The folks over at MPlanet have been reaching out to bloggers this week, asking us to post on one of the following four topics:
– Brand building in a digital world (my topic!)
– Connecting with empowered consumers
– Marketing mix in a fragmented world
– Global marketing on a borderless planet
Here’s my take on brands in this digital world we are working with.
There has been quite a bit of discussion of late about social media and brands. Who “owns” the brand in a digital world? This reminds me of conversations about CRM and “managing” customer relationships. Can we really manage our customers’ relationships with us? Who is in control of the relationship? The customer. Likewise, as much as a brand may cater to their customers, it is ultimately the customer who is in charge of whether they purchase again (and whether they recommend you).
So, what does a brand look like in a digital world? Whatever its customers say it looks like.
Online brand “impressions” come not only from interactions with a company’s official website, they come from every part of the customer experience. Customer service, search results (yes, they are part of the customer experience), banner ads, and, of course, reviews, ratings, and blog posts about the company’s products or services all influence perception of the brand. There is general agreement that the brand is a summation of all these small touchpoints of a customer with a company.
Customers may agree or disagree with the branding that a company is doing, but in a digital world, they now have a very fast and easy way to share their thoughts. Thousands or millions of others can see, hear, and experience multiple customer perceptions of most brands, regardless of whether that brand has a strong online presence. In the digital world, other customers may be a stronger influence on the company’s brand than the company itself.
The community defines the brand in a digital world.
More Than a Conversation
Earlier this week I spoke with Jonathan Baskin, author of the book Branding Only Works on Cattle (podcast of the discussion coming soon!). We talked about the opportunities for a different take on branding. What should really be the goal? Jonathan suggested we create more than a two-way online conversation with customers; we need to drive them to action. Talking is great; buying is even better! Jonathan posed the idea of doing this by creating a branding game plan where the brand comes alive through all the customer touchpoints (such as customer service). And he means games here, using games as models for how to do business with customers. This helps create experiences where customers are moved towards action (purchase, repurchase, or recommendation to others are good ones to start with!) in a way that they not only enjoy but where they can also feed back into the process.
Playing in a Digital World
Brands in a digital world have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of this type of game play. I don’t mean that brands should create online games for customers to play! I mean there is a challenge to make each customer interaction unique, exciting, and relevant to that customer at that moment in time. What your brand is to me is likely very different than what it is to my colleague, sister, or friend. Additionally, my perception of your brand may change depending on what I am intent on doing at the moment or even where I am in my customer lifecycle. Digital media allows companies to be extremely flexible in how they create customer experiences that are differentiated based on customer need (and value). And it also allows brands to make these experiences fun and engaging!
It All Adds Up
As Jonathan’s book states, “Branding is experience in time, and the brand becomes a series of interrelated behaviors.” Brands that will be successful in a Digital World are those that can not only tailor those experiences to their customers as needed, they are able to interact with and engage with customers online in a meaningful way – both for the company as well as for the customer.
(Photo credit: Will Lion http://www.flickr.com/photos/will-lion/2782049563/)