Does branding still matter?

A topical issue in the world of digital marketing is whether branding still matters. Now that we live in such a digital world and can engage meaningfully with anyone at any time, has the concept of branding perhaps become a little outdated?

By branding we mean the process of establishing a distinct product name and image in the mind of the consumer. This is usually achieved through marketing and advertising campaigns with a consistent theme.

But in today’s rapidly changing digital and mobile environment, is that still relevant?

Well, yes and no is the answer to that question. Yes it is still essential for a business to be associated with a brand that is distinctive and stands out from the crowd, and that is both reputable and reliable. But the danger is that unless your brand is flexible and can move with the times then no, it will no longer be effective.

So the real question is not an “either/or” but a “both”. The real question to be addressed is how can you manage your branding effectively in these changing times? What do you need to do differently to ensure that it stays relevant?

We recommend the following 5 strategies to ensure that your brand is up to date and competitive:

  • Make sure your brand is interactive rather than a one-way message

    In the past you may have put a great deal of effort into pushing out the same consistent message across a variety of different channels. That can still be relevant but the key thing now is to listen before you speak so that your key messages are responsive to your customers rather than dictating to them. You need to continually evaluate your brand and your messaging in light of this.

    Be ready and willing to take advantage of the disruptive opportunities offered by today’s digital world and use these to continually refresh and evolve the way your brand interacts with its current and potential customers. You need to try and get into your customers heads and examine the ways they live their daily lives and what their needs are. If you can adopt this consumer-centric view, you will be able to identify opportunities in parallel with – or even ahead of – changes in consumers’ needs.

  • Be aware of digital tribalism

    Leading on from the above, there has been a rapid growth recently in thinking of digital communities as tribes. We can become members of selected online communities in which we actively participate but may never meet a fellow tribesperson in the flesh. But everyone’s voice can be heard, and everyone’s opinion matters.

    If you can incorporate this concept into your marketing activity you will be onto a winner. For example, if you are responsible for digital marketing for finance businesses you are likely to have targeted people by demographic groupings. However, as digital tribes grow and develop, you may be able to discover whole new target markets that have self-generated around certain services or interests.”

  • What is your story?

    In our recent article on How to Create a Buzz with Ephemeral Content we looked at the importance of storytelling in creating effective content. Increasingly consumers are not just interested in the best product or service for their needs: they want to know the story behind them. What is your company like? How do you do things? Why are you offering that product or service? Do you support social or charitable causes? How will the money they spend with you will be spent or invested?

    There is a sea change happening in consumerism, in terms of people being more ethically and environmentally aware, and these factors will increasingly play a part in the decision-making process of a typical consumer. So you need to get your story out there in order for those decisions to be made in your favour. The more open and transparent, the better.

  • User experience just got bigger

    Never lose focus on the key issue of how people experience your brand. Every touchpoint counts, and you need to work hard to create a holistic experience that will delight your target audience at every point.

    Also bear in mind that whilst UX has been part of the digital marketing mix for some time now, today’s consumer has also come to expect some kind of interactive experience with every purchase. Whether this is a live interactive video or something else exciting, adventurous or unexpected is up to you but there needs to be something unique that is tied to the brand.

  • Need help? No problem

    The days should be long since gone when a customer asking for help was seen as an inconvenience or annoyance. The more that your brand can do to make it easy for customers to find answers and request help the better. You need to prioritise customer satisfaction and promote yourself as a business that takes pride in making customers happy.

    One great way to reinforce your customer satisfaction ethic is to actively seek feedback and reviews from existing customers and publish these on all available channels. Getting customers to reinforce your brand is a key part of a culture of helpfulness and a powerful way to win others. It will also also help you to build loyalty and gain repeat business.

So to summarise, we would say that branding is still important but it needs to be a more interactive, responsive and agile type of branding than may previously have been the case. If you can successfully layer the above building blocks on the foundation of a solid, reputable and easily recognisable brand then the future looks bright for you.