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Social Capital in Brand Strategy

Social Capital in Brand Strategy

I'm confusedThinking beyond yourself when you’re a teenager is as difficult as understanding #talklikeyourbestfriend as an adult. Relationships were limited because we weren’t chemically capable of thinking beyond ourselves.

There comes a time, of course, when it becomes clear that relationships are more meaningful over the long haul when we put someone else’s needs on par or ahead of our own. There are more returns and deeper significance. But it requires us to think beyond ourselves and care for the other person in the relationship in ways that we were (or at least I was) incapable of as a teenager. (And yes, for me now. This is something I don’t have to tell most of you—mainly just myself. But it’s a working simile, and I’m going with it.)

Social capital, by it’s very construct, requires a perspective broader than the immediate transactional relationship. I’m beginning to put the word “mature” to it (against my instinctive wishes… that’s a word that made my zit-covered skin crawl as a teenager). Thinking beyond the immediate transactional value takes a mature perspective about building value in an organization. It reminds me of how we grow out of thinking only of ourselves and how we see value in putting others ahead of our own needs. When we do this, the relationships in our lives really hit their stride.

Same with businesses. Here’re two examples that came across my reading world recently.

A bank helps their unemployed mortgage customers with their job searches. I thought this was a simple but solid example of looking beyond the immediate transactional relationship. A shareholder might say that a bank isn’t in the business of job searches, but I can hear the forward-thinking leader within the bank suggesting that it also isn’t in the business of house ownership. What do you want, the house or the revenue? Investing a little in the bank’s social capital will generate more sustainable revenue.

On the other side of the coin is this great opinion piece that contains a reminder about the story of Andrew Auernheimer. Weev, as he’s better known, exploited a security weakness in AT&T’s systems with a simple web crawler script. He didn’t use the private information he gathered for anything other than shedding light on the issue, but was prosecuted anyway. 41 months in prision, $73,000 in fines.

Assuming AT&T cooperated with the prosecution, it could have instead capitalized (literally) on the opportunity to work with Weev. Maybe this could have been a chance for AT&T to engage the public instead of push them away when it comes to the topic of privacy. Hackers on long tail are waiting to be engaged in this way. So lead them. Engage them. They want to help, be attached to something larger than themselves. AT&T probably inspired the ill-intended hackers more than they scared them them away.

AT&T might be a behemoth of a company, but it seems like a child in this instance. The bank? Showing the kind of love with for their customers that only a grown up can.

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