18 May 2010

Consumer rules your digital brand

Just as the brand managers and marketers mastered the art of brewing value brands with a scientific understanding of consumers’ needs and wants, the world flipped into a new community all together with the advent of technology. The digital era has redefined lifestyle, content as well as communication off all consumers and businesses so radically that there has to be a new insight into branding in the digital era.

Yester years

Brand creation and management is an art and a science that creates added perceived value to both organisations and consumers alike. Tradition media such as the print, outdoor, television, billboards, and radio have their unique way of reaching to target segments and there is a high level of maturity in using these media to create the required impression about a brand in a consumer’s mind. Most of the brand images were created and pushed on to the public through these promotional channels fairly well understood by brand managers.

Consumer power

Companies can now reach out to millions of other users worldwide instantly and they play a significant part in creating a brand image. Salesmen are often outwitted by clients who have done thorough Internet research. Customers prefer personalised communications and are able to make highly informed decisions better than before. Clients with no time for consumer traditional media, surf the net, exchange emails, read blogs and watch video online. The social media is pure ‘customer play’ where reputation and referrals are based on client relationships.

Moving forward

Branding in the digital era can no longer be an afterthought. Once brand guidelines have been compiled with the client heavily involved, plans need to in place based on the local digital scenario and applicable dimensions of digital channels and their potential impact. A good brand strategy must include brand engagement in the digital environment considering the power of the democratic digital media.

Know where they are

The consumers are now living a second life in the digital world and they use their simple mobile phones as port keys. Even while working or holidaying, they constantly engage in conversations through digital channels and they have merged into virtual groups that constantly hang around in the online environment having intimate conversations.

Understanding the consumer

Once the target market segment is identified, it is necessary to understand their digital lifestyle. Then representative groups can be created both in the real as well as virtual world. It is increasingly important for organisations to have a presence online and engage in sincere conversations with these groups to build brand loyalty. There is a need to be visible but provide only a platform to engage in interactions.

Creating websites, blogs and accounts on social media like the youtube, facebook, myspace are examples of these. Dialogues can be initiated either to create brand interest or to address negative comments. Giving useful and relevant information free can be rewarding. Recognise brand advocates in such virtual groups, recognise and reward them while do not risk replicating the entire real world branding online too.

Digital Media

Electronic media or digital channels as they are normally called are quite different from the traditional media. For example publishing your printed brochures online may not work as effectively as a mini-banner advertisement selected relevantly and placed less intrusively while consumer checks his emails or while he does a key-word search in Google.

Online social media including blogs, micro-blogs, forums, social networks, groups within social networks, bookmarking sites, image and video sites are full of your current as well as potential clients and they are gladly engaged in communicating forth right opinions and sharing their brand experiences. They no longer buy-in your brand images as such; they want to prove it through their ideas, opinions and their experiences. Here is where online content will make a positive difference.

With more customers researching or reviewing your products and services online than ever before, online branding nowadays needs a strategy and budget of its own. The Internet has not only made searches easier, but the content returned is richer and it is even possible for instant comparisons and user reviews. So any brand marketing must have search strategy built-in to its core. Careful choice on online activists can create useful brand ambassadors who endorse your products or services purely based on their personal experiences.

Brand Consultation

The brand discovery process results in getting to the essence of the brand and laying the foundations for its successful communications through strategic focus, differentiation, relevance and simplicity. This exercise begins digital branding, working closely with brand consultants on having a review of the current brand perception across samples of customer segments. With this base, a new brand position can be formulated as brand guidelines.

Brand guidelines may include a revival of the current brand or even rebranding exercise altogether. The various elements that comprise of your brand identity must be charted out strategically and a formal consensus can be reached with the senior management who will eventually approve and fund the exercise.

Customers form integral part of this consultation to understand where a brand is currently poised, where and how it must proceed now on. In return for little or even nothing most customers are willingly vociferous on their opinions and experiences. One needs to sift out the credible ones and lend an ear to their voices.
Being a common member on online media like forums and social networking sites avoiding sales pitch, along with subscriptions to blog feeds is an integral part of digital branding. It is paramount to enthuse your online community with authentic & relevant information willingly.

16 May 2010

Social media maturity makes more sense now than ever

Any technology that facilitates networking and communications in a cost-effective manner is well poised for success. This has been proved in the case of social media such as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc.

But what exactly happens after you claim your space in the social media varies largely. For example, you create your account and find your network of friends who are on the same platform be it Facebook or Twitter. And then depending on the intensity of activity, the quantum of information and interactions fill the digital space.

Now this article is about what exactly happens right after this. How strong is this network, how it sustain mutual interests, how it continues to enrich the once empty platform attracting new and existing members.

Zooming on to one platform in the micro-blogging arena, let us consider twitter for example. The reason for choosing twitter is that it is limited in scope, functionality and resource requirements far less than other platforms. Even common mobile applications on non-Smartphone are capable of handling the 140 character text features of Twitter.

Moving on to the social interactions that take place within this platform, twitter users post small text messages to the maximum size of 140 chars which can be read by his network of followers. Interestingly within these 140 characters there can be web links embedded. Now this enables web-articles, blog-posts, Youtube videos and even pictures from photo-archives to be pointed to via a tweet post through URL links.

Twitter users vary in using the platform as a public chat-medium, treating it as their cryptic diary and logging in their experiences and opinions. Due to real-time nature of the medium, sometime these users turn out to be citizen journalists if they happen to be amidst the thick of happening.

Twitter giants or the so called power-users with a large number of followers have been able to sustain the interests of the followers by specializing their tweet posts with interesting content. Such content may range from news-worthy leads, motivating quotes, creative micro-poetry like the Haiku, how-to-do techniques, sports commentaries, funny one-liners, etc.

It is not just a place for content seekers and providers, but also a place for creative people who are looking for their own first audience. Graphic and multimedia artists, creative poets and writers are able to inform their network of friends about their latest creative endeavours. It is also possible how their creativity receives candid responses and sometimes professionals in specific fields offer tips to enhance design or storyline or blog-post.

From experience in interacting with younger age group users as well as accomplished professionals, it is a personal experience to come across amateur art-works and hobby compositions for review. It is indeed a wide spectrum of art and creativity that gets nourished by the presence of a group of followers one networks mostly online.

Few successful leads identified as potential works are being spotted by talent-hunters and from then the scope of real-world interactions and professional opportunities expand from then on.

A few things you can utilise Twitter for:
· Get early updates on news
· Be informed about events and programs
· Get to discuss with professionals and celebrities
· Organise real life events for networking
· Get product or service recommendations
· Get better customer service from brands online
· Exchange personalised review of books, movies, music, etc
· Network with professional groups with common areas of interest
· Submit your art work, poetry, website, website, blog post, article for review
· Organise campaigns for charitable or social causes
· Learn and practice vocabulary in a new language
· Get ideas for marketing online through power users
· Can generate sales-leads and improve brand image
· Any many more.