Why Brands Need to Be “Selfie-Ready”
Resumé: Businesses and brands could learn a lot, however, about being 'selfie-ready'-- the need for managing self-representation in our 24/7 smartphone-ridden world, writes Media Psychologist Pamela Rutledge, PhD, MBA.

Edited By Peter Horn

When we talk about Millennials and Post-Millennials and selfie taking, we don’t have many good things to say. From the morally superior vantage point of anyone NOT a Millennial, it’s easy to condemn the developmental drives of youth not to mention their shameless adoption of new technology, visual communications skills and, the in-your-face display of all their exuberance, selfie-taking, with the same fervor that my mother condemned ‘acid rock’, writes Pamela Rutledge:

"Brands aren’t that different from teens in their craving for social acceptance (which is normal for them both). But they should pay more attention to how they navigate an increasingly visual culture.

Whether you’re a teen or a brand, identity comes from social negotiation—not the marketing department. The brand created by in the C-Suite, like the clothing of a teen, is largely aspirational. The true brand is multi-dimensional and created in negotiation with the social world. A brand story gets told in many ways—mostly beyond our control. Every intersection with a consumer--customer service, in a store, on the street, word of mouth, the Internet, where ever—create the 'universe' or experience of the brand. These interactions define a brand’s personality and a social contract based on beliefs and expectations of the consumer.

"If your people drag a guy off an airplane or take the (paid) seat from a toddler or even send too many useless emails, you’ve got a serious problem—and it’s not just PR."

For teens, looking good and acting cool is a priority—hence the need to be selfie-ready. They know that the reach of what’s public has shifted and that everyone has a smartphone. Brands need to figure out that their “public” has expanded too. The action of every employee is an extension of brand and—hello United and Delta—everyone has a smartphone.

The emergence of digital technologies has created an increasing emphasis on visual communication. The advent of Facebook, SnapChat, and Instagram, the ability to instantly share texts, image, and video, and a voraciously story-hungry mass media have shifted the speed and modes of mediated communication.

Just like teaching teens digital citizenship, values are at the heart of all this.  When CEOs, CMOs and COOs start worrying about brand equity, they need to focus on their citizenship-- human values behind their brand—the ones demonstrated through the policies and behaviors in their organizations. THAT is the brand that will be communicated to the public and spread across social media.

My Grandma used to say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Corporate culture is set for the entire organization by what happens in the C-Suite at the top of the tree, and it is communicated by every employee every time they interact with a customer or talk about their job in line at the grocery store. These touchpoints are the most frequent and the meaningful to a brand because they are inherently emotional and relational--they create stories that get shared. You can have the best ad campaign in the world that wins all kinds of awards at Cannes, but if your people drag a guy off an airplane or take the (paid) seat from a toddler or even send too many useless emails, you’ve got a serious problem—and it’s not just PR. There’s a leadership problem. Those kinds of behaviors indicate that there is something systemic that needs to be addressed so that the company is (human) value driven all the way down to the shop floor or airplane jetway as part of, not in spite of, the quest for (economic) value. Then it will be selfie-ready."
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