INFOCUS

Introduction

If you manage a brand of any importance, it is highly likely that the Wikipedia page pertaining to your brand is in the top search results at all the major search engines.

In April 2007, I studied the top 100 brands identified in the well-reputed Business Week list. Brand-related Wikipedia pages ranked an average of four on Google searches and five on Yahoo searches. This high visibility coupled with the aura of objectivity and authority that Wikipedia pages exude can mess up your online brand strategy.

Brand websites exist to build and reinforce a carefully crafted brand message, create a vivid brand personality, educate consumers about product benefits, build brand affinity, increase consumption and facilitate the creation of a brand community. Wikipedia pages have the potential to screw up the message and muddy the brand image that firms meticulously try to construct online. 

Author notes: Sandeep Krishnamurthy is associate professor of e-commerce and marketing at University of Washington, Bothell. Read full bio.

 

Comments

Changho Oh
Changho Oh July 17, 2007 at 5:40 AM

good articles !

Alastair Pinkney
Alastair Pinkney July 12, 2007 at 10:01 AM

Marketers don't need to fear Wikipedia they just need to be aware about what's being said about their brands. Brand activists are alive and well and driving all the Wikis, Blogs you care to mention some that you may not know about - yet. Brand Activism/Vandalism is something brands should engage with rather than avoid - its something that Brands have tried to do here in the UK and the results have been remarkable.

Bill Balderaz
Bill Balderaz July 12, 2007 at 8:57 AM

I read this article and “10 Reasons Brands Should Think Like Publishers” and found a clear connection. Knowing, monitoring and “fearing” your Wiki is one step in companies and brands addressing user generated content. Embracing that content, and participating in the community, seems to be the logical second step. I'm part of a team that is working to make the site www.manta.com become what some members of our team describes “Wikipedia Meets Wall Street." Many of the drivers in Manta's development are addressed in these two iMedia articles. Manta has a company page on nearly every company in the US, public and private, and many international companies--45 million companies are profiled today. The site also has about 5 million site visitors per month. In June we started allowing our visitors to "Wiki" the company profiles. Now we have every one from company CEOs to customers adding and modifying company information on the site. The participation level has been great. Just the numbers are staggering.... 5 million people can talk about 45 million companies. Our lesson? There's a natural tendency for people to want to talk about companies and brands and a company is well advised to not just monitor these communities, but to be a part of them.

Thomas 2.0
Thomas 2.0 July 11, 2007 at 5:13 PM

Mr. Krishnamurthy is certainly correct that Wiki, and other Web tech, is a threat to a tightly controlled, top-down branding campaign. If brand managers aren't monitering not just Wiki, but consumer blogs, MySpace, etc, then they're employing a hopelessly, if recently, outdated approach to brand managment. The problem is the premise that any company should be crafting a tightly controlled, top-down branding campaign in the first place. To be sure, brands will seed and shepherd their message, but successful brands will be successful insofar as they partner with the consumer in crafting their message, and even their product. See Apple's iPhone . . . the biggest complaint is that the iPhone is locked into a contract with the generally reviled AT&T . . . and tech Geeks worldwide are collaborating to "unlock" the phone. That a company can release a flawed product, to much fanfare, and immediately have critics working to "fix" the flaws (otherwise known as hacking, I know), is really as good a sign of things to come as anyone can ask. If anyone's interested, I've written more about branding, in general and with regards to Apple, at http://www.furniturestyle.com/Departments/EtcPage/tabid/80/Default.aspx?tid=1&ContentID=1119

Alex Halavais
Alex Halavais July 11, 2007 at 4:42 PM

Unlike those who have commented, I don't find this particularly alarmist. A couple of things though: * If you do issue a press release (or whitepaper, etc.), you should link that from the Wikipedia page. Although there is a strong bias against professional communicators (i.e., PR folks, etc.) affecting the articles, the clear path suggested by Wikipedia is publishing a statement and linking to it from the page. * You provide cases of Wikipedia causing problems for brands, but surely one of the most dire was the Microsoft episode: trying to shape the articles--especially if done covertly--can backfire.

Ben Elowitz
Ben Elowitz July 11, 2007 at 12:27 PM

Sandeep, you may be right that firms meticulously **try** to construct their brand image online [emphasis mine], but succeeding is a whole different story. Marketers need to face the facts: your brand is what consumers think it is. In fact, your consumers have as loud a voice online in your brand image as you do, like it or not. Instead of fearing Wikipedia and its other online brethrens like wikis, blogs, and message boards, brands should be spending more time being proactive. Engage your community and truly participate in the conversation. Those that do so are rewarded with loyalty, feedback, insights they couldn’t have gotten otherwise -- and that positive regard spreads like wildfire from one connected consumer to the next.

Joseph Carrabis
Joseph Carrabis July 11, 2007 at 10:26 AM

Hello, I think there is good information in here and I also agree with Mr. Mendolera's comment that "fear" is a bit alarmist. The case studies presented here are new to me and the message of the article is not. I've been in similar discussions with people before. I'm not sure a long-lived brand should be alarmed, only aware. A new brand, on the other hand, perhaps should be both. Just my thoughts. Something else to research in my copious free time... - Joseph

Matt Mendolera
Matt Mendolera July 11, 2007 at 8:00 AM

While I appreciate the case studies presented and the tips at the end, I'm a little put-off by the notion that marketers should "fear" sites like Wikipedia. As I state here, wikis present a lot of opportunities to marketing and PR professionals. Sometimes, a loss of control is a good thing.