Stakeholder focus is the new era of branding

“The social interaction is global. If you don’t like a service, post it on twitter”-  Egon Lüftenegger

The branding has evolved to a stakeholder view of the brand. It’s not focused only on the customer, but in all stakeholders. “The brand value co-creation process is a continuous, social, and highly dynamic and interactive process between the firm, the brand, and all stakeholders” is how the branding works in the Stakeholder-Focus Brand Era (Merz, 2009).

This is evolution of the brand, it’s a natural consequence of the evolution of the business. The business focus is not in the firm anymore, is in the network.The strategy is focused in the role of the firm in the business network. The brand is now in a network environment where all stakeholders co-create it.

Today, the brand is co-created on the Web. Social interactions reached global scale powered by services like Facebook or Twitter, where it’s easier to build the cult or the disappointment of the brand. These tools, specially Twitter, due to the openness of the way the interaction flow, facilitate the discussion. The social interaction is global. If you don’t like a service, post it on twitter. Firms are using that information to be aware of what the community among other stakeholders are saying about their brand.

Figure 1 – The cult of mac is a book about the strong mac community of Apple.

The most illustrative case in this branding era is Apple, the company that have the cult on mac ( Fig 1) , the cult on ipod and most recently the cult of iPhone. Their stakeholders includes software developers, universities, partners, product owners and communities of bloggers and fans that not necessary own the product but want to own one (just look that dell laptop with a Apple sticker of your office mate ). All these stakeholders dynamically co-create the apple brand, driven by social interactions (Fig.2).

Figure 2 – In the diagram we can see the firm and some stakeholders* (to simplify it) interacting, Google is a developer, TechCrunch is a blog, Apple fans is a community in Facebook and Twitter is a social platform where conversations and opinions take place. All of them are co-creating the brand in this continuous, social, and highly dynamic and interactive process

The speed and reach that modern social interactions provide to the stakeholders could be used to co-create the erosion of the brand. The recent issue on the Google voice application being rejected by the apple store is clearly stakeholder brand damage. That issue caused the reaction of community leaders, like the founder of TechCrunch blog, who leaved the cult of mac, quitting the iPhone in favor to an Android based phone to use actively Google Voice, co-creating branding value for Google Android instead of the iPhone.

Apple is a stakeholder co-created brand with much more followers than detractors in the community. The Google voice incident shows us how the community react to incidents that are seen as unfair. Specially when the stakeholder, the software developer in this case, is another powerful co-created brand like Google.

(Merz, 2009) Merz, Michael A., Yi He, and Stephen L. Vargo (2009), “The evolving brand logic: a service-dominant logic perspective”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

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