My Brand is the Conversation?

I thought I’d do more of an opinion piece for this post. To kick this off and let you know why, the other day I visited the Facebook page of a friend of mine who is a social media marketing specialist, Sherry Crummy of Crummy Media Solutions. She is way better at the instant engagement aspects of SMM than I am, let’s be clear. Her most recent post when I visited her page was a quote about branding, apparently reposted from Pinterest. I thought this might be a relevant subject, since, as small business bloggers, we’re actually contributing to building our own brands through our blogs’ messages.

So, here is the quote: “Your brand is the summation of conversation about you, without you.” The quote is attributed to Marcel LeBrun.

Now, on the face of it you might agree with this statement. Actually, a number of people on my friend’s Facebook page did agree with this statement. As I thought about it, though, something didn’t seem quite right about the message. The more I thought about it, more and more questions started popping into my head.

My first question was: “Who is Marcel LeBrun?” I wondered how many other people who had liked this post actually knew who Marcel LeBrun was. How many of them knew why he had made this statement or knew fully what he was trying to say? I didn’t. That’s why I started questioning the quote in the first place. I didn’t know the context of the quote and it didn’t seem entirely true in essence.

I have since googled “Marcel LeBrun” to discover that he is the Senior Vice-President and Chief Product Officer of a company called Salesforce Marketing Cloud and maybe General Manager and CEO of Radian6 (depending on whether you read his LinkedIn page or his Twitter profile), and an author. He has “twelve years of experience with various technology start-ups”, according to his Salesforce Marketing Cloud profile. One strange thing is that I couldn’t find the origin of the quote attributed to him. It shows up on various other company Facebook pages, on Twitter, and on Pinterest, not to mention quote mining websites, but I didn’t find anything that originated with Marcel LeBrun himself. (So if any of my readers knows the origin of the quote I’d be happy to hear from you.) This is questionable in itself; not because I doubt that the quote did come from him, but because of the fact that so many people have bounced it around the Internet probably with no idea of the origins or context of the original message. I am discomfited by quotes that I can’t verify and contextualize. I could email Mr. LeBrun about it, I suppose, but it’s not really essential to why I’m writing this post.

So, okay, I accept that this gentleman has some idea of what he is talking about. However, that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with him necessarily. My experience in sales and marketing is probably a little thinner than his, with respect to its online aspects, although I, too, am an author and have written, contributed to, and edited literally dozens of small business start-up and career books, and my experience in sales and small business goes back somewhat further than twelve years.

Anyway, I thought I’d stop pestering Sherry on her Facebook page, trying to engage her in a conversation maybe she didn’t necessarily want to have. And, since the best place to have a conversation with myself is my own blog, I thought I’d write a post dissecting this statement. So that’s the genesis of the idea for this post.

“Your brand is the summation of conversation”; that’s the bit I had the most trouble with. I’m going to be a bit literalistic here and assume that “summation” means just what I think it means: “the sum total of things added together”. You know, like when you add 1+2+3 you’ll always get 6. There can be no other result. So if that’s true, then my brand is always no less and no more than the conversation that results when you add all the elements of my brand together. In other words, according to Mr. LeBrun’s message, my brand is the conversation.

But I don’t think that’s true. While I do agree that a positive conversation about my brand among hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people would be a wonderful thing (that has yet to happen, I admit), I don’t think the conversation about my brand necessarily represents the brand itself. Rather, it’s an outgrowth of my brand. In other words, my brand speaks for itself about itself without reference to anyone else’s conversation about it. The “conversation” is a natural outgrowth of the brand principles, rather than a “summation” of the integral parts that go into the brand itself. I don’t even think it’s true of major well-known brands that the brand is the summation of the conversation. For example, I recently took issue with Purina’s Beneful brand on the brand’s Facebook page, because my dogs started getting sick after eating it. Do I think that the conversation I had with the many others on Facebook doing the same thing represents a new summary interpretation of the Beneful brand? No. It’s probably a supply chain issue and something’s getting into the food that shouldn’t be there. I truly do think that Purina wants people’s pets to live long and healthy lives. That’s their real brand message. Like any brand, the brand principles, for me at least, survive or don’t on their own merits, regardless of the direction the conversation about the brand takes. And yet, I have stopped buying that brand until they can reassure me in a meaningful way that their food is safe for my dogs to eat.

As Sherry Crummy points out, sometimes there are two brand messages, one external and one internal. The internal message is what your brand is all about. The external brand is the perception consumers have about your brand. Those perceptions are what drives the conversation about your brand. And as Sherry rightly says, brand perception can make or break a brand.

After considering the quote carefully, I do agree that conversation is a vital part of any small business’s branding of itself. However, core brand principles are equally vital. If people don’t read, understand,  and like the message of your brand and its underlying principles, there likely won’t be any conversation about it anyway. As Simon Sinek of startwithwhy.com says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. That’s why I think that small business blogging is so essential to your brand and your brand message. People can easily start to have all kinds of conversations, both good and bad, about your company in the fast-paced world of social media engagement. But a well-written blog that constantly reiterates your core branding message and teaches people why you do what you do will always be a point of engagement that helps you influence the conversation in positive ways. That starts with having a clear and likeable message that people can relate to. What are you doing to get that message across? If you’re doing nothing else online, you should at least be blogging. Visit our website to learn more.

Finally, I would flip Mr. LeBrun’s statement to say that “conversation, with or without you, is the result of the sum of all of your brand principles and message”. And you can quote me on that.

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2 Comments on “My Brand is the Conversation?”


  1. Great post, Brenna. One must reinforce their message and their brand, you must be part of the conversation. This can greatly influence the conversation without you.


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