“BRAND IS NOT WHAT YOU SAY IT IS – ITS WHAT THEY SAY IT IS” Marty Neumeyer
Brand strategy and brand building is a vast subject, ever-evolving and ever more relevant to everyone. Brands used to be owned by life stock owners to mark their cattle, by manufacturers to mark their products and assure us of their quality, by advertisers and marketeers trying to push their clients ahead of the competition. It’s only in recent years that brands have had to get their head around the transparency brought by social media and digital, by the immediacy of feedback via smartphones and tablets – and now more than ever brands are owned by all of us, they are made by us and risk being abandoned by us. Brands no longer have segmented touch points – they are interlinked and interactive.
Alina Wheeler made a lovely simple brand touchpoint diagram showing a number of brand touch points. Since I am having a bit of a cup cake theme for the food bloggers conference talk, here is one I made earlier.
And if this is hard to read as a diagram, here is a list as well with some added points:
- Social Media
- Trade Shows
- Word of Mouth
- Direct Mail
- Public Relations
- Business Cards
- Web Banners
We can categorise these into internal and external stake holders, into customers and suppliers, partners and the competition – these days chances are that an employee is just as much a brand advocate (or the opposite!) than the media and it is ever more important that the message a brand sends out is the same on a web banner, in speeches, when commenting on subjects in the press, on bill boards or vehicles, internal publications or lovely designed marketing material.
The amount of touch points may seem scary or irrelevant, but it is also a great opportunity for smaller businesses to make their mark because most of these points of engagement with a product or service are now easier to achieve and manage. As usual, it makes sense to have a bit of a strategy in place. Think about where you would ideally like to engage with your customers, then try and build up that ‘touch point’ so it becomes a buzzing hub of brand exchanges.
This part of brand management can be as hands-on as you want it to be. There are lots of examples of brand involvement on a corporate level and as people brands. Think Jamie Oliver. He has a whole brand guideline manual written about him as the person and him as the brand. Both are equally important and interact with a multitude of stake holders on different levels.
He sets a good example of a successful balance of blatant product placement and social engagement for the ‘greater good’, corporate responsibility on a ‘one man band’ level one may say. The apparent consistency is part of the strength of his brand strategy and something to aim for if you are in a similar position as an expert in your field wanting to raise your profile and reputation.
There is so much that can be explored. If your central focus of featuring your products is on a website, for instance, think about different avenues to interact with your target audience with the underlying strategy to increase traffic to your site. It won’t be an overnight project, but there are many options to engage the public.
Here are just some thoughts on how to network around a website.
ONLINE Reputation building
- Exposure on expert sites (Linked in Answers, Wiki, squidoo, hubpages, alltop etc)
- Online PR
- Social media to share content and relevant information (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr etc)
- Online reputation building platforms (Proscore, Klout, etc)
- Social bookmarking (Reddit, digg, delicious, folkd, etc – see a list of the top 1000 kindly provided by genius optimizer here
- Blog about related subjects setting you apart as an expert (in-built, wordpress, tumblr, blogger etc)
- E-newsletters (mailchimp, maxmailhq, campaign monitor, constant contact, sendy, answerbag etc)
- Guest article writing, blogging or commenting
- Online networking (LinkedIn, SunZu, etc)
- E-book or self-published book about your expertise
- Advertising (google, bing, etc)
- Reviews on other blogs or e-magazines
- Networking / business breakfast clubs (Business Scene, Bob Club, etc)
- Conferences and trade shows (various depending on subject)
- Competitions or awards (enter or create your own)
- Charity support
- Advertising campaign in relevant publications
- Marketing collateral to promote via direct mail or at trade shows
- Merchandise (corporate gifts, loyalty giveaways, etc)
- Collaborating with other businesses
- Generating partnerships and affiliations with similar aims
- Teaching about the expert subject
- Holding open days or events
This is just a small selection without paying specific attention to the business or service in question – its specialism will dictate which engagement channels will work best and most effective.
It’s never good to put all eggs in one basket and brand engagement certainly is one of the subjects where you have to keep hatching out new ideas and ways to keep your brand in the conversation.