(originally written for my grad school new media blog here.)

"...and all the pieces matter." - Detective Lester Freamon, HBOs The Wire

The mantra above from HBO's The Wire refers to doing thorough investigation of all pieces of evidence, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I think the same theory applies in Spike's post today on brand identity and word of mouth. Convincing the folks in the C-suite that word of mouth experiences are the bricks in the wall of a brand's DNA is still a tough sell in 2008. Many businesses still look at branding and WOM like a Teacup Yorkie "Cute,cuddly, and expensive, but of no real value." In other words , anything that doesn't result in a direct physical product or a direct monetary gain is foo-foo dust." Bellowing about this haughtily sounds good in the boardroom,"Monitor Facebook? Yeah there's a good use of money bwaaahaha!" but it is realistically just plain foolish.

Unfortunately, many companies don't get religion on WOM until something bad happens. They get a negative blog post written about a bad customer experience. A political action committee issues a press release condemning their manufacturing practices. Someone creates a "Spacely Sprockets Sucks" group on Facebook which gets 2000 members in 24 hrs. Then companies want to employ what Spike calls the "add-on" approach,running around with their hair on fire(no pun intended), at the expense of being authentic.:

"And for ANY piece of word of mouth marketing to even have a chance to work – an overall movement, or even tactics - it has to be authentic to the company. Thus the dangers of the “add-on” approach. I’m not talking about slapping the logo on a piece of literature or blog. I’m talking about something that is true to the brand, including the voice. The attitude. The vocabulary. The values. And those things can only be found down deep in the identity of a company."--Spike Jones
For us as IMC practitioners, I think we have to be proactive and not wait for someone to tell us to go cultivate this important area of marketing. We have to go listen, be present, measure, feel, process, reflect, then sell our company on why this matters. Because all the pieces of a brand's identity matter. All the pieces matter.