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Don’t forget offline brand communications can still be effective

Combine your online and offline strategies for an industry-leading brand presence

Branding isn’t just about getting your logo seen everywhere. Your brand is your business. Successful branding is about communicating your values and vision to your target markets to attract, maintain and grow a loyal customer base.

Your brand should instantly communicate why you are better than your competitors, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point. To reach this point you need a branding strategy which incorporates every aspect of your business, from how your CEO behaves and how your employees feel about their jobs right through to the quality of your product or service and the end customer experience. Slideshare features a good deck on how to write a brand plan step by step.

To do this you can use an effective mix of online and offline techniques. However you present your brand, whether though the use of promotional merchandise or online advertising, accuracy is key, so remember you need to keep messages clear and consistent to make them easy to communicate, easy to remember and easy to pass on.

Online branding

In today’s world it is clear that a brand needs a strong branded digital presence. But simply having an online profile and a set of contacts is no longer enough. The key to getting your online brand presence right is to know your customers, give them what they want before they ask for it and keep your content relevant and responsive. Then, in order to keep your customers interested, throw in a few surprises.

No one wants to be constantly sold to, so think about what sparks your interest as a person and remember that your customers are people too. Websites that do this well often have a vibrant blog full of useful posts that give visitors useful information relating to your product or service. This means people will go to you to as an industry voice and resource, making your brand so much more memorable and credible.

We are all happy when someone makes us laugh, we can’t help but take notice when someone shocks us, and however hard hearted we might think we are we all want to hear a genuinely heart-warming story of human kindness. So, essentially, when you want to really engage your customers, you need to forget about selling, and tap into the stories that affect us all. When you look at what successfully goes viral online, it falls into one of these emotive categories without fail.

Content marketing

Content really is king, so wherever possible you need to tailor your content to your target market. Consumers are bombarded by information and data so have developed ways to quickly filter out what is of no interest to them and seek out what is.

  • Keep your contacts engaged by understanding and appealing to their interests.
  • Get to know your customers by taking a few risks with your content and monitor how they react, but be ready to turn around any negative impacts.
  • When words fail think visuals instead — this is after all what got Pinterest such a loyal following. There’s also many studies to support the fact that visuals go much further in captivating the attention of visitors as the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. See how captivating this  ‘travel’ search on Pinterest is

pinterest_travel_search

Websites and Social Platforms

While the traditional website is usually the basis of a company’s brand presence online, they will now fail to make much of an impact if they are not linked up and synchronised with social media activity. While your website may remain a central bank of information and the ultimate representation of your brand, your use of social media is what will drive traffic to it. Without the effective manipulation of all online platforms your website will effectively be like a book which languishes unread on a library shelf.

As you can see from the infographic millions of users branch across the big six social media platforms, providing a prime (and primarily, free) opportunity that businesses would be crazy to overlook.

Test some techniques

Building online communities and keeping them engaged is a full-time task. You are trying to grab the attention of your customers against countless other businesses, so you need to think creatively to make your brand stand out. Consumers expect to be sold to; they don’t expect to get something for nothing;

  • they expect to be treated like a purchaser, not a personality and
  • they expect experts to hold on to their knowledge.

Simply turn these preconceptions on their heads and you can generate industry-leading branding techniques.

It’s an old trick, but issuing discount codes for visitors to your social platforms is a sure way to get customers visiting your website. Tap into the human need to feel good and introduce unexpected humour (especially if the brand is the butt of the joke) or gimmicks such as caption competitions, which users just can’t help having a go at and forwarding to their friends.

Do something generous and help improve the lives of others through your company activities — no one can resist a good news story. And without giving away all your trade secrets, don’t be afraid to share your expertise and become a genuine thought leader online. Sharing knowledge can be a great way to generate a trusted profile.

Whatever your plan for your online strategy, remember that not everything can be planned. You need to be ready to take advantage of opportunities which present themselves before your competitors get in on the act. So if you ever need approvals for particular online activity, then you need a quick approval route established from day one so that you remain responsive.

Offline but right on target

It can be easy to get sucked into the world of online marketing and brand promotion and forget that there is still very much a tangible, physical world where brand promotion can very effectively be applied. Offline techniques still have an essential role to play in branding.

  • Handling a glossy brochure after a powerful sales presentation can leave that crucial lasting impression, reinforcing market messages long after the pitch has finished.
  • Advertising in trusted trade press can get straight to a key customer who is in a receptive frame of mind as they switch off from the persistent buzz of technology and take time to read their quality publication.
  • Outdoor poster campaigns and leafleting can be effective forms of repeated visual presentation for your brand, and all advertisers know that you have to repeat your message frequently and consistently before it starts to take effect.

advertising

And don’t forget that promotional products are still a great form of brand promotion which can be relatively inexpensive. Sometimes referred to as incentives, goodies or give-aways, there seems to be no limit to what you can have produced as a promotional product to carry and communicate your brand. You will find lots of ideas for promotional items, such as those available in Fluid Branding's promotional products range.

Well-placed promotional products are an ideal way to make your brand travel when used in the form of give-aways at events and as gifts in goody bags. Good-quality promotional products can also be a great gift to thank clients with. Get the item just right and you can secure your brand a position on office desks or walls all year round.

It’s also likely that your product will be on the move accompanying its recipient, therefore spreading your brand afar without you having to move a muscle. Not only will people be happy to have received a free gift, but they’ll become advocates for you!

For effective brand engagement strategies, you need to make sure that your online activities are integrated with your offline activities and your overall marketing strategy. Co-ordinating content development, online communications and PR activity can be the perfect mix for boosting your positive brand profile across all media. When this is achieved, your brand value will be easily recognised even when it's simply a logo on promotional merchandise.

Bringing it all together into a widespread, far-reaching but consistent story is the key to effective brand promotion. You need to stay relevant, readable and accessible for all your customers and prospects, and then you want to get them doing the talking for you. When that happens, you know your brand has succeeded.

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