How to Build Brands in the Age of Social Media?

From Branded Content to Cultural Branding — Article based on “The Big Idea” by Douglas Holt, Harvard Business Review.

1. How to Build Brands in the Age of Social Media?

First of all, we need to understand where we are standing nowadays on social media in order to build a brand. We cannot focus on social media strategies understanding only their tools, metrics and technics. Probably any millennial should manage these methods today. We need to break this first idea and go beyond, analyze the cultural change social media has made to the society

“The brand content is a relic of the mass media age and has been repackaged as a digital concept”, Douglas Holt writes.“Once audiences could opt out of ads, it became much harder for brands to buy fame”. Social media gives tools to different cultures to communicate and co-create. Society starts to group beyond the frontier, clustered in crowscultures so it is imperative to build brands focused on this new stage.

Many businesses have evolved and found meaning in the crowdculture. Axe, Dove, Old Spice are examples on how they took advantage of this new phenomenon that involves social media. They do not work only on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. They aim at the crowd that identifies the brand: Axe leads the “lad crowd”, Dove the “body positive crowd” and Olds Spice the “hipster crowd”.

On the other hand, many big companies seem culturally mute, despite the fact that they invest billions in marketing and communication. The mass media and companies must accept their new role as intermediaries and amplify the crowdsculture to gather major benefits.

How can we break the gap between a YouTuber, like the Argentine Lucas Castel who has 2.8 million followers with videos of 8 million views, and a company that despite investing billions does not manage to increase the audience? We can find many ideas here that represent crowdcultures which can roll many companies. Lots of brands are still wrestling with the chaotic word of social media meanwhile there are many very innovative, as we mentioned above, that have just found their hub. Coca-Cola with half of followers than Lucas Castel accomplished his goal in 27 million views.

Types of brothers:

Coca-Cola International | 1.5 million of followers
Lucas Castel, Argentine YouTube | 2.8 million of followers

2. Quick Method for Cultural Branding

Be aware of the existence of crowdcultures. If each company works on the same metrics and on the same core idea, it would be impossible to conquer the strengths that social media brings with it. “While the rise of crowdculture diminishes the impact of branded content and sponsorships, it has greased the wheels for an alternative approach that call cultural branding”, Holts wrote. He advises to map the cultural orthodoxy and locate the cultural opportunity. “Consumers begin searching for alternatives, which opens up an opportunity for innovative brands to push forward a new ideology in their categories”. To brand effectively with social media, brands should target the corwdculture, diffuse the new ideology and stay innovative.

There are many examples on how the new way of building brands connects with cultural branding. The publicist Martin Mercado from McCann global agency innovates continually in the way he can map the myths and passions of the crowds. In the World Cup 2014, he spread the social media with the TyC Sports film. Pope Francis encouraged the Argentine national team after his journey to Brazil: “If one Argentine has made this in Brazil, imagine 23”. TyC managed to lead a crowd capturing the passion of an Argentine Pope pairing it with football.

TyC Sports: Brazil´s Word Cup 2014

We can find another similar example where Martin Mercado identifies a crowdculture in the Bank of Galicia commercials. He associated the brand with a story of a couple, Marcus and Claudia, who show their common couple problems. Every film about them results in millions of views in the YouTube channel. They have also their own Tweeter channels: @quieromarcos and @quieroclaudia. In an example of cultural flashpoint, with a lot of humor, they managed to target the Netflix customers with the film “House of Credits Cards”, referring to the well known series “House of Cards”.

Marcus and Claudia from Bank of Galicia advertising: “House of Credits Cards”

Furthermore, La Casa Rosada invested more than US$ 10 million in 2016. With 1,516,060 followers in Facebook and 112,587 followers in YouTube. They are trying to lead a massive “crowdculture” through social media, encouraging the people to be side by side, beyond differences. Managing to lead a crowd who has been convinced of a change of unity, a repetitive concept in all their [MD1] speeches and films: “got together”. Despite of the significant increase of investment, today it is very difficult to break an historical flashpoint from previous presidents that can manage to identify many sub-cultures in one video tribute, without investment significant investment in social media during the former government.

La Casa Rosada: “Got together”
Former President of Argentine Nestor Kirchner: “I come to propose a dream”.


Branding in the Age of Social Media, by Douglas Holt. Harvard Business Review. @douglasbholt