Almost half of all the respondents of a recent poll by public relations firm APCO Worldwide stated that global brands have a larger impact on their lives than governments. In the same report, fully 60 percent stated that those brands now serve some functions in society at large which were previously the sole domain of governments. While the goal of every brand marketer is to obtain sales which reflect favorably on the bottom line of the corporation, it seems that the impact upon everyday people of these marketing strategies has expanded well beyond “Buy This” and into the realm of “Live This.” Brands in the social media age aren’t just marketing through pop culture, they are actually becoming indispensable cultural and social elements.

Cultural integration to the point of universality

We expect that Pepsi is trying to sell us some soft drinks and Adidas is trying to sell us some shoes. That clear and evident fact is readily acknowledged by any citizen of this decade. However, these brands are integrating themselves into our very culture through a nearly infinite variety of means, not the least of which is social media. With billions of people interacting with each other and a dazzling panoply of brands in the social media cyberverse on a daily basis, the relationship has long since exceeded that of “vendor to buyer” as individuals all over the world are looking to brands as vectors to political and social change, as well as sources of news and information trusted well beyond the levels of that provided by their own democratically elected governments.

Making the customer feel like they’re part of the brand

In traditional brand marketing the onus was on providing a good product or service with a competitive pricetag. Once social media entered the equation everything changed to the point where brands became an active participant in the lives of their customers and to a great extent a factor which is more significant than their own governments. Consumers in social media brand interactions are primarily seeking to understand the values which are articulated by the companies so that they can believe and trust their activities and the messaging that they are sharing with their entire customer base. The best brand marketers are able to create an identification between customer and company which is so intensive that the individual actually feels like they are a part of the brand.

Fighting obesity while selling 2 trillion calories per day

Major worldwide brands are certainly not blind to the massive benefits that are brought by this synthesis between customer and company. The CEO of Coca-Cola recently declared on a social media video that “for companies today, having a valid social purpose is as important as having a valid business purpose.” As citizens all over the world shift the focus of what they expect away from governments which are seen as aloof and disconnected from their daily lives, they are in ever growing numbers redirecting those expectations to major brands. Coca-Cola itself has launched a multi-million dollar campaign to fight obesity which is a startling incentive to be taken by a company which sells over 2 trillion calories of sugar in its beverages every 24 hours!

Major brands have embraced “health-haloing”

While that statistic may seem to be comical it is not in any way coloring the impression of the massive worldwide Coca-Cola customer base which is largely interpreting the company’s anti-obesity campaign as more successful than those of their national governments’ health care systems. Coca-Cola along with many other major brands has embraced “health-haloing” which is the marketing strategy of creating a linkage between the consumption of their products and healthy living. The fact that soft drinks of both sugared and artificial sweetener varieties have been linked to not only obesity but type 2 diabetes is masked by these magnificently savvy marketing campaigns.

The fact that social media brand followers are willing to suspend their disbelief and place their trust in major companies over their own politicians is a remarkable phenomenon. You can leverage these expectations to position your brand in a powerful (and hopefully socially-constructive) manner.