The March 15 issue of the AMA Marketing News—usually a weekly time capsule of conventional wisdom from a decade ago—had a cover story concerning how agencies and companies are using blogs to promote brands and site visits. But the story was actually a case study in what not to do, plus it failed to even mention wikis as an emerging branding tool.

To promote a new flavored-milk product called Raging Cow, Dr Pepper/Seven Up had a “cow” post random comments about a cross-country trip. Although the target audience was 18- to 24-year-olds, the comments appealed more to third-graders.

A sample: “‘How would a cow know diddly about the phases of the moon?' Good question, but ever since that whole jumping over the moon incident, we cows and yonder moon have been TIGHT.”

So, recognizing that this is an emerging area, here are 10 rules for using blogs and wikis to achieve your branding goals:

1. Be authentic

Brands are about trust, and authenticity is the foundation of trust. Blogs should be written as if close friends were sharing observations over a beer. It's easy to tell when PR or legal vampires have sucked the life out of content. By making up phony posts, Dr Pepper/Seven Up was guilty of “astro-turfing”—creating the perception of a grassroots movement where none exists. To promote Raging Cow, it would have been more effective—and honest—to record the actual observations of a diary farmer or Gen Y-ers on a cross-country trek to find the ultimate milkshake.

2. Be an unmatched resource

Politicians have perfected the art of the “trial balloon.” An idea is leaked, and the resultant reaction signals whether it's politically safe to proceed. Use your blog to provide heads-up information unavailable elsewhere, like a forthcoming product or marketing blitz. Any feedback represents invaluable market research.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Wreden is the author of ProfitBrand: How to Increase the Profitability, Accountability and Sustainability of Brands (named "Best Business Book of 2005" by strategy+business) and FusionBranding: How to Forge Your Brand for the Future. Reach him at nick@fusionbrand.com.