By Lyndi Lawson
In the era where technology is advancing faster than the Arctic sea ice melts, the very nature of branding has shifted. In this environment, brands are exposed and visible, they are discussed and they are fluid – a scary combination for traditional marketers and brand strategists. These characteristics are attributable to the connectivity of the Web, the speed with which information is transferred across a room, a country or a continent and the competitive milieu that this speed and connectivity give rise to. In circumstances such as this, effective branding becomes make or break. Here are some tips to help you get it right.
1. Monitor the conversation around your brand
Coming from a big family, I have learnt that occasionally, the only way to make people internalise things is by saying them (in a loud and increasingly high pitched tone) over and over and over again. So, monitor the conversation around your brand. Why? Well, how can you manage perception of your company if you don’t know what people are saying about it in the first place? This is not difficult – you can use a free tool like Google Alerts or use something that you have to pay for, but that provides better functionality. And now for some shameless self-promotion: you might have heard of a snazzy little product initiative we like to call BrandsEye?
2. Claim and own your brand name on social networks
Social Media and its resultant popularity are one of the key outcomes of the digital age. Providing a platform on which consumers and brands can communicate, it is obvious that there are several reasons why it is important to own and use your brand name on the social networks that are available to you. Not only will building up your Social Media profile improve your reputation, and build brand awareness, it will also act as a channel through which you can respond to attacks on your brand – it is preemptive rather than reactive.
That said, Social Media is a form of digital branding that should bear an “Approach with Caution” sign. There are a few things that are critical to remember – not only does your profile need to be highly visible, but you also need to participate in it actively and authentically on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, if you want brand engagement, you need to make a commitment to participating in the community in which you operate. In simple terms, don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you. If you’re new to this whole Web-nerd-marketing gig, Wikipedia (the source of all good information) has a comprehensive list of social networking sites you might want to try your hand at. Try to avoid the adults only or dating/hookup sites – depending on the nature of your business offering.
3. Consider the look and feel of your brand and be consistent
Truth be told, people are creatures of habit (hence the success of branding) and at the end of the day, however a brand is communicated, it should comprise the same factors. Having a strong consistent identity throughout your communication and marketing efforts is an integral step when considering building your organisation and creating a solid image. Bearing in mind that you are unlikely to be 100% in control of your online brand, it is important to examine it from every angle, assessing where it is vulnerable to attack or copyright infringement while establishing how it will be perceived from various perspectives. To really do this, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the consumers and/or businesses that will be digitally interacting with your brand – standard marketing speak it may be, but (as my Dad would say) better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick.
4. Provide value to your target market
I’m sure you’re asking yourself what relevance this has to branding. The link is not as tenuous as you might think. Back in the old days (and by that I mean the 80s and 90s), consumers were more accepting of everything from bad hair to bad service. These days, with greater access to information, consumers are more discerning and not only that, but they are spoiled for choice. Competition is greater, not because there are more brands out there (although that is part of it) but because there are more points of contact and more exposure to brands and branding. Standing out is thus crucial to sustainability and ultimate success. The best way for a company to do this is by providing added value in one form or another. Offering your customers something different and authentically useful will ensure their loyalty.
5. Make the leap from traditional to WebPR
For branding traditionalists, this might seem admitting defeat. Not so; these types of PR are not mutually exclusive – depending on your preferences, you can keep using both for as long as your heart desires. However, neglecting to take your PR online will threaten your brand. Tactics such as online article syndication provide value to your users, while positioning your brand as thought leaders in your industry and broadening your web presence – all things that are good for your brand. Other WebPR tactics, like press releases, blogging and making use of an online press room do the same. Ultimately, because things spread faster and further online at little cost, using this medium will ensure that your brand will get the recognition it deserves. And there is no better form of brand protection and promotion than a community that knows who you are and what you do.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010
5 Tips for Integrating Technology and Branding