Three years ago while speaking on an Ad:Tech panel, I coined the term wikibranding to convey an observation that brands are in fact wikis, entities that are increasingly defined by the crowd and less so by the manufacturer.
Given the disruptive forces in social media that have taken hold since then – YouTube and Facebook weren't yet the mass forces they are today, and Twitter hadn't yet tweeted – I believe this to be even more true today.
So the question is not whether customers are talking, it's whether marketers are listening. What are marketers doing with the flood of peer-to-peer likes and dislikes that travel around the world at light speed?
I've grown tired of traditional dashboards. They provide heat but little light. They report but don't inspire ideas. That's because most analytics are a dizzying blur of data that are disconnected from the building blocks of brand equity; disconnected from product innovation; disconnected from the CEO's line-of-sight on what's actually happening in the marketplace.
Infographics is a start. Sure to get more senior management attention on what the data are saying.
The chatter about the emerging role of Chief Listening Officers is another step, but one that will add value only if the CLO is given a mandate to make things happen. (Shouldn't the CMO be the CLO?)
Another way is to begin aligning analytics with the key principles of how brands build equity and value. (A project that's already underway at BD'M.)
Whatever the solution turns out to be, it's sure to require an equal balance of lateral thinking to find insights within disparate data points, as well as patience to make sure we don't react to every opinion that passes as fact on the Internet.