Required reading this week at FreshNetworks has been this great presentation from Mike Trap on what he calls 'scalable intimacy', the intersection between branding and social media.

For Trap a brand is not the stimulus, but the collective emotional response to this. In other words, a brand is not defined by the product or service, but rather it is defined by everybody who uses, talks about and interacts with it. This is reflected very much in the shift we're seeing in marketing and advertising, from a (false) assumption that people are defined by the brands they use, to an understanding that brands are defined by the people who use them. Even though I have been known to shop there, I am not defined by Abercrombie and Fitch, rather they are defined by me, they are part of my personal brand and mingle and mix with other brands (such as Virgin Atlantic, Apple and many others). Brands are not composed of the people who buy their product, rather people are composed of the brands they use.

Understanding this is a powerful stage. As Trap suggests it means that the conversations and discussions that consumers have about a brand are of critical importance. It is here that the brand is defined and that influence and word of mouth grows. Social media allows brands to really capitalise upon this. Not only does it allow more of these conversations to go on, and more people to be reached by them, it also means that brands can facilitate and join in these conversations.

This is why online communities are important and really allow brands to engage with their customers in the way their customers have always wanted them to.

See Trap's presentation below for more of his thoughts on this. It's best viewed with the audio on.

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