brand storyCompanies work hard to create a brand that encompasses their message, values, and products. Hitting that note just right isn’t easy, and once you do, holding it is even harder. Brands used to have an easier time of creating and conveying their messages. At one point, the only access consumers had to those brand stories was through traditional outlets like television, print, and radio.

Ah, but with the internet, all of that changed. Sure, companies now have the ability to reach consumers at any time of night or day. Just remember, it goes both ways. Consumers can not only engage brands whenever they want, they can also alter those brands’ messages, even if unintentionally.

How the Story Changes 

When consumers can access your company through social media and public forums, they also have the chance to share their own experiences. In some cases, those experiences are fantastic, and serve only to strengthen your brand. In a super-perfect world, those interacting the most are not only fans but also true advocates, meaning they fit your buyer persona exactly.

On the other end of the spectrum are the buyers who may have been less than thrilled. Did you know consumers are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one? That means you have to work that much harder to provide positive experiences and defuse the negative ones.

Buyers don’t even have to be negative to change your brand story, either. Many companies watch as subcultures adopt their products and change the message entirely. This often happens with luxury or upscale clothing lines. If you develop a group of fans outside your buyer personas, your story will change.

What Apple Has to Do With This

We’re currently watching Apple’s brand story change right before our eyes. Remember just a couple weeks ago when the world was excited for the new iPhone 6? There were stories about fans lining up outside the stores days before the release so they could touch the phone before anyone else. Is this the kind of brand story Apple wants? 

Of course.

But then, without Apple’s knowledge or control, the story started to change. There was the first report of the phones bending if they’re in a pocket for too long. Most shrugged it off as either a hoax or a detractor trying to sully Apple’s reputation.

Only it wasn’t a hoax. More reports and photos surfaced, many from long-time Apple brand advocates, and the damage was done. It doesn't matter to consumers that only nine cases have actually been reported. The story had changed. Instead of quality, innovation, and stellar design, Apple is now known for the iPhone that bends.

How to Manage Your Brand Story

Is this the end of the story for Apple? Of course not. The brand is too strong. What about companies that don’t have the same solid brand or as many years of business under their belt? What if you’ve started an ecommerce endeavor and already see your brand story changing? Can you manage your message and fix your story?

You certainly can. First, find your brand advocates and work with them to strengthen your position. Then, seek out the negative reviews and feedback, and take the time to respond to concerns. Show that you’re actively involved and willing to make amends for any problems. Believe it or not, 41% of customers feel that a brand that is responsive really cares about the buyers. Own up to your mistakes and reap the rewards.

What other brands have lost control of their messaging in the past? Have you ever experienced a similar situation with your ecommerce company? We’d love to know how you managed the situation, so leave us a comment!

Context Marketing for the eCommerce Shopper

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Originally published Sep 30, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017