As the world continues to digitize at a dizzying rate, spare a thought for marketers. Rewind just a few decades and the now seemingly straightforward channels of TV, radio, and print dominated. Ad campaigns could be co-ordinated across channels and, so long as the brand was strong, the product could be sold. In an age of social media, apps, and VR, the opportunities presented by emerging technologies are matched by the challenges, and marketers are being forced to navigate them quickly in an increasingly competitive environment.
According to research from The Brandgym, ‘keeping up with the latest trends’ was the key driver of social media use for marketing directors from more than 100 different companies. Of course, there’s value in being up to date with emerging technology and new platforms on which to engage your audience, but an obsession with rushing to the latest app or social media all too often neglects the core fundamentals of brand strategy. The strive for share-ability and to-the-minute relevance has left too many companies without a compelling and coherent brand message.
This is a problem. Multi-channel marketing can fragment and dilute a brand message, so it has never been more important that brand strategy be both strong and clear. Perhaps the key element of a digital marketing strategy in this age of abundance is unity. Across all digital offerings - be it the app, the social media output, the video campaign - the visuals, the tone, and the message should be consistent. A brand goes further than its product, its logo, or its CEO; a modern brand is all about ‘experiences’.
User experience is a huge part of branding
Ensuring your customers have a positive experience in interactions with your brand has always been important - poor customer service, for example, has always turned consumers away from brands. A poorly laid out shop floor has always made customers associate the brand with frustration rather than order. What is relatively new, though, is that digital UX is an interaction in itself.
Brands that include gimmicky features on their apps just because others offer them are getting UX wrong - unnecessary or overly diverse features confuse the brand message an app is presenting, the same can be said of websites. Just think of the most disruptive digital-first companies and their offerings are both straightforward and incredibly well designed. Uber, Airbnb, and Deliveroo, for example, offer a single service and have become synonymous with the product they offer - this is incredibly powerful branding achieved through sound UX.
Branding is more than just a logo or an image
Another important element for brands to remember in the digital age is that branding no longer means what it did a decade ago. Billboard campaigns and TV ads may still be effective, but there are myriad other elements for marketers to consider in the brands overall digital output and therefore the ‘experiences’ it provides. Employee Twitter feeds, the handling of customer complaints on a Facebook page, the tone of a push notification from the brand’s app - all interactions with consumers should have the brand’s key message in mind, and shouldn’t be at odds with the message.
Of course, elements like corporate social responsibility and share-ability are important tools when growing a brand digitally, but neither should come at the expense of, or the distortion of the core message. Not only does digital marketing and the digital ‘experience’ extend far further than the marketing team, but everyone in the company should be aware of the brand message and should interact with customers accordingly. The digital age means consumers interact with brands across a plethora of channels, it’s now more valuable than ever to ensure that yours are aligned.