflection of our brand, and more an embarrassment.
So without any fanfare, we’ve quietly dropped the # from sy. There are lessons for every brand here, we just made them very tangible. Here are some of those lessons:
- Possession really is nine tenths of the law. Perhaps even 9.5. Trademarks and patents are okay, but unless you’re actively using “your” IP, it’s up for grabs in the public perception.
- Your brand is what others say it is (especially online). Even if they’re not referring to you! Google (and Twitter search) doesn’t yet know the difference between a social media consultancy and a middle eastern country.
- Your brand is in many places. We’re still finding the # in places we didn’t expect. There are so many places to be listed, which is great for search engine optimisation, but no fun when you have to update everything.
- Facebook doesn’t let you change your company name on your Facebook page. Which is really ridiculous.