I attended a last second panel addition titled “Branding without B.S.: Building Social Media-Proof Brands”. This session featured experts from some of Austin’s top brands including Bobby Johns (Hotel San Jose), Henri Mazza (Alamo Drafthouse), Britton Upham (McGarrah Jessee) and Rick Wittenbraker (Yeti Coolers).
First off, I will admit that I was drawn to the panel purely because I couldn’t believe they would name a panel what they did. Second, being new to Austin I wanted to experience some of the local brands and what they had to say in the industry. Given the rain was coming down hard, I felt like being adventurous and straying away from the Convention Center given I had just spent the last few hours obtaining my badge and waiting for the panels to start.
After arriving at the continental, I am met by a crowd of angry people wondering why the panel they just walked 15 minutes in the rain to attend had been moved in place of the new panel. Given that the SXSW festival has an application that provides schedule updates instantly on your phone (and we are at an Interactive festival) I kept my opinions to myself and walked up the stairs.
The panel itself set the tone (in my mind) for a theme that I heard consistently over the weekend. Brand authenticity is key in today’s world and being true to who you are as a company. With social media, it is very easy for consumers to talk to each other and very easy for them to smell out (and call B.S.) if they don’t feel your brand is being truthful to a large audience. The more open you can be through social media the more you build a consumers trust in your brand as being authentic.
That being said, while it is important to be true to who you are no brand can stay exactly the same or risk being left behind as your target audience evolves. Social media allows us to listen to our customers and evolve our product to make it better. However, there is a big difference between listening to your customers and letting them drive the brand. Finding the happy medium in that space is the key and social media is a very useful tool in helping to achieve this goal.
In summary, listen to your consumers through social media, evolve your product to make it better but don’t change the core values that your brand stands for.