Branding: 6 Tips to Help Optimize Your Efforts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2011

People typically equate a company's brand with the company's logo. But a brand is much more than a stylized name: It is a primary symbol of an organization's purpose, vision and values. Indeed, the act of branding represents a strategic endeavor that encompasses a range of corporate functions—marketing, public relations, and customer service, not the least, among them.

Branding also includes the way employees present their company to its various constituencies, whether intentionally through the communication of key messages or incidentally through everyday emails, social-media engagement and phone conversations.

Digital's Impact on Branding

Before the advent of digital technology, buyers in both the business-to-consumer (B-to-C) and the business-to business (B-to-B) space would be open to receiving sales communications from a number of brand ambassadors. They may have been exposed to messages pushed to them from dozens of companies, clients, or products from which they could reduce the pool of realistic choices to those offerings that were closely aligned with their needs.

Marketing and other communications professionals relied on this traditional "funnel" approach, and reached out to their prospects and audiences at specific intervals in the selling cycle—most often at the point of "consideration." The ball was essentially in the seller's court.

Things are very different today. "Consumers in both the B-2-C and the B-2-B markets still want a clear brand promise and offerings they value. What has changed is when—at what touch points—they are most open to influence, and how you can interact with them at those points," David C. Edelman states in this Harvard Business Review article. "In the past," Edelman explains, "marketing strategies that put the lion's share of resources into building brand awareness and then opening wallets at the point of purchase worked pretty well. But touch points have changed in both number and nature, requiring a major adjustment to realign marketers' strategies and budgets with where consumers are actually spending their time." He goes on to suggest that consumers are now most open to influence at the "evaluate" stage and not at the "consider" stage.

Essentially, successful branding communication has shifted from a seller-controlled to a buyer-controlled model. Nonetheless, many marketing and PR efforts persist in following the older, less-effective, model. Commenting on the Edelman article, Taddy Hall, chief operating officer of Meteor Solutions, writes in this post: "Marketers' mental and economic models assume that consumer behaviors are primarily influenced by the message pushed to them—through media and promotion. In reality, we live in a world in which consumer behaviors are primarily influenced by the content they pull to themselves through their social networks."

How to Optimize Your Branding Efforts

There is a lot of potential for communications practitioners to harness the power of the new marketing model described above. Here are six tips that can help you get the most out of your branding communications activities in an increasingly digital environment.

1. Employees are brand ambassadors. Brand advocacy starts with all employees and not just the media spokespeople. Customer-facing employees are the first point of contact for prospective new customers and for existing clients, which gives them considerable influence in shaping the impression that audiences have of your company.

2. Seek information thoughtfully. In this WebInkNow post, David Meerman Scott likens mandatory "contact us" forms to asking intimate questions before introducing yourself to someone you want to date. For example, he says that you would never go up to someone and immediately ask for their phone number; nor would you ask the person how much money they make after first introducing yourself. "...You're not likely to get too far in the dating world acting like this. Yet, this is exactly how many companies behave," Scott contends. Instead of requiring a prospect to disclose "intimate details" (like the number of company employees) in order to speak with a human at your company, Scott says "the next time you have to design a marketing strategy, think about how you would approach it if you were trying to date the buyer."

3. Listen and respond. Dan Schaible, BurrellesLuce senior vice president, content management, recently wrote a two-part blog post on the licensing and monetizing of content in "a 30-second world." He was prompted to pen the pieces after attending several industry events that made him question how professionals engage their audiences. "There is a vast amount of energy being devoted to persuading consumers of what their needs are instead of discovering and meeting those needs that already exist," Schaible asserts. The best way to identify existing needs is to truly listen and enter into comprehensive, two-way dialogues.

4. Adapt and adjust. The world of digital communications has expanded almost unimaginably in just a few years, and it continues to evolve at astonishing speed. Yet, many organizations are still slow in keeping up with these monumental changes. Writing about "Branding in 2011," Nicole Armstrong, of More Than a Logo, states that "Brands need to be nimble. They need to be able to quickly adapt to both new and existing marketing changes, challenges, and opportunities." Without adjusting, companies cannot expect to remain relevant, let alone to be successful.

5. Spell out the differences. Today's audiences want to know what separates your company from the competition. "If you don't differentiate, your brand will become a commodity and you will be forced to compete on price," notes this white paper from Dave Dunn of Branding Communications and Forrest W. Anderson, consultant. "Once you become just a price, you are no longer a brand, just another supplier, and you're vulnerable." For your company to truly stand out, make your communications both creative and innovative, resisting the temptation to rehash the same material.

6. Choose tools wisely. Pick tools that best fit your community's requirements and preferences. That means using whatever gets you involved in the conversation in a relevant and meaningful way. And don't be afraid to incorporate new tactics if research shows that they are well-suited to your audience.

Today's consumers are more likely to engage in word-of-mouth marketing both online and offline. By targeting consumers at the point in the branding-communications-buying cycle at which they are most open to influence and then fulfilling those brand promises—with the help of the tips outlined above—you can harness the power inherent in the activities today's consumers participate in already and potentially create brand ambassadors that can continue to propel your branding forward.

About BurrellesLuce

BurrellesLuce is the U.S. leader in media monitoring. Professionals in a wide range of industries rely on our comprehensive curated content from local and national print, online, broadcast, and social media sources. BurrellesLuce has a turnkey copyright compliance program that allows us to provide copyright-compliant, behind-the-paywall content not available to other services. BurrellesLuce combines grade-A content with easy-to-use software, allowing users to evaluate and analyze their media coverage and PR efforts. It's all integrated into our user-friendly interface, BurrellesLuce WorkFlow™.

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