Of all the brands and businesses you watch online, which ones are sticking to their brand and leveraging digital marketing successfully?
I think they sort of come and go. And I think in the last number of years, I’ve noticed that some people just really do well at campaigns… they’ll put up a Super Bowl ad of some sort, and then they follow up at YouTube and make it go viral. So I’m seeing some fun campaigns that will happen, but in terms of somebody just being consistent across all channels, I find it’s still the wild, wild, west out there.
Barbara believes that businesses struggle to figure out where they should be and many are still advertising driven because they don’t know where the eyeballs and attention are.
She recommended that businesses looking for branding and digital marketing inspiration should follow tech giants like Apple and Tesla “…the tech world still gets it. And I think to some extent, that’s because it’s just an organic part of their existence.”
She advised that it’s important to remember to have a personality and a voice online and offline. “People like people” and they like humour because they can resonate. For example, Tesla has been successful online because their CEO (Elon Musk) is active on Twitter and typically doesn’t hold back (mostly in alignment with their brand.)
Mercedes Benz was under fire recently during the Super Bowl for a tweet poking fun at the pace of the game. They wound up taking the tweet down. How can we learn from missteps of brands and businesses online?
I’m not sure that the average consumer noticed. And so one could argue that Mercedes Benz had to take that down for branding reasons, that it was bad for them to have that up. But the other side of the coin is there was an opportunity to jump in and actually share how “we really love our moments and in the stadium and actually it’s been a rewarding experience for us.”
Barbara recommends that in situations when a company will be live tweeting (such as Mercedes) or at an event running live video, they have to consider a few things ahead of time so that they’re better prepared (and to avoid unnecessary panic or knee-jerk reactions.)
Barbara reminds us to keep in mind that social channels are considered a place to have a conversation and that we should be prepared to have a conversation with your audience. But to also remember that it’s critical to operate within the values of the organization.
Based on the pace of news, it can be fairly straight-forward to recover from missteps online. But just remember the importance of aligning everything you do online and offline with your brand promise.
What do brands need to do, to be good at showing up online?
I believe … that you know what you’re supposed to be doing … the 80% and make it better, do it better, do it more often…and be careful of the 20% shiny …
Barbara recommends that you follow the story your data tells. If you know that you get the right kinds of engagement and business results from Facebook or LinkedIn, you should focus 80% of your effort there. However, it’s still important to try and test new channels. So if you think that your audience might be hanging out over on Musical.ly, spend 20% of your time testing over there.
Consider leveraging tools that can help you better manage your social media program. For example, you may see that there’s value in using Twitter to share your blog or vlog. Therefore, you can consider automating the content so that you can continue focusing time on channels that generate the best results.
Barbara also advised that businesses make it clear to people when they’re online, where they will be (e.g.: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and what you use it for (e.g.: company news, industry news, customer support, fun etc.) She also recommended that businesses leverage social channels differently; it’s okay to repurpose content but it must make sense for the platform. Automatically linking social channels such as Instagram to Twitter so that when you post on Instagram it automatically posts to Twitter may seem efficient, but it probably isn’t wowing your audience. Therefore, it won’t help establish a consistent brand presence as the content (shared in this manner) doesn’t show up properly.
How can we stay on brand but be human at the same time? (e.g.: is it safe to share political thoughts as a brand/business online?)
…you have to get buy in and you have to get buy in from your employees and customers.
Barbara recommended that organizations spend time internally to learn how leadership teams and employees feel about certain topics and issues. These are conversations that must be had in your strategy meetings as a company and it must be linked to your values as a business or organization. Evaluate whether it directly impacts the organization. In the USA, various groups can take Trumps talking points and discuss and ensure they put something out that would be on brand. So is that where you see those conversations happening rather than sort of on the fly or because we see companies just sort newsjacking polar situations? It is important to get an internal temperature check to see how your teams feel about the connection of current issues, charities and causes potentially and the business.
In ideal circumstances, a business would also survey customers to get their perspectives as well.
The purpose of this heavy-lifting is to be intentional about what you share online. Sharing your political leanings or opinions about controversial issues can have an impact on your business, both in terms of reputation and finances.
“I think it becomes problematic…like taking on the president of United States. I think that’s hard to do it… and be on brand.”
Therefore, getting involved in these types of conversations online really depends on the brand and Barbara warns that it must be genuine. She advised to think of this in practical of the tactical terms asking the questions: does our organization get into certain types of conversations or not?
Barbara recommended that businesses spend time putting together a list of the topics that would be considered off-limits. For example, Trump, religion etc. These are topics that you either give your social media manager or team freedom to express or not.
How can small businesses compete online with large brands (like Wendy’s) to get attention?
Barbara recommended trying a campaign to test tactics. social media on some levels should be fun. For example, try out Instagram Stories. This is sort of place to do experiments and to see reaction you get and then you either do more or less.
She also recommended considering local influencers. When you align with the right people, they can help you generate buzz online and offline for your brand.
Are there any other trends that you can think of that you see in terms of digital in this space branding?
“The biggest ones that I think [is] people are returning to more long form [content].”
Barbara is seeing a trend in terms of longer blog posts and longer podcasts.
“One of the reasons why Spotify bought Anchor and Gimlet…people who listen to podcasts were staying on Spotify so long… people who are committed to audio, are really committed to audio.”
Similarly, people are committed to their social channels. Those who love Twitter, really love it and spend time there. Those who love Instagram, love it.
“I think people are wanting to spend more time with things and wanting to go deeper with things.”
Keep in mind that it’s really important to stay on brand, but balance that with the delivery of valuable stuff to your audience.
How do businesses identify that the time has come to do a little bit of a refresh or rebrand?
Citing her favourite quote, “a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that taken together account for a consumers decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
Well, just just so people know I to me, changing your logo or changing your website is one thing and that to me is just a refresh of the brand so that you should probably be doing you know, I don’t know depending on the company every couple of years. When you really want to do rebrand, that’s when you begin to go, Wait a minute, what is my purpose? What’s my vision? Why the heck am I here on the face of the earth, doing what I’m doing?
It’s common for most businesses to be unclear about what their brand is. So if you’re going to establish a brand or start the rebranding process, it first begins with your management team or board of advisors.
Next, you must go to your clients and go to your customers. You can do this via email or if you’re so inclined, you can have a sit down with one them face to face.
You can also leverage a much broader audience via social channels, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Offer an incentive and when they purchase a product or service, survey them with key questions to get valuable insights and feedback. (But be aware of bias in the results!)
Small businesses often think that this type of initiative is really more for big businesses because the cost can be steep. However, as Barbara pointed out in our chat, it can actually be quite economical.
“I did something one time with a client [restaurant owner]…I went to the restaurant with one other employee in the morning and we just offer people a coupon, if they would sit and chat with me or they could fill out the survey themselves.”
Through this process, the restaurant owner gained valuable insights beyond his own perceptions – and this is incredibly important. Branding is always a balance between perception and reality. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, you need to be talking to your customers and your clients to determine what’s working and what’s not.
What are your favourite branding and marketing resources?