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Yarn Market

Everybody's Talking About You

Jim Phillips, Yarn Market Editor

P remium brands are, by necessity, built one block at a time, and over an extended period of time, until they weave themselves into the very fabric of our existence. Yet, as evidenced by recent events, brands that have been meticulously and expensively built over a considerable period of time can come crashing back to earth in a veritable blink of an eye. Just look at where Tiger Woods is today compared with just a few short months ago. And the gold standard for automotive quality over the past 20 years, Toyota, has seen years of brand building and cultural assimilation go down the tubes almost overnight.

So what does this mean for the textile industry in general and yarn spinners in particular? The answer is simple. Take absolutely nothing for granted, and be proactive communicators. In today's global marketplace, every activity, every transaction, every shipping error or manufacturing glitch is visible for the entire world to see.

"Whether you manage a consumer products company, an automotive company or a textile manufacturing facility, you are going to be facing a new communications reality  over the next few years," said a Carolinas marketing and communications expert. "Today's consumer has access to a lot more information than ever before. Not only that, for the first time in history, consumers are actually creating their own content on the Internet. Regardless of what you do or how you do it, people are soon going to be talking about you on the Internet, if they aren't already."

She went on: "In years past, if there was a part of your company that someone didn't like, he or she might call her friends on the telephone. If he was really unhappy, he might contact the Better Business Bureau or write a letter to the local newspaper. Today, however, he is likely to get on Facebook or MySpace and make a post about your company -- which can be instantly visible to any number of people. If he or she is really unhappy, she might make a video and put it on YouTube. These communications can be visible to the entire world."

But the same also holds true if your consumer is deliriously happy with you. "If you have delighted a customer, you might get positive exposure on the Internet," she said. "But the gist is this: Regardless of what your company does or how it does it, you've lost control of some of your messaging. Your customers can now be just as vocal in the marketplace as you. Not only that, but your competitors, your enemies -- and anybody else -- can also put in their two cents' worth about who you are and what you do."

Be Proactive

So, what is an enterprising executive to do? According our industry observer, the answer is to communicate more about yourself than others are communicating about you."Start a blog about what your company is doing," she said.  "It's easy, everyone with Internet access can do it, and it can have amazing results. Just look at the blog that inspired the movie "Julie & Julia."  Get a Facebook or a MySpace page -- for yourself and your company. Acquire friends and post lots of updates about what you are doing. Put videos on YouTube about your products, people and processes. In short, just communicate, communicate, communicate."

So how does that apply for companies that produce what many would consider to be commodity products? "Everybody has a brand," she said. "You may sell your product as a generic for a commodity price, but your brand is still behind that product. Your quality standards are there for that product. Your delivery capability and reputation are included in that commodity. These are all things you can communicate. In fact, communicating your standards and ideals in a commoditized market is the perfect way to create differentiation from your competitors."

The bottom line, she says, is that companies -- yes, even yarn spinners -- need to take a proactive communications role because, in the end, "somebody, somewhere, is going to define your brand for you. It might as well be you."

February 16, 2010

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