Exclusivity for a brand is no longer its USP—the world has now shifted to sharing and collaboration. Wiki Brands by communications gurus Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover looks at the changing idiom of business building: It now taps into the power of social networks, because every status update on Facebook and Twitter may make or break a brand’s image. It’s the age of customer freedom and individualized service, and this is the future of business. Edited excerpt from the chapter “The Birth of Wikibrands":

Wikibrand (s): noun

Wiki Brands—Reinventing your Company in a Customer-Driven Market place: 318 pages, Rs650

Derived from the Hawaiian word wiki, traditionally meaning “quick" but more currently meaning “tribal knowledge" and “a collaborative website," and the Middle English word torch, whose current business meaning is “a distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer."

Wikibrands represent the future of business—a future that calls for a fundamental shift in long-held business management tenets on how we approach customers. We have entered a new generation of brand building. The litmus test for a thriving business in this marketplace is “Does your brand deliver genuine participation?" This issue does not touch marketing alone nor is it solely a public relations concern. Neither is it single-mindedly a technology or social media manifesto. However, if you are in the business of driving company direction and delivering winning performance in today’s customer-controlled marketplace, wikibranding is a wake-up call, strategy guide, and execution road map, as relevant for the C-suite as it is for front-line managers.

Why? Quite simply, the levers of brand development have changed dramatically over the last twenty years. Since the height of mass marketing’s efficiency peaked in the early eighties, a number of trends relating to media (such as fragmentation), marketing (such as customization), marketplace activity (such as abbreviated product life cycles), and broader cultural behaviour (such as heterogenous consumers) have collectively diminished the effectiveness of traditional branding efforts.

Winning companies and brands are succeeding by learning to engage and co-create branding efforts with their most loyal and engaged customers:

•Traditional packaged goods marketers such as Procter & Gamble are creating powerful new customer connections through frequent and experimental use of Facebook; word-of-mouth relationship forums such as Vocalpoint, Tremor, Being Girl, and Home Made Simpler; and traditional/social mashup hits like the Old Spice Guy video campaign.

•Fashion upstart lululemon is harnessing the evangelical passion of its employees and ambassador networks.

•Software company Intuit is opening itself to a steady stream of innovation and applications, as well as customer support, based on online community development.

•Open source companies, like Mozilla, are tapping brand enthusiasm via comprehensive, community-based marketing efforts.

•Retail icons, such as Starbucks, are making marketing and customer orientation central to their brand by mastering customer experience.

• Maverick start-up company Naked Pizza is revolutionizing customers’ relationship with fast food through a preachy, healthy brand image that interacts with its clients via Twitter (to the uninitiated, a microblogging platform that allows users to text messages known as tweets of up to 140 characters).

Rather than lobbing promises and messages ceaselessly over the chaos of today’s tone-deaf marketplace, these smart companies are thinking about how active customer participation can get their brands noticed, talked about, and endorsed through their customer grapevine. Instead of controlling the brand, marketers are opening it up to exciting new possibilities. In short, these brands are going “wiki." The wikibranding movement is reshaping the way in which companies build brand value. Traditional notions of stage-managing brands are shifting in favour of an open and authentically shared ownership among marketer, employees, and customers.

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