In a digital era, it has become harder for brands to control the elements that drive their perception. Brand reputation is, after all, shaped by experience – online, offline and everywhere in between.
While a brand may live on multiple screens, that does not mean it’s okay to have multiple identities. Customers will eventually switch and growth opportunities will be lost when the brand is incoherently applied across physical and digital.
Here are five principles to overcome common challenges and build brands for digital.
1. Look at the big picture
The media landscape is more fragmented than ever. Sometimes an email promotion to your loyal customers leads to a sale. For other customers, it often takes the weight of several small but targeted interactions.
A tweet followed up by an Instagram influencer recommendation, a YouTube ad, and a robust SEO strategy is what it takes to create a sale.
Different customers have a different relationship with your brand. As such, your digital strategy needs to account for where they are along the journey.
Study your customers well and look back at your portfolio to see what you need to offer them: who is the lowest hanging fruit, who is worth investing in and who may become a liability.
The sweet spot is to marry what customers want with what you can do best and make money at.
2. Get to know your customers
Brands that are proactive in making an easy and enjoyable experience develop a competitive advantage.
While still a controversial topic, access to customer data helps create deeper connections. Linked to where they are along the journey, data informs what you offer to your customers and how. The deeper your knowledge is, the wider the opportunities are to tailor interactions while cross- and up-selling.
Draw up your customers’ profiles and look at how similar or different they are: likes and dislikes, brand preferences, purchase and consumption habits, etc.
Imagine what an ideal experience looks like for them. Create signature moments along the journey – both physical and digital – to ensure unique impact. If designed with the right purpose and audience in mind, every interaction can influence decision-making.
3. Connect the story
One of the pitfalls brands fall into is replicating their physical activities and marketing calendar on digital.
Throughout the customer journey, every touch-point serves a distinct purpose. Your website, for example, has a different objective than physical interaction.
Some websites are intended to inform while some others are meant to entertain. This role varies depending on where the website lands as a touch-point on a prospective customer’s journey: be it at the start, in the middle, or spread across.
All of these points need to connect. The overarching brand story must be rich and flexible enough to house content that addresses different audiences and lives on multiple channels.
4. Design for people
Although technology is advancing at a rapid pace, people are still people. Their senses need stimulation. Online experiences that captivate audiences usually invite users to become participants and co-creators.
Whether that means playing a game, answering a question, giving an opinion, or conversing with other customers, giving users control drives satisfaction levels.
New technologies like VR and AR take the level of interaction up a notch, promising a three-dimensional experience that mimics real life.
The theatrical dramatisation of sound and sight helps transport users into a distinct universe, disconnecting them from their real environments.
5. Embrace simplicity
In addition to the above, removing friction and pain points from the experience enable an even more immersive experience that keeps customers coming back for more.
Simplicity, ease of use and navigation are prerequisites in any digital experience design. Can you do it in less steps or less time? Is it memorable? Is it effective? Those are some of the questions that can help you create simpler experiences.
Don’t forget that simplicity is not only about taking out what’s unnecessary – it’s also about adding what’s meaningful.
The principles we lay out here are by no means exhaustive – there’s plenty of experimentation that your brand needs to go through to find its right place and voice on digital.
From nuances that pertain to your industry, market, products or even customers, what works for one brand doesn’t necessarily have to work for another. This is only a start.
Ahmad Badr is strategy director EMEA at Siegel+Gale.
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