Not too long ago, ‘defining your brand’ meant getting together with your marketing department or an advertising agency to decide what you wanted your brand to mean to consumers. Then you would kickoff a PR or advertising campaign, and voila, your brand is defined.
Nowadays, it’s not so easy. Whereas marketers used to tell the consumers what our brand stood for, we are far less trusted these days for several reasons:
1. Over-Stimulation – Consumers have been inundated with marketing messages their whole lives. Brands are vehemently fighting for a piece of our attention, and constantly intruding into our lives in new and different ways. There is so much information out there that people know they can find it if they want. So that’s exactly what happens – they only listen to what you have to say if they are looking for it in the first place. Stop shouting. Talk to people that want to listen.
2. Credibility – Do we really expect people to take our word for it? After all, we work FOR the company that we are advertising, for goodness sakes! They pay us money, so of course we make them sound as good as possible. Consumers are wise to this and instead look to trusted sources for information. These sources include friends, social networks, online and offline communities, mainstream media (less these days), user generated media, and tons of other groups that aren’t paid to tell them how awesome a product is.
3. Information – The sharing of information has become so simple and instantaneous in this new mediascape that consumers find almost anything they want to know. User reviews, companies pretending to be consumers, product information, expert opinions, and everything else surrounding a brand or product can be researched from one place – a computer. Use this to your advantage by knowing what types of information people seek (i.e. user reviews) and giving them the information they want (i.e. sneak peeks).
Alas, if consumers aren’t listening to us, what are we to do?!?
1. Talk to them the right way – Know that as the brand you may not be trusted, but people will listen if they think you have something worthwhile to say. Find things to tell your audience that they find interesting, informative, engaging, or special. Inside tips and exclusive information are important to the modern consumer, because it makes them more in-the-loop than their peers. After all, everyone wants to be e-famous.
2. Be honest – Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. You don’t need to tell everyone on the web about your dark secrets, but if you know you did something wrong, own up to it. What’s worse than not saying anything to your consumers? Lying to them.
3. Find your target audience – The web is excellent for finding target audiences. People connect online (and offline) based on shared interests. If your brand applies to any of these shared interests, there is a community out there that would love to talk to you.
In conclusion, the definition of a brand is no longer a monopoly held by marketers. Rather, it is an ongoing discussion moderated by the consumers themselves, in which the brand still plays a large part. Enter the discussion, and honestly tell people what you are about. Give them information, relate to them, and engage them. Hopefully, that’s what I’m doing with you now. Thoughts?