In the current special double issue of Newsweek magazine (3/26/12 and 4/2/12) celebrating Mad Men and the 1960s golden age of advertising, Nick Summers analyzes the tremendous changes in advertising due to social media (“Click This Ad Already!” pp. 58–64).  Summers states, “Regardless of where a piece of advertising appears, social media is now the place where consumers react. . . . For the first time, companies are no longer the sole owners of their own brands” (p. 61).

Summers well captures the heart of the relationship between social media and advertising.  Never in the past could consumers so directly, immediately, and pervasively speak back to advertisers.  Never before could consumers do this in an arena in which millions of people could eavesdrop.

One of the very positive outcomes of this evolution involves accountability.  In the past, companies could choose to ignore negative feedback.  I’m not saying they always did ignore negative feedback.  I am saying it was much easier to avoid and many did seem to take advantage of that convenient truth.

Today, in our 24/7 news cycle, online world, when a consumer speaks, everybody potentially is listening.  Companies have learned by hard experience they cannot afford to ignore online consumer feedback.  Their style, poise, and generosity in how they respond all add to or detract from their brand.  This is why Summers is correct in saying, “companies are no longer the sole owners of their brands.”

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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