Social Mindshare

As a general rule of thumb, you should be building your brand around a single word or extremely short phrase to create mindshare in your audience. This isn’t a slogan. Slogans might be part of it. But the simple fact of the matter is that your audience is being bombarded on a daily basis by hundreds – if not thousands – of brand and marketing messages. Capturing and solidifying a single word or phrase is crucial. Nike has spent decades building itself in to synonymous with “sports.” Alternatively (and perhaps this is just my own personal connection – and that’s part of the beauty of it), when I think of Adidas – the first thing that comes to mind is “Soccer”. In another direction, the Underarmor brand to me represents “Football clothes”. All of these companies are direct competitors in many fronts – but within my mind – this is the mindshare that they’ve eached achieved.

The same thing is true amongst car brands. I’m an Audi driver, so in my mind they captured “Sport Luxury” in my mind. BMW I’m sure would be ticked off because that’s a mindshare that they’ve gone after. But the beauty of branding and mindshare is that it happens in the mind of the recipient, not the sender.

What do you think of when I describe the comparison between iPhone, Android, Nokia, and RIM? iPhone might spark “Innovator and Easy”, Android might spark “Open Cool”, Nokia might spark “Cheap phones” and RIM might spark “Relic” (sorry RIM). Those are my perceptions. That’s the mindshare that those brands occupy in my mind today. It can change; but often not by anything the company itself does. It has a great deal more to do with the reputation, conversation, media & interpersonal connections, etc. For instance, I know far more people with iPhones – so my conversations with other people tend to focus on topics like “Check out these cool apps I have” or “I love it how easy it is to…” Whereas my friends with Blackberries languish with phones that appear to be unable to do much of anything contemporary and they complain that they wish they could change their phones (but their company is stuck on the platform).

Notice, mindshare is usually related to brand + marketing messaging, but it’s not identical. Mindshare is the intangible thing that happens to your brand after your marketing messages have all fallen by the wayside.

Differentiate Yourself in a Crowded Field

What gets really interesting to watch (as recipient and advertising-industry spectator) is when multiple companies compete for the same piece of mindshare. Think about the challenge present here in Las Vegas for the various casino hotels: They’re each competing for your gambling & entertainment dollar. Vegas itself has done a great job solidifying itself as the “Sin City” destination. But the individual destinations are each focusing on niche audiences based on a wide range of factors including pricing, styling, entertainment, shopping, dining, etc. The Bellagio and the Venetian compete for the same type of consumer… Same as Wynn, Encore, Pallazo, and the new Cosmopolitan. So each differentiates itself distinctly. Wynn and Encore have contemporary Asian-inspired flavor, while the Venetian, Pallazo, and Bellagio tend to convey classical European styling. Price-wise they’re all similar. They each occupy the “Luxury” mindshare, but how they divide themselves is a matter of your own perceptions. Perhaps you perceive (like I do) that the Venetian is slightly “younger” than Bellagio. Perhaps you perceive Wynn as a destination that seriously caters to high-rollers with less interest in casual vacationers.

So how does this affect you and your business (and social media efforts)? Well, first off, you should be conscious of the mindshare that you would like to occupy. You can’t occupy it in all minds at all times – but you can at least create a cohesive set of messages towards that end.

Another important component of mindshare is to realize that you’re competing against other brands and businesses for their attention. “Insurance” is a broad word to occupy. “Mayhem” was not. Allstate Insurance made a splash with their popular “protect yourself from mayhem” campaign precisely because it was a mental space that had not yet been occupied – even by non-insurance companies. Now – if you were another company – you wouldn’t even consider using the term “Mayhem” in your marketing language because Allstate owns that space. Insurance or not.

When it comes to your social media efforts (for your business) are you building appropriate mindshare with every communication? There are many opportunities in every day to reinforce your brand and build upon that consumer experience – or to ruin it and potentially harm your efforts.

Mindshare Process for Social Media

First: Do you know what you want people to think when they hear your brand name? If you don’t even know what you want, it’ll be hard for you to achieve that goal. Whether you’re tweeting and Facebook-ing by yourself or within a team, if it’s not internally reinforced as to what the mindshare goal is, you’ll never really know if you’re achieving it.

Second: Whenever you post to a social network (whether it be a true post / tweet, share, “Like”, or other activity) ask yourself: Does this further reinforce the brand image and mindshare phrase that I want to instill in my customer? For instance, if you were the social media manager for a Las Vegas real estate company specializing in mid-range homes, does it do you any good to share a post about a high-end property that just came on the market? Your instinct might be to share everything you can find at all times; but in reality if your goal is to cater to a certain niche of the market, you want to fixate all your efforts on that one group.

Third: Ask and measure! On a regular basis, check in with customers, prospects, and audience members at all levels of involvement with your business and ask them what their perception of your firm is. Take measurements on a constant basis to find out where you stand with the general market. Integrate querying those individuals within your marketing / business development processes. Measure it. Keep a spreadsheet or report somewhere available to everyone and whenever the chance arrives, update it. Keep a look out for trends that you might not be in charge of. Think RIM considers themselves “relics”? Of course not. But that’s where the consumer perception of their brand has travelled. They can market all the gizmos they’d like using all sorts of fancy ad campaigns… It’ll take far more than that for me to perceive them (and their users) differently.

Fourth: Change course wisely. Look a company like IBM for inspiration on how to gradually transition mindshare. They’ve done it several times in their existence: They’ve transitioned from a typewriter company to a mainframe company to a desktop company to a business computing consulting company. Alternatively; a company like WalMart has stayed the course their entire history. Creating mindshare is not a process to be done lightly. You can change a slogan, you can tweak a logo, you can update a marketing campaign. But asking your customers to change their mind about you is a bold proposition that is embedded in to the depths of your business.

Thanks for reading! What do you think? Is mindshare really all that important, or have I made a mountain out of a mole-hill?