10 Fundamentals for Building Strong Brands in the Digital Age

Posted by Mitch Duckler
Building Strong Brands in the Digital Age

There's no doubt that digital is all the rage for marketing executives and their teams today. It feels like a hot new social media channel will pop up at any moment and tout itself as the next big thing. Undoubtedly, new digital channels have opened up exciting and opportunities for brands to engage with ever more connected consumers. However, spending so much time, effort and energy on digital channel selection and execution runs the risk of neglecting fundamentals of brand strategy.

For brands without a compelling, coherent strategy to inspire and guide effective marketing across all channels, neglecting brand strategy raises the risk of diluting brand equity over time as the brand message and experience get fragmented across an ever-increasing number of channels.

As a brand strategy consultant, one of the most frequent questions I get from marketing executives today is, “How to inspire marketing teams to rediscover the power of brand strategy and “reboot” it for the digital age?

Branding is no longer just about exposure

Building strong brands is no longer simply about customers' exposure to your business; it's about the experiences and interactions they have with your brand—speaking with employees, searching your website, interacting with your social media pages, and visiting your location. All of these "touch points" need consideration as you reevaluate your overall brand strategy. In other words, it's no longer what a brand says about themselves that matters to clients, but instead it's what clients experience that counts. Marketing reinforces what your clients experience when they work with your firm, it doesn't define the experience.

Branding is now real-time

Today's consumers, armed with mobile phones capable of recording their brand experiences in real-time, are quick to share those experiences—good and bad—with the world and are as essential (if not more) in telling your brand story as you are. Think about the recent examples of brands such as United Airlines, Dove, and Pepsi that were negatively impacted last year because of a viral video, a social media post or an online review. Due to the viral nature of the world wide web and social media, it takes just an "Internet minute” to build up or tear down a brand.

Brand-building in the digital age

Branding in the digital age requires a mix of tried and true ideologies from the past and new approaches needed in today's environment. Following are ten fundamentals for branding in the digital age:

  • Differentiate and stand out from your competition. Consumers need a clear understanding of what makes your brand unique.
  • Be authentic and make sure your brand promise is something you can live up to.
  • Connect emotionally like when BMW said, “We realized a long time ago that what you make people feel, is just as important as what you make.”
  • Be consistent across every touch point and every communication. People should experience the same feeling whether they are in your locale, searching your website, or engaging on your social media sites.
  • Understand your audienceintimately—their wants, needs, interests, pain points, etc. and address them in your marketing strategy.
  • Think digital (and mobile first) whether blogs, social media, news sites, websites or email. Purchasing behavior has changed dramatically, with online research becoming a significant part of the buying cycle for both B2C and B2B—traditional approaches now support digital.
  • Personalize the experience; marketing can no longer be to the masses. People want to feel that their interactions and experiences are personalized and directly relevant to them.
  • Pull them in because branding is no longer a push strategy. Consumers want value not volume, so approach marketing with a client-centric content mindset.
  • Listen and respond. Branding is now a two-way conversation, so listen to your audience, deliver timely responses to their comments, and incorporate their feedback.
  • Keep them coming back by creating both a remarkable product/service and remarkable marketing that will lead to passionate brand advocates that do the selling for you.

A strong brand is still vital

All companies need a strong brand and branding is a relevant process for an organization to incorporate in every facet of their business. With so many channels, options, and distractions for consumers today, brand-building must be approached differently than it was in the past.

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