The New Democracy of Social Media

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Just the other day I read a statement by David Hughes, director of e-commerce at Marks & Spencer: „..the customer trusts the reviews more than the brand.“ Wow what a statement if you think about it. But what does that mean for brands? Are they becoming less important?

Brands usually serve as lighthouses. In the jungle of oversupply, businesses have to invest greatly into marketing and branding in order to make their products stand out from the rest. Usually it was like this: if your brand was not strong enough your quality was sometimes of no importance to the affluent consumer. The price tag provided the orientation. High price equals high quality. Low price must be low quality. Although strong trade brands by Aldi, WalMart, etc proved the opposite this was still a truism for many consumers.

Social media now further changes the game. A cheap DVD player may get better and more user reviews than the expensive alternative. Thus there seem to be new opportunities for economic brands: if their quality is convincing, their product features meet the consumer’s expectation and the consumer really has the impression to have made a good deal you are all set to be successful. This list sound familiar? Indeed: these are the ingredients for strong word-of-mouth. Why talk about a 200 dollar dvd player that is none the better than any other model? But if there is one model out there that offers the same features and decent quality for 100 dollars – that is something your friends might be interested in.

In the overall look, this is one manifestation of the new democracy provided by social media. You brands out there better prepare! You can no longer hide behind your brand image! Bad quality will be unveiled faster than you think with more reach than you might expect.

Opel to change its claim – once again…

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Amidst all the confusion about the future of Opel, the marketing experts of Interbrand have been asked to develop a new claim for the shaken automaker Opel. According to today’s article on, the new claim was inspired by the shirts Opel workers used to wear while protesting for a soon and satisfying concept for Opel. „We live cars“ may see its official debut at the IAA in Frankfurt which will open its gates on September, 17. The new claim is expected to be accompanied by a remake of the Opel Blitz brand mark.

I argue that claims should show the same consistency as the brand as a whole. Too many quick and not well thought of changes weaken a brand’s perception in the eyes of the consumer. In the ideal long-run marketing strategy all is in line: The logo, the claim and the values a product represents. BMW for example has only slightly changed its logo over the years, and for centuries, driving pleasure has remained the central element of any BMW communication. The same consistency can be found in their cars: Whether a 635 CSI, a 2002, or the latest X1, sportiness and pleasure are still central facets of the BMW brand.

To me personally, Opel represents German automobile history. Not in the negative sense. There is still a lot of sympathy for this brand. And in recent times, this has been paired with fair value and decent quality. With the Opel Insignia and the new Astra, asthetic design also returned, and paved the way for a new generation of Opels. Given, there will we one.

As it looks now, GM has discovered that within its corporation Opel is a diamond in the rough that might also lay the foundation for a GM future. But I am convinced many people at Opel are tired of the ignorant and self-aggrandizing GM managers…

The dream: Let Opel take over GM and clean up this American mess of a carmaker.

Link to the cited ftd article: