I just wrapped up my five-hour return flight from New York back to beautiful San Diego, and as a result of having the time, I thoroughly enjoyed what I understand to be my last issue of Condé Nast's Portfolio magazine. I feel sad, yet somewhat responsible for its demise. I have enjoyed each of the several issues I've received and now realize that while I may have mentioned an article to someone from time to time, I have never really advocated for the product.
I feel even worse now that this resource is going away; I needed to do something if I wanted to keep it. As a consumer, I intend to make a change; I have both the power as well as the duty.
There is a new obligation for us now that social media has transferred ownership of brands to consumers. We now have a forum for our voices in social media such that, if we like something, we need to speak up. We can't rely on companies and brands to exclusively represent themselves anymore, because collectively we don't believe them right now.
The timing couldn't be better for this promotional transition, since corporate reputations have been tarnished by the recent exposure of their decision-making. They have lost the consumer's faith by preying on them like hunters, rather than selling to them as marketers. This tactic has rapidly changed. Consumers can now express their opinions through a passive, yet interactive, democratic device called social media.
While I don't think this general distrust is permanent, we're in a transition period, and companies must earn back our trust, whether or not they were directly responsible for any of this. They can earn back our trust by embracing the feedback movement, listening and publicly responding to customers, being transparent, and respecting employees whether or not anyone is looking and being consistent. Hey, it hurts us more than it hurts you, but we still love you… Well, most of you.
The message I have for consumers is: If you love something, tell people about it. If you want brands, products and companies to survive, beyond supporting them by buying from them, you have to do more. Become a raving fan using social media to disseminate your message. Let people know who you are to provide context, what you like and why you like it. Beyond the products you like, you can cite excellent service you've experienced, or even management you support.
The converse is also available. When you don't like something or disagree, embrace the democracy of social media and communicate your displeasure. Don't use social media, however, in a vengeful way, as it will damage its long-term viability just as some of the heavy-handed practices of corporations damaged theirs. If you find that middle ground, you'll find that the world becomes a lot smaller and supportive as others agree and disagree publicly.
The social media movement can affect real transition in marketing practices because many companies are finally listening and have the intent to change. Give them the information they need and, if they don't respond (not necessarily directly), then they may go the way of the financial behemoths who -- to borrow a line from Jesse Eisinger in his Portfolio magazine article -- "are acting like amputees who can still feel their phantom limbs" and "acting like nothing has changed."
And, please don't take away my Mental Floss magazine. It feeds my need for useless trivia answers and fills obscure corners of my memory with interesting facts, figures, irony, and history. Try it and tell everyone what you think.