In the good old days of pre-web brand-building, marketing thought was often led by the consumer purchase mindset. This was defined as an inverted funnel with awareness as the starting point, leading to consideration and then purchase. While the next steps in the official funnel were preference and brand loyalty, most marketers were concerned till the purchase-point. Media consumption centered on awareness-building vehicles like print and TV. A typical flow started with the customer becoming aware of the brand. “I should take a look at that too” led to “Sounds good, worth a try”. A good experience led to repeat purchases and if the customer decided he liked the product enough, he began to relate to the brand and was on his way to become a loyalist. The journey was long and difficult to measure.
And then came along the age of global connectivity. The web brought together people across planes and geographies. This freedom to communicate and interact with others irrespective of culture, distance or background led to unprecedented consumer empowerment. In effect, this rerouted the customer purchase journey – from a top-down funnel to a continuous cycle.
No longer is the customer dependent on popular media to build an opinion. He expects brands to interact and engage. He tunes in to his network for information and opinions. Soon, he becomes a contributor to the common intelligence pool and a driver of opinion for others. Word of mouth has become a very powerful tool as it travels faster and reaches out to a global audience.
So what does this imply for the brand custodian? Brand building is no longer restricted to relaying a positive image and unique proposition. It has evolved to include building positive consumer sentiment by reaching out to the audience and maintaining a dialogue with each of its users.
We share a few important points below to help marketing teams navigate through the world of social media and emerge with a stronger brand:
1. Define a quantifiable objective for digital marketing and Facebook activation in synergy with organizational goals and brand positioning. The brand should present a consistent face to the customer. Brandspeak, Adspeak , PRspeak and Socialspeak should all tie in together.
2. Establish a cross-functional team of senior executives within all consumer facing departments – marketing, product development, merchandising, customer service and sales operations. This team should be led by the marketer and be the champion for social media interaction within the company.
3. Identify your core medium and rally all your resources to link back traffic to this medium. Facebook often works best with consumer facing brands as it hosts the customer along with his entire circle of friends and family.
4. Articulate your stance in an easy and smart way. American Express’s “Link, Like, Love” campaign was about rewarding consumers basis their Facebook Likes and interaction with friends. It synced the member’s Facebook account with their loyalty program in a way that if a member “liked” a particular restaurant on his wall, he might see a related deal in his account dashboard.
5. Connect with your customers and potential customers. Find ways to reach out to an ever increasing set of people. Use sponsored ads and targeted marketing to drive visibility and reach.
6. Engage on a regular basis and reach out to the consumers’ circle of influence. Dialogue, drive and participate in a relevant and innovative manner.
7. Connect with influencers. As you touch base with your target audience, you should identify online influencers in those communities and get on their radars. The key is to make sure they advocate your brand and product purpose.
8. React to the audience. Address concerns. Consumers who are willing to interact with companies and brands online expect to be pampered and heard. Listening and responding to users is essential to keep the fan base happy and contended.