Your customers own the brand, whether you like it or not. Facebook’s “Fan Pages” are mis-named, considering that they’re controlled by the company or the brand, not the actual Fans.
Facebook has finally acknowledged this with its new Community Pages, the natural evolution of the [company-controlled] Fan Page. Once a Community Page reaches a critical mass, the creator/founder is no longer in charge.
Fifty years ago, marketing was all about one-way “we tell you what to do” advertising. Customers today want to talk about products they like (or hate) without the company or an ad agency as a meddling intermediary. As Nestle saw, running your Facebook Fan Page with an iron fist can cause a big backlash.
If you’re a brand manager or a product manager, you don’t really “own” your brand. Think about brands with a cult following, like Apple, Cheerwine, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, In-N-Out, and (if you live in the St. Louis area) Dad’s Cookie Company. If you’re a brand manager at In-N-Out, there’s only so much you can do. Customers love your restaurants because the secret menu and other features turn “let’s get something to eat” into a special experience, not because you did this or that as you executed your marketing plan.
Some companies are more enlightened than others. At a recent American Marketing Association meeting in North Carolina, Cheerwine marketer Tom Barbitta shared how a fan created CheerwineFinder.com, a website to locate the hard-to-find cherry soda that’s a cult favorite in North Carolina. The company doesn’t run or control the site but do they let it operate at arm’s length. If you were a ball-bearing manufacturer, wouldn’t you be happy if your customers cared enough to create a “BallBearingFinder.com” website?
What do you think about the Facebook Community Pages? Are they part of this natural evolution toward decentralized and democratized marketing, or is something else going on? Should companies be scared or relieved?