Is Social Media is the new “Invisible Hand”?

Brand LeadershipWell, today is a picture perfect weather day.  Sunny, which is rare, no humidity even rarer this spring, and likely 80 degrees.  It’s a sunday, a lazy one after a few tough weeks of work.  I feel like it’s a rejuvenation day. where we can shut down our brain.  That’s why I’ve picked the geekiest of topics to write about comparing an 18th century economist in Adam Smith with the modern-day world of Social Media.

The Original “Invisible Hand”

The concept of Adam’s Smith’s “Invisible Hand”  can be summarized to say that the individuals’ efforts to maximize their own gains in a free market benefits society, even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions.  In economics, the “invisible hand” of the market is the term economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace. This is a metaphor first coined by the economist Adam Smith. 529423_272713376142007_1735862437_nThe exact phrase is used just three times in his writings, but has come to capture his important claim that by trying to maximize their own gains in a free market, individual ambition benefits society, even if the ambitious have no benevolent intentions. My economics professor once said “economics is the practice of proving what happens in real life can also happen in theory”.  I love that line.  So how we as marketers spin the invisible hand is that we have to know that consumers are greedy, and if we satisfy that greed better than others, our brand will be more powerful and more profitable.

Consumers have the right to be greedy because they have money and options for how to spend that money.  Like Gordon Ghekko said “GREED IS GOOD”.  It’s this greed and the ability of some brands to satisfy that greed better than other brands which separates “likeable” brands from “beloved” brands.  As a marketer, I think greed helps you understand the needs of the customer, it forces you to rise and meet their expectations and it pushes you to beat your competitor for that almighty dollar the consumer could use on either you or them.  Fight for it.

Is Social Media the new “Invisible Hand”?

Over the last 5-10 years, Social Media has been the obvious marketing phenomena.  But do we fully understand it yet?  For most Brand Leaders, it still seems hit and miss.  I mean some of the leading cooler brands like Coke, Nike, Starbucks and Whole Foods are doing an amazing job.  But we see others not doing so well.  Arguably if Facebook hasn’t even figured out how to fully monetize itself, then how would Brand Leaders be able to figure it out.

The “invisible hand” of social media is actually hard to explain.  Just like it took Adam Smith 20= years of research, it might be the same for social media.  By no means am I a social media expert guru.  I’m as confused as the rest.  But what I do preach is the more love you can generate for your brand, the more power you can command and then you can turn that power in profit.Slide1

So my new message to every brand leader, if you want to be loved, you need to engage.  You need to be telling your story, your purpose, your passion and do so in a way that the consumer know you are genuine.  if you have no voice then you give control of you brand to the consumer.  We have seen so many bad cases like Motrin or Kitchen Aid to see what happens when a brand loses control.

Take someone like Whole Foods who has an amazing brand.  They use Twitter to perfection, offering constant recipes and engaging with their most loyal of consumers.  They don’t have any real off-line advertising.  All the energy is generated through on-line word of mouth.   Starbucks, a brand built on word of mouth seemed confused by social media a few years ago has now picked up tremendous steam the last year to where they are also a huge success story. And Apple does such an amazing job they get 2.5 billion of free media a year.

Brand Leaders View of Social Media

A few thoughts from one brand leader to another. Forget all the social media experts just for one minute.  We can approach them once we figure things out.  So here goes:

  1. Your media choice has to be influenced by your brand strategy.  This was true in 1920 when we only had print and signs.   It’s still true now that we have 3,000 media options.  You don’t just randomly select activities.  What other part of your life do you do that?   So then why would you do it in marketing.  Let the tactics match up to the strategy, not just do a bunch of random activities and then try to write a strategy to it.Slide1
  2. Media Plans should also map out the life of your consumer and the media choices be driven by where the consumer is, not where the media is.  A great day in the life analysis has always helped find where to interrupt your consumer with your message.   If you knew that the consumer was awake for 16 hours a day and sees 6,000 messages each day, that means we see a new message every 10 seconds.  Which 10 seconds do you think would be the best of the day for you?Slide1
  3. Don’t put out crap.  Please don’t. Please hire a professional to help you.  It seems people are in more of a rush than ever to put stuff out.  But sometimes when you go too fast, it takes longer.   Please do a strategic creative brief.  Give the creative people enough time to do great work.  If you are going to get into story telling, you should have a purpose driven strategy at the anchor.  You should really know why you come to work every day and once you do, bring that purpose into all your stories you tell.  The “why” is such a powerful message.
  4. Be Interesting, but equally you should be interested.  If you’re going to engage with consumers, don’t just talk about yourself.  Ask them questions that get them talking about themselves.   Instead of serving up what you do constantly, speak in the voice of the consumer and tell them what they get.   No one cares what you do until you care about what they get.
  5. You need to focus.  A brands resources are confined by money, time and people. That’s still true.  Social Media IS NOT free.  Because it takes time and it takes people resources to do it right.   You don’t have to be on Facebook because your nephew thinks you’re a loser.  You should be on it because it’s where your consumer is likely to be motivated the most to engage with your consumer.  Focus on those social media options that most make sense for your brand. 

Now, and only now should you go approach a social media “expert” who will help you figure out how to translate your brand strategy at the social media area, who will map out where your consumer is so you know where/when and how to interact with them.  Make sure you put out quality still.   Crap is always crap.  If you’re going to tell stories and engage, then make sure it’s from the heart.  Honestly means knowing your real purpose of why you chose this business and the struggles you went through.  And finally, I want you to focus.  I know I sound like a broken record.  But if you focus on every other part of your life, then why when it comes to marketing do you all of a sudden thing “it’s ok to cover everything”.   When the discipline of marketing is all about focus.

If you want your brand to be loved, then you have to be engaged in Social Media.  If you are not involved in the conversation about your brand, you’re giving up control to the pack.  And who knows what they’ll say.  

Social Media is more likely the “Invisible Voice” we can’t always hear, but we better start realizing it is there and engaging our own voice.

Follow me on Twitter at @grayrobertson1

Here’s a presentation that can help Brand Leaders to get better Media Plans.  

Other Stories You Might Like
  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits


Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

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About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at so we can stay connected.


One thought on “Is Social Media is the new “Invisible Hand”?

  1. Great article. One thing I would have liked to see is examples. Maybe next time?
    David White
    copywriter turned ad recruiter

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