Top Five Rules for Branding in the Digital Age

by Mark Smither
February 1, 2011

“You don’t own your brand. Consumers do.” This basic tenet of marketing was true thirty years ago and it’s certainly true today.

The digital age has given people a greater voice and more influence in the client-consumer relationship. This unprecedented level of consumer empowerment has forced companies to listen, learn and adapt to a new reality. And those that do it well are thriving.

The reality is this: There are thousands of online communities with millions of people (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, chat rooms, etc.) sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences on a daily basis. The only way your brand will survive in this socially connected environment is to follow a new set of rules.

  1. Be transparent: You can’t hide behind your advertising anymore. You must invite more social interaction and communicate your intentions openly and honestly — internally as well as externally. Savvy customers of the digital age receive these kinds of unified messages and responses like a breath of fresh air.
  2. Be authentic: You need to behave more like a real person and less like a faceless corporation. Make an effort to engage in more real-time dialogue with your customers. Scary? It may seem that way if you have not established guidelines for your social marketing efforts. Meet, set up a structure and let your team run with it.
  3. Be relevant: If you’re not providing something of interest that will benefit the consumer, you’re not making a connection or building a relationship. Create content that adds value. If you are struggling in this area, hire a content curator or a marketing and communications agency to help.
  4. Be consistent: Once you start, don’t stop. Your digital presence is a living entity that requires constant care and attention. You should be monitoring, responding and generating content on a regular basis. This takes a commitment of time and money, but the rewards are great and may just save your brand.
  5. Be patient: It’s not about reaching 1,000,000 people in order to sell to 100. It’s about reaching one person who reaches 100 people who reach 1,000 and so on. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work over a long period of time, but your company will have a pulse on the feelings of your consumers like never before and that is worth it all.

Remember, the fundamental rules of branding still apply. Brands are built through consistent positive experiences with a product, service or company — just as they always have been. But these days, the experiences are openly shared. You can’t control what your customers say, but you can be a part of the conversation.

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