Storytelling and Brand Resurrection in the Age of Social Media
Editor’s Note: One of the prizes of winning the MarketingSherpa Reader’s Choice Awards is the chance for a guest post here on the MarketingSherpa blog. Today’s post is by Cheryl Burgess of the Blue Focus Marketing blog, chosen as best social media marketing blog … by you.
With the recent announcement of the “new” MySpace — and with Justin Timberlake providing the public face of the redesign — the question on everyone’s minds is: Will it work? Can a social media platform that had been all but left for dead really resurrect its brand? Much has changed since the site’s heyday around 2006-2007, and many obituaries have been written for the flagging social media platform since the advent of cooler, more versatile and user-friendly platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Other more specialized social media platforms have also been introduced into the mix such as Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare, each offering users a deliberately limited—but engaging—social experience. Quite simply, there will be a lot more competition for MySpace this next time around, including the thriving platforms responsible for “poaching” the platform’s original users in the first place.
Why did MySpace fail the first time?
According to Mark Goulston in his Fast Company article “Why Did MySpace Fail?” MySpace may have been the first kid of the playground, so to speak, but it lacked the vision necessary to foster sustained success.
“What Apple and Facebook know and more specifically their founders/CEOs Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have in common is aspirational clarity,” Goulston says. “They appear to be able to see … into the future of what their market will not just want, but go ga-ga over and then they deliver it.”
As soon as other competitors arrived in the social space, MySpace wasn’t prepared to meet the challenge. The purchase of MySpace by News Corporation eventually led to what Chunka Mui of Forbes calls “corporate calcification.” More and more space on a user’s profile was being dedicated to advertisers, and even self-promoting users themselves — namely bands and other artists — began polluting the platform with unregulated spam. Perhaps the most visible change of all was the disappearance of Tom Anderson — affectionately known simply as “Tom” by MySpace users — who had largely been recognized as the human face and heart of the platform.
In essence, the brand failed to develop its story. It wasn’t enough that the platform had invited everyone to hang out together, it had to offer the users something to do, some sense of collaborative freedom that could keep the platform fun. This lack of storytelling vision eventually led to a mass exodus from the site as more users became jaded by their experience.
Resurrecting a brand
In an article for the San Francisco Chronicle, entrepreneur John Cerasni noted, “We have to remember that a brand that went away in the past went away for a reason. It may have been because it was a fad, or maybe it was just an unsustainable business model.” But does this mean that a brand can’t reinvent itself for a bold return? Recent history suggests that several brands have successfully resurrected their names and reinvigorated their brands.
Ultimately, a brand seeking to shed its past mistakes and forge ahead needs to examine its brand story to decide what connective elements should be carried forward, and what should be left behind. One good model to follow might be that of Lacoste, which endured branding issues alongside its partner company Izod in the 1980s that all but sank the business. Beginning in 2000, however, the brand slowly began to reclaim its image and its market share by telling the unique story of René Lacoste and the origin of the iconic crocodile logo.
Is it too soon?
In the social media era, the timetable has been greatly accelerated. MySpace never completely went away, though it hasn’t been considered an important player in the social realm since at least 2010. This was only two years ago, and people still remember the story of the brand’s fall from grace all too well.
The challenge for MySpace, then, will be to tell an entirely new story, one that proves the brand has learned from past mismanagement and is ready to step into the future with its users.
Some former users, upon hearing of the brand’s impending resurrection, are skeptical, but optimistic. As Hannah J. Davies, writing for the Guardian, says “MySpace, you had me at hello (again),” indicating her willingness to give the revamped platform another chance. However, with her tentative endorsement comes a warning: “Being blasé when it comes to allowing companies to own your platform and consequently to own us won’t make you seem credible. If you’re connecting creatives, then do it well.”
Davies’s sentiments echo one fundamental truth for social brands in the digital bazaar: be authentic, and offer something of value. If users sense that this brand resurrection is nothing more than a glossy veneer placed over the same old song and dance, this new campaign will be over before it started.
Dangers of rebranding:
What is a brand? (via Blue Focus Marketing)
Even My Dog Has a MySpace Account (published May 30, 2006)