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I don't do my own taxes, mow my own grass or clean my own house. Not because I can't or because I am rich. I know enough to know those investments pay dividends because the people I pay do it FAR better than I will, which makes everyone happy.

When a brand is large enough, they should go buy expertise to assist them. Period.

I would argue though, a brand has always been what they are perceived to be not what they say they are. If I am poor I perceive Levi's to be a high end Jean. If I am rich or a fashionista I may perceive it to be a low end jean, and in fact they are both.

We should listen to customers thoughtfully and carefully regardless of the medium. We should respond to them with the right action and the action the business can sustain, and yes, sometimes that action is not good enough. We should have the guts to admit when we made a mistake and more importantly the guts to stand for the brand we built.

If you have answered customer calls at some point in your life (which I have) for a service desk, you know what is going on in SM is not new. It is a new medium which makes people nervous and eventually we will settle in and learn how to deal with it. I remember when email became prevalent, people freaked out when someone would forward it to their friends or worse to the CEO....heaven forbid!

My office used to sit just outside the service desk and the agents would come in with a complaint on the web. No matter the level of the customer, the urgency in the tone or the frustration on the agents face I always told them to come back when they got 100 calls. Some of my most successfully web deployments reeked havoc on that poor service desk.

My last thought is the role of media in social media. Media today is like a fire hose with little to no controls available. It is a vicious cycle, if my mainstream media always tells me there is more to the story, I will grow to learn to seek out what else there may be. Sometimes there is more and we should educate ourselves appropriately. Sometimes, much like some people, there is just nothing else there---just walk away.

Virginia: Thanks for your very thoughtful comment.

You say, "We should listen to customers thoughtfully and carefully regardless of the medium. We should respond to them with the right action and the action the business can sustain ..."

I agree 100%, and I think therein lies the problem. Brands seem so spooked over what could go wrong (b/c of what they read about United, Dominos, Motrin, etc) that they are over-responding, and in an unsustainable way.

Some of this goes back to my whole "Don't Suck" theory: if people like your brand, they will forgive you a world of sins and they will rally to your side when you are attacked.

If they don't like your brand (United) they will regard these incidents as proof of why they are right to dislike your brand.

So in that sense, Noah is right. "Magic advertising words" don't work anymore. Brands are what people think they are.

And circling back to United, what was the full story? I had not been aware of anything more coming out of that video- what did the singer do that mitigated United's response.

I don't think you can have this discussion without a broader take on the dynamics of media culture. We live in an age wherein facts mean little, and misinformation becomes true simply by virtue of how many people say so--perception, as you put it. Brands have reason to be afraid, and must figure out when it is necessary to act on this fear. That's no easy task and there will be missteps.

I love the "don't suck" theory. It's so basic, and more true than ever.

I don't know quite how to feel about what's happening now. I agree with you, Ian, that a few voices can outweigh the collective -- it's a kind of reverse-autocracy. The power of the few. I also think and have always felt that social media is over-rated as a trend. We need experts. Period. I'm not having any surgical procedures crowdsourced, thank you very much.

But I think we're in a learning period, a transitional time. A new way of being/working/interacting is gestating, and a lot of funny things are happening along the way. All we can do, really, is notice them. When things settle -- and they will -- we'll miss this moment of utter oddness.

Ian, correct me if I'm wrong, but for some reason it seems that one of the most relevant point of your post is going unnoticed: "Brands posses a unique skill in bringing a product to market – I would love to see them start flexing that muscle again. Maybe I'm a romantic - maybe the era of great brands is coming to an end."

I think I sense where you're coming from, and if so, I agree 100%: there's gotta be a way to establish a solid brand personality using the tools we have today. Like this (social media) being the starting point - not just a complement to all other "branding" efforts. I guess I'm a romantic too 'cus I think the era of great brands is just going through a process of "thinking", and hopefully we're all able to figure out ways to keep it alive.

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