In today’s world of constant change and information overload via the Internet, content marketing and branding are often more important to success than product quality or technology. Contrary to a popular myth, word-of-mouth and viral marketing are not a substitute for more basic branding activities. The challenge is that many new business owners still don’t know where to start.
The right strategy for branding these days is to create a most memorable total customer experience for customers, rather than a focus on hyping the product and the company name. Innovation is key in setting your company apart from the onslaught of promotional media out there today, including email blasts, banner ads on the Internet, and pervasive television spots.
The new generation of consumers know what they want, and expect to get it when they want it, from the source of their choice. Here are some key recommendations for building your branding plan:
- Find out who your customers are through social media. Traditionally, branding meant targeting a customer segment, and hoping your guess was right. Now you can get direct contact and real insights by testing innovative messages through social media even before you roll out the product and can tune both your message and the product.
- Actively lead conversations, as well as really listening. Customers today want relationships with their preferred sources, not just a good transaction. That means they want to see you as a leader, with innovative ideas and a real point of view. They need a reason to keep coming back, and a conviction that you really care about them personally.
- Tell a story with your brand, and make it memorable. People remember and become loyal to a passionate or emotional story they can relate to. They will have a short memory and no loyalty to “lowest prices” or “easiest to use.” These days they like to see a connection to a higher purpose, such as helping a societal or environmental problem.
- Engage customers with a contest, event, or give-away. Use engagement to drive home your value proposition, not just as an unrelated diversion. Allow them to contribute to your message, and ask them to spread the message to friends. The target objective must always be to lead them to the final step in making a buy decision and come back.
- Capitalize on the massive trend and power of mobile. Highlight how your brand supports mobile, for shopping, purchase transactions, usage, and support. Mobile is far more powerful than print, broadcast, or billboards as a delivery vehicle, with its instant capability for establishing a relationship, initiating a transaction, or providing feedback.
- Position your products as delivery for on-demand services. Characterize your brand as one that builds relationships through personalized products that provide service. For example, rather than selling shoes, you could be selling a walking comfort service by digitally measuring feet and personalizing the fit to each customers’ unique requirement.
- Focus on product differentiation and setting yourself apart. You can’t win by being “just another” company that sells on price. Use insight, intelligence, and innovation to get your brand heard in a world that is bombarded with similar messages. Do the research to find your best competitive advantage, and then highlight and live the differentiation.
- Use personized smart advertising to target your customers. Today online advertising technology can target individual customers, based on location, personal interests, and past purchasing behavior, as well as age and gender. The challenge is to do this in a natural way that adds value, rather than being perceived as invasive or annoying.
- Pay serious attention to packaging and delivery. For too many companies, packaging and delivery are an afterthought, but they shouldn’t be. Steve Jobs was a master at this with his attention to detail and style in packaging, and he made Apple a premium brand. For e-commerce solutions, people remember your brand when they see instant delivery.
- Use analytics to assess your efforts and your competition. These days, developing branding by gut feel alone is not effective. There are many tools out there to gauge the impact of each new initiative, including Google Analytics and SimilarWeb. These also keep you abreast of competitor efforts. Focus on the branding elements that work for you.
It’s a major failure today to attempt a rollout of an innovative product or solution without an equally innovative digital branding strategy and plan. Even the best products won’t sell or be remembered if they can’t be found or differentiated by customers. Don’t rely on traditional branding techniques for your innovative solutions. The success of your business depends on it.