Academic Paper: The Use of Social Media to Position Brands

RTVF 4450 Web 2.0: Theory, Research, Uses, & Effects | Academic Paper

Spring 2013

The Use of Social Media to Position Brands

by Crystal J. Hollis


Marketers are able to efficiently position their company’s brand in the consumers’ mind by developing creative and clever social media strategies. According to Forbes, 94% of all businesses with a marketing department have used social media in their marketing plans.  Analysis of examples like Oreo and Old Spice emphasizes the creative use of social media to remain unique and vigilant against competitors. Social Media allows consumers to be engaged with their brand.

Companies must adapt to new technologies so their brand can effectively compete. Strategic decisions for managing a social media presence are made to be consistent with the company’s strategic plan. Short-term results are measurable and evaluative. Long-term results are uncertain and will take some time to evaluate. Social Media marketers can also monitor the brand’s image by observing the consumers use of the brand on blogs, memes, and comments. Social Media allows companies to oversimplify their messages in an over-communicated world.


Brand positioning is considered to be one of the most important resources in the marketing field. It has the same weight as the four “P’s” of Marketing commonly taught in business school: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion (Edu, and Negricea 182-190). Positioning is when Marketers adjust the perception of a company and its product or service in the consumer’s mind.  Marketers have to keep up with consumer behavior and new technologies to better serve the company’s goal. When companies understand the significance of social media impact they can compete more effectively. Marketers are able to efficiently position their company’s brand in the consumers’ mind by developing creative and clever social media strategies.

As technology evolves, people grow more bombarded with messages. People watches television, listen to the radio, read messages on social media sites, answer e-mails at work, get phone calls from family and friends, and get advertisements in the mail. Companies who are at war with each other are battling literally for a piece of the consumers’ mind. The only defense a person has in our over-communicated society is an oversimplified mind (Ries, and Trout 6). The best way to approach a customer is to produce oversimplified messages. Social media sites have already made it easier to create simplified messages. Tweets have to be 140 characters or less. One of Facebook’s design principles includes having a clean and consistent visual style that “encourages participation and honest transparent communication” (“Facebook Design Principles”). Google and Yahoo search engine results usually have the title of the website and a subtitle of certain words that are included in the webpage. The best way to capture the target audience’s attention is to create simple and blunt messages that emphasize product or service benefits (Edu, and Negricea 182-190). The average person will not want to spend too much time reading, listening, or watching material that is full of cluttered messages and noise.

Firms large and small will compete in the marketplace to position their brands.  According to Edu and Negricea, for positioning to successfully work, the element of differentiation must be unique, important to the consumer, communicable, easily understood, and sustainable by the company’s approach. When approaching social media sites, businesses must make decisions “in conjunction with the organization’s strategic plan and objectives” (Albarran 267). Companies can create official brand pages on Facebook or Twitter accounts. They can also create Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram accounts.

Social media initiatives must contribute to the goal and must reflect the image of the company. If the brand has a personality, an online presence makes it easier to reflect that. During the third quarter of the 2013 Super Bowl, the power went out for approximately 34 minutes, negatively affecting not only the game but the commercial air time.  Oreo’s social media team immediately got to work and tweeted an advertisement “Power Out? No Problem” with a clever image of an Oreo cookie against the dark background with the caption “You can still dunk in the dark.” The message received over 15,000 retweets and over 20,000 likes on Facebook (Watercutter). While it doesn’t compare to the number of viewers of the Super Bowl, Oreo’s ability to rebound was impressive considering how it happened in the spur of the moment.

Prior to the Super Bowl, 36% football fans surveyed had said that they will consult to a second screen, meaning that they will watch the football game on television and also stay updated on Twitter and Facebook using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Tweeting with strangers about what is on television enhances the experience of the program (Eastman and Ferguson). Oreo is one company that has acknowledged the opportunity. In addition to airing commercials on television, Oreo also had a social media team actively working during the game ready to respond to situations during the game (Watercutter). As a result of the tweeted image, fans were able to be amused and in their mind continue to view Oreo as a fun and enjoyable brand.

Another example is when Old Spice and Taco Bell had a minor tweet battle. The twitter account for Old Spice jokingly asked “Why is it that ‘fire sauce’ isn’t made with any real fire? Seem like false advertising.” Taco Bell, the creator of the fire sauce, made a witty response, “Is your deodorant made with really old spices?” Old Spice responded with “Depends. Do you consider volcanos, tanks, and freedom to be spices?” (Nudd). This comedic scenario caught the attention of fans of Taco Bell and Old Spice alike. The tweet battle humanizes the two brands in a way that fans would actually identify with the messages. The Old Spice brand is known for its over-the-top messages of masculinity from the packaging (“Contains odor-fighting ‘Atomic Robots’ that ‘shoot lasers’ at your ‘stench monsters’ and replaces them with fresh, clean, masculine ‘scent elves’” is written on the back of the Old Spice Pure Sport deodorant) to the commercials featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa doing outrageous things (“the man your man could smell like”). In fact, in fall of 2011, advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy produced a campaign combining Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube called “Mano a Mano in el baño.” They created a hilarious YouTube battle between international model icon Fabio (as the “New Old Spice Guy”) against Isaiah Mustafa (as the “Old Old Spice Guy”) and used YouTube’s annotation tools to get fans to vote for who they want to represent Old Spice. Research made by Lisette, Gensler, and Leeflang shows that brand posts are more popular when it is informational and entertaining. The campaign further confirms the brand’s position in the consumer’s mind as an amusing, manly brand.

The fan pages and Twitter accounts allows consumers to be engaged and interact with the brand. Consumers who become fans of these brand pages and accounts are more likely to be loyal and committed to the company and are more open about receiving information about the brand (Lisette, Gensler, and Leeflang ). They are more likely to be publicly vocal about the brand. They are also more likely to express negative opinions about the brand. According to Lisette, Gensler, and Leeflang, other users provide empathy with the user who expresses the negative opinion. This is when the social media manager must step in and solve the problem and aim to guarantee customer satisfaction. The ability to directly communicate with the brand makes it easier to solve problems and increase the positive image of the brand.

Even Social media sites position their brand in the minds of the target audience. But who is truly the target audience for Google and Facebook? The services are provided for free to consumers and businesses alike. Consumers can create a profile, share information, and communicate with friends and family for free. Businesses can create a profile and get engaged in conversation with their target market with little to no cost. But when there is a service, there is always a price involved. If an individual gets anything for “free” usually the benefit is not truly for the individual. Users are not actually customers to social media sites; they are actually the product (Schiller). Businesses are the customers of the social media sites, buying advertising services to effectively reach their target market. While the idea that a user is being used as a product for the social media site’s business sounds erroneous, this method of audience reach has been done before with traditional media. Broadcast television provides free programming paid for by advertising dollars. The viewers are measured using Nielsen or Arbitron ratings and those results are used to sell advertising time on the air. The users online are shown website banners and “like” suggestions and results are used to sell advertising online. However, because not many users perceive the social media sites as malicious (with a few complaints about the constant changes of design), the sites work hard to successfully position the brand in a positive light.

Many marketers have realized the positive value of incorporating social media in their marketing plans. According to an infographic created by, of the Marketers surveyed on why they prefer social media marketing, 85% said it was because it increased business exposure, 69% said it was because there was an increase in traffic, and 65% said that it provided better marketplace insight (Bennett). 94% of Marketers have used social media to promote their businesses out of which 83% think that social media is important for their business (Bennett). Social media allows companies to see how their brands are being discussed, what topics are ‘hot’ and if there are concerns that need to be addressed (Albarran 275). Short term results are easily measured right away but the long term implications have yet to unfold.

Positioning a brand is very challenging when consumers are bombarded with messages every day. Social media decisions need to be made based on the company’s objectives and brand position. If a brand has personality, social media is an excellent tool to communicate with the consumers. Being able to communicate directly with consumers will enhance the brand’s position even more. The implications will take time to measure but so far many companies with marketing departments recognize the positive value to social media to their efforts of positioning their brand in the competitive marketplace.

MLA References

Albarran, Alan. Management of Electronic and Digital Media. 5. Boston: Wadsworth, Print.

Beauchamp, Marc. “Communicating in an over-communicated Society.” . N.p.. Web <;.

Bennett, Shea. N.p.. Web. <;.

Bosari, Jessica. “The Developing Role of Social Media in the Modern Business World.” Forbes 08 Aug 2012, n. pag. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.


Eastman, Susan Tyler, and Douglas A. Ferguson. Media Programming Strategies and Practices. 9. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.

Edu, Tudor, and Iliuta Costel Negricea. “Brand Positioning – A Marketing Resource and an Effective Tool for Small and Medium Enterprises..” Journal of Knowledge

Management, Economics & Information Technology. 2.2 (2012): 182-190. Print.

“Facebook Design Principles.” Facebook. N.p., 1 Jul 2009. Web. < Facebook Design Principles>.

Lisette, D. V., S. Gensler, and P. Leeflang. n. page. <;.

Nudd, Tim. “Taco Bell and Old Spice Mix It Up on Twitter A spirited debate over sauce, spices and volcanos.”Adweek. N.p., 12 Jul 2012. Web. <Taco Bell and Old Spice Mix It Up on Twitter A spirited debate over sauce, spices and volcanos>.

“Old Spice MANO A MANO IN EL BAÑO.” Wieden Kennedy. N.p., 7 Sept 2011. Web. <;.

Ries, Al, and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. New York: McGraw-Hill, Print.

“RESEARCH AND MARKETS; Paid Advertising In Social Media.” Internet Business Newsweekly 28 May 2012, n. pag. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

< Advertising In Social Media) and date is May 28, 2012>.

Schiller, Daniel. “Web Economics: The Product is You!.”Social Media Today. Social Media Today, 20 Jul 2012. Web. <


Watercutter, Angela. N.p.. Web. <;.

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