You hear it all the time…digital this, digital that. But what does it all mean for your branding and marketing strategies right now? How can you navigate the world of digital—which includes everything from blogs to banner ads to websites to social media to emails and more—confidently? Let’s tear away the veil of mystery by answering these 5 simple questions:
1) Why do I need to manage my brand differently because of digital?
Digital is the mega multi-lane superhighway that transports your brand message to your target audience online. And because digital is micro-niched, more responsive, operates in real time, and requires simultaneous integration in lots of places, you can’t just keep on keepin’ on when it comes to branding.
Example: 10 years ago, Country Bank [which has a location in Scarsdale] had a marketing plan that included in-branch rack brochures, counter cards, window posters, and print advertising. Now add to that online banner ads, ongoing content creation on the web site, e-statement ads, digital signage in each branch, Facebook posts, e-blasts… you get it. Digital has created many more options to reach actual and potential customers who are using all types of devices and methods to get your message—and those options need to be organized and coordinated.
2) Can I do for my small company what the big brands do?
“DIY Digital”—think Facebook, Twitter, Constant Contact, and website content management systems—give small companies the same capabilities as a big company. The downside is that you probably don’t have the staff, time or budget to be everywhere and do everything. The trick? Keep it smart with authentic brand positioning and strategy, and hard as it is, stick to your target audience. Prioritize and define who you are talking to, and pick the venues where you are confident you will reach them. Be relevant and hit their hot buttons.
Example: “Ring in the New Year at Noon” at New Roc City is a daytime event targeted at families with 2-8 year-old children in lower Westchester. The digital call to action is a click-thru to an online response form with the singular objective of getting families to New Roc City during the day to dispel the negative brand perception that New Roc is a dangerous place where teenagers hang out at night. So while many people may think that event is just a fun idea, it was created to reach a very specific target audience, with a very strategic purpose, and very measurable results.
3) Why can't everyone be my target audience on digital channels?
When you cast a wide net you have more competition. Plus it's harder to engage and motivate a generic prospect.
Example: My friend Karen Pilote is a fitness trainer who was competing against everybody—gyms, male trainers, female trainers, fitness tapes, fad diets, self-help books, mommy blogs—before she found a distinctive brand point of view. She came up with the business name Get Fit Over 40, hitting on a niche market: fitness-minded women over 40 headed towards an active, healthy, retirement. By picking a lane she was able to focus and craft a very specific digital brand strategy with a an uplifting-but-talk-straight p.o.v. on her blog, website and Facebook page. Karen increased her FB following from 1,000 to 36,000 within a year and now has an international presence.
4) What does it mean to "stay in your lane" with your brand?
Imagine the digital environment is this big super highway with a hundred lanes of cars, buses, and trucks jockeying for position. That’s the equivalent of your business out there in digital media. Your brand needs to pick a lane, which is what we call brand positioning. You need to decide who you are, how you are unique, who your target audience is, and how to reach them.
Example: When we first began working with local nonprofit Green Chimneys, a visit to its website let us clueless as to the mission. Was it a farm? A country store? A wildlife refuge? A social services agency? A residential treatment center? We totaled up more than 10 lanes, and each one was getting equal emphasis on Green Chimenys’ website. After a series of interviews one simple insight was pinpointed that had somehow gotten buried: Green Chimneys was relevant first and foremost because it is a respected therapeutic special education school that uses nature-based therapy to teach special needs kids who have trouble learning in a traditional school setting. We found a lane! The primary targets were school districts, parents, and mental health professionals. Now Green Chimneys has clarity of purpose to its digital marketing and fundraising: the organization asks people for donations to feed and house farm animals that deliver therapeutic benefit to students to help them learn and graduate. The logo and branding didn’t even need to change. By picking a lane the messaging became easier.
With these tips in mind, your business should be able to pick a lane and drive confidently on to the digital highway.