The Importance of Branding in the Digital Age

in Article

Overheard at lunch:

“We’ve been focusing so much on lead generation and new sales,
we’ve forgotten about our brand.”

Sound like … you? Statements like this are incredibly common in the digital marketing space, and as a team, we problem-solve them all the time. Our clients reach out for help identifying qualified leads and driving prospects, plus new channels to help boost their sales in an end-of-quarter slump, but rarely rarely bring up the more basic needs of their actual brand. What we try to keep in mind, and avoid as much as possible, is a “bottom-line mentality”—a short-term fix to a much more important long-term goal: brand loyalty. 

Branding vs. Lead Generation

Lots of people view brand building and lead generation as two separate things. To an extent, they’re right. They’re intrinsically different (especially tactically), but they’re also dependent on on another to be successful. Here are a few examples:

Lead Generation
AdWords
Search Ads
Display Ads
Paid Social
Re-marketing Digital Offers

Brand Building
Blogs
Organic Posts
Videos
Emails
“How to” Posts
Website Content

So yes, it’s important to keep in mind that there will always be crossover. For instance, Paid Social could be designed to build awareness rather than convert new customers. And videos and emails can be designed to drive sales rather than just build brand awareness. The major difference between the two is lead generation tactics are designed to get people to take a specific action so you can convert them, whereas brand building tactics are designed to give helpful, useful information without soliciting an action. The former wants something in return, the latter just wants to give. And as a result, the former builds trust by putting the individual in control of your company’s brand experience.

Companies Need Both To Survive

But while lead generation is critical to your business’s success, so is a continuous process of building your brand and brand experience. Your look and feel. Your tone of voice and brand messaging. Your website’s engagement factor and level of ease. Think of it like this:

Lead generation drives new prospects.
The brand experience builds loyalty.

They both work together to drive customers to your door, but brand building’s responsible for keeping them around, assuring them you’re interested in a long-term relationship. The entire brand building process puts your customers first by addressing their needs and providing beneficial information—the greater goal of enhancing their overall brand experience, not simply sustaining sales. And because of that distinct shift in intention, customers learn to trust you. The end goal is simple: that they’ll become long-term advocates.

How do you build your brand with today’s customers?

Today, building a successful brand requires a shift in focus/psychology: company-centric to consumer-centric. And for those who have been “in the business” for awhile, years, decades, that can be a hard pill to swallow. Fact: Brands who are only all-about-the-brand are the first to be abandoned by the consumer. Consumers are in the driver seat, they know it, and the most successful brands have known it — and acted accordingly — for awhile now. You have to re-think your brand story and messaging according to what your current/future customer wants.

1. Customers want to know you understand them
You can’t win over new customers if you don’t think and act like them first. Fully understand what they don’t like and how you can predict their needs. Obviously, customers change and evolve over time, and industries change with them. But that’s only an issue for companies that don’t keep up, or wrongly assume they know their consumers better than they do. According to a recent study by IBM and Econsultancy, nearly 80% of consumers stated that brands and businesses don’t really understand them.

2. Customers want to know you can help them
Empathy should lead to action. Now that you know what your customers need, can you genuinely give it to them? If so, digital marketing gives you more opportunity than ever to make your case and secure your relevance.

3. Customers want to know what you stand for
Products aren’t skin-deep anymore.  Buying “the thing” is no longer as important as investing in “the why.” So, why you vs. any other brand? Your answer should provide an emotional incentive to anyone asking, one that’s strong enough to create a lasting emotional connection. There are so many studies and statistics that show we buy based on a feeling, conscious or unconscious. So what kind of feeling do you want to give? Decide then cultivate that. And protect its authenticity. It’s the most valuable thing you have.

FUEL.
To find out how we can help, get in touch!