I first saw aplusk’s video challenge to CNN in CK’s thought-provoking post on celebrity worship and social media. Oddly enough, what struck me first was not that Twitter had jumped the shark, as Mack Collier suggested, or that I should run out and follow Ashton (which I was already doing – what? – he’s funny!)
No, what struck me was the asymmetry between Kutcher as a living, breathing personality and CNN as a rather impersonal and even indistinct brand.
This asymmetry was only intensified when Kutcher promised to ding-dong ditch Ted Turner’s house if he won. My first response was, “What does Ted Turner have to do with this?”
Obviously, I know that Turner started CNN and, frankly, I find him a more interesting personality than young Ashton. Nevertheless, I don’t associate him with CNN. To me, CNN is Wolf Blitzer (and, on a more personal note, my old college chum, Daryn Kagan, who used to be an anchor there). But it doesn’t matter if CNN makes you think of Wolf, Anderson, or Larry – the important point is that, as far as media go, personalities matter more than brands.
While this was always true of the broadcast media – I followed Letterman to CBS because I was a fan of his – it is especially true of social media. When people assert that companies are leery of getting into blogging, or onto Facebook andTwitter, etc., because said companies are afraid of losing control of their brand, I disagree. What keeps most companies out of social media is a lack of personality.
If you want consumers to have face-time with your brand, it has to have a face. Social media are “social” first and foremost, and people want to socialize with other people. Therefore, it’s not surprising to me that celebrities, and the sports/entertainment industry more broadly, are entering this space in force: personality is their stock in trade.
Similarly, it makes sense that companies which push the expertise, insight, and intelligence of their individual contributors have also made a conscious push to get these people into the “conversation.” Forrester, for example, is Jeremiah to me, because I “see” him everyday.
As social media become THE media, companies need to stop worrying about their brand and start worrying about their personality. Think about it this way. If you were sitting down to dinner, who would you want sitting next to you? Campbell’s Tomato Soup or Andy Warhol?