The building blocks of an effective brand strategy
Since the turn of the millennium, more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies have suffered or failed due to digital disruption. With so many social media sites competing at nearly every turn, building a successful brand through digital marketing can be quite a challenge. Add ever-evolving platforms, like artificial intelligence, to the mix, and the challenge becomes exponentially more complicated.
Technology and platforms that cater to users around the clock create a need for new business models that enable marketing to adapt appropriately. For example, apps like Instagram and Snapchat are highly reactive, meaning the old practices of curating and scheduling social media posts aren’t always viable.
In many ways, successful marketing means successful storytelling. The goal is to expand the story to reach customers where they are. Therefore, the art of telling it will need to evolve if your brand is to withstand the test of time.
The Fundamentals of a Good Brand Strategy
Good company branding used to mean little more than a logo and a business card with a strong, memorable tagline thrown in. A complete brand, however, is more than that — it’s a presence. And like any other entity, it only succeeds when its identity is consistent.
While every brand should tailor its strategy to its specific goals, most share a few fundamental principles that help ensure success:
1. Focus on the consumers, not the product.
Information comes at us faster than ever before, and the tidbits that get through our mental filters are those that are most relevant to us. Rather than develop a brand strategy that promotes all your brand’s impressive benefits, think more about the type of consumers you’re trying to reach and how the product or service can improve their lives.
Nordstrom has understood this concept for well over a century, and when digitization began to change consumer habits, it was quick to adapt its strategies to take advantage. What began as just a website quickly evolved into an entire digital business model that provided a consistent and integrated experience based on customer feedback. Today, the company is still recognized as one of the innovators of digital branding.
In the fight for relevance, the most successful brands are those that capture consumers’ attention by listening to what they want and delivering it to improve their experience. For continued success, however, brands must keep that attention by building trust and loyalty among consumers through digital and real-life interactions.
2. Build your brand on data and trust.
With all the new and exciting forms of marketing — such as AI and virtual reality — it’s easy to forget about the basics. Before you start getting too wild with your marketing efforts, make sure you’re already doing a solid job with website content, email marketing, SEO, and social media. Measure and analyze your data often so you know where you stand with your customers before moving into new marketing territory.
Once you better understand who your customers are, it’s time to consider why they love your brand. For most companies, this comes down to the trust factor. If your buyers trust you, they’re more likely to stick with you through good times and bad.
Johnson & Johnson, for example, was rated by Forbes as one of the world’s most trusted brands, despite a recent round of recalls involving several of its products. The company has built a formidable foundation of trust among its consumers because it has spent decades delivering on its promise to provide safe home products, especially for babies.
Every brand makes a promise, whether it’s to provide the safest family products, the most sought-after fashion items, or the most accommodating customer service. To build trust, your brand must live up to that promise every time you interact with consumers, and every article or social media post you publish should be in accordance with that promise.
3. Speak consistently across all mediums.
Besides promises, every brand also has a message that it needs to convey, and that message needs to be consistent across every medium. Think of your brand as if it were a person, and consider how your customers would describe its personality. Choose a few traits that you want your brand to be associated with, and then create a consistent voice around those traits.
One of the most powerful examples of brand consistency is the message of happiness that has defined Coca-Cola advertisements for decades. Decorated with everything from jolly polar bears during the holiday season to popular names that encourage sharing, the Coke can has become nearly synonymous with happiness.
Also, you don’t have to be the most boisterous voice on social media to get noticed. An energetic brand may benefit from being hyperactive online, while a quieter brand may want to develop a strategy of interacting rarely but always in a significant manner. The best way to make either strategy work is to stick to it consistently.
4. Engage purposefully and mindfully.
Whether your brand’s voice is quiet or exuberant, you should always express it carefully. Posting about or in response to things because they’re trending can seem like a good way to quickly raise a brand’s awareness, but that temptation can sometimes have very negative results.
Online publication Total Beauty learned this lesson the hard way when it tried to join the conversation surrounding the 2016 Oscars. The brand accidentally confused Whoopi Goldberg with Oprah Winfrey on Twitter, and the internet wasn’t too happy about it. The negative response was swift and brutal, and Total Beauty quickly deleted the tweet, issued an apology, and offered to donate $10,000 to each star’s charity of choice.
Jumping into trending topics can have spectacular results (just ask Wendy’s about the #NuggsForCarter challenge), but every message should be carefully crafted and only delivered with specific purpose. In the digital world, attention spans are short. And in the aftermath of a negative incident, another brand can quickly swoop in and grab consumers’ attention.
Creating a successful digital brand strategy can be challenging, but as history has shown, all successful campaigns rely on positive and consistent strategies. Remember that all your brand’s associations, from your logo and tagline to your online and social media interactions, should consistently portray your brand’s promise to consumers. That’s the only way to build and maintain the trust that will keep your brand successful for years to come.