I happened to catch a performance of "A Christmas Carol" the other night at The Little Theater of Alexandria.
While this year marks the 170th anniversary of the publication of Charles Dickens' famous novella, I was struck by the profoundness of these words from Director Rebecca Patton regarding the evening's performance: "The more things change, the more they stay the same!"
The play began with people from Ebeneezer Scrooge's community milling about on a London street during the early Victorian era. They were talking about Mr. Scrooge, his cold and selfish ways, and his counting business. As the next scene unfolded in the office of Scrooge and Marley, it was apparent Mr. Scrooge was unaware of or could care less about what people were saying. What they were talking about, however, undoubtedly had an obvious impact on the reputation of Mr. Scrooge and his brand.
If this story were to unfold today, people would still be talking about these same things. What would change are the media over which these conversations are taking place. Sure, people would be talking in the streets. They would also be talking over social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs and online review sites. The more things change, the more they stay the same!
When people talk on social media, their conversations are amplified. They have greater reach. And what they are saying has greater influence on brand reputations and purchase decisions than anything a brand might say on its own.
Yet there are brands who, like Mr. Scrooge, are seemingly unaware of or could care less about what people are saying about them on social media. They hold steadfast to the outdated maxims of traditional marketing (where communications are one-way and initiated by the brand) and are reticient to embrace the power of social media marketing (where conversations are two-way, interactive and engaging).
As we saw in "A Christmas Carol," it was not too late for Mr. Scrooge to change his ways. Perhaps this year, some of these brands will have an epiphany like Mr. Scrooge's – maybe from the 'ghosts of marketing past, present and future' – and will discover the power of social media marketing. It's not too late for them to change, either.
For more insights on marketing and leadership lessons we can draw from the holiday classics, please see:
• Reputation Management: Six Things Brands Can Learn from George Bailey
• What Ebeneezer Scrooge Would Like Us to Know About Organizational Culture