Content Marketing: Building brand loyalty and lasting relationships

2013, if you haven’t realised it as yet, by the vast amount of attention it is grabbing, is the year of Content marketing . Study after study have shown that content marketing can turn the unaware into aware, the non-engaged into advocates and web browsers into customers. It does though require effort, resources and quality creators. To be successful, content marketing relies on sharing a regular dose of quality content and producing this takes a big investment in time; not to mention being creative with it.

What Could Content Marketing do for You?

Content marketing if done well helps you and your business build relationships with customers and stakeholders. Surely, that’s what it;s all about in today’s world. A quick sale or smash and grab approach to any sort of custom or engagement will not last. Nowadays with people continually engaged with digital and social content, making sure you’re part of that connection and engagement through content will put you on the right track to success.

Build Trust, Engagement and Relationships

Content marketing can ensure you and your businesses’ reputation is visible, enhanced and supportive of relationship building. It helps those that see your content get what you and your brand stands for,  allowing relationships to be built and puts the consumer in the mindset of how you or your products and services could enrich their lives.

Anything worth having takes effort. Content marketing is no exception. It won’t guarantee overnight success, but it is sustainable, scalable and in the digital world a cost effective option. Done well, it will build trusting relationships and in turn an amount of social media advocates acting as your own business development department (for free!).

In an E-Consultancy survey on content marketing in October 2012 the value companies were placing on it, was clear to see from some key outputs.

  • Over 90% of respondents believe that content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months.

  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of digital marketers agree that ‘brands are becoming publishers’.

  • Less than half of companies have dedicated budgets (34%) or individuals dedicated (46%) to content marketing.

  • Increased engagement is the most commonly cited objective for content marketers, with 52% of in-house marketers and 58% of agency marketers listing this as one of their top three business objectives.

McDonald’s… They’re Loving it.

Researching the best content driven campaigns I read about this “Our Food – Your Questions” campaign ran by McDonald’s Canada. I especially like it because it’s totally user-centric putting them in control of the initiating and response questions as they ask McDonald’s the questions.

Launched in June, the Our Food, Your Questions  program invites any Canadian to ask any question whatsoever about McDonald’s food on a special website. To ask a question, participants must connect with either Twitter or Facebook, providing social visibility and a ripple in the pond viral effect.

mcdonalds our foodSo far, more than 16,000 questions have been asked (they are getting 350 to 450 per day), and nearly 10,000 have been answered. The program scope is only around McDonald’s food, so questions about non-food topics are directed to other resources, and some questions are of course duplicates. But there’s no dodging the tough questions, and that’s the amazing thing about this program.

It could have been easy for them to say, “It’s too risky,” but this is just the type of marketing edge McDonald’s needed. It has all the qualities attractive to today’s consumer — engagement, great customer service, offering transparency (and thus building trust) — and does so on a platform that makes sense in today’s social age.

Content Marketing Types

Once you’ve decided that content marketing is worth pursuing (which it will have to be eventually) you need a plan of action. It is often easier for bigger companies; they have an advantage to when it comes to producing editorial-style content with a budget to research, edit, produce and respond to their content campaigns.

If you’re an SME and don’t have the budget to work with a professional, it’s important to make sure that the type of content you create is playing to your strengths. Think about these content types below to see what mix might work for you.

1. Blog posts and articles

A great way to gain credibility, spark opinion and build though leadership. Whatever industry you are in, you have expertise that your audience will be interested in hearing about. A blog filled with advice, ‘how-tos’, opinions and topics related from your industry can be a brilliant way to present and share your knowledge and connect with your audience. If you have a flair for writing, blog. There’s no excuse.

2. Video Content 

Video content is the most effective way to engage and get across information. If your brand is visual or you have stuff worth showing off to the human eye, get the camera out and start sharing. YouTube and Vimeo are great platforms to connect to a new audience and it is much easier than you think to put together a professional looking video. Vine, a new smartphone app allowing you to shoot and publish 6 second videos, built your way at once or via stop motion has allowed many brands and individuals to get even more creative and social with their video content.

3. Images and infographics

Graphic images and infographics can be a great way to share tips and tricks with your fans in a n engaging and highly accessible visual way. This kind of content is often much easier to share – which is a great thing as long as people know that your company created it in the first place! Make sure you put your company name and URL in the image/infographic somewhere.

4. Social

Independently, but best integrated to the above content types, social media is a fantastic way to stay connected and inform and respond to your audiences. At an individual level it can allow you to provide excellent levels of customer service, at a more holistic level it can attract fans, improve your SEO and enhance your brand by having engaging content and the ability for content to easily attain viral context.

Top Tips

1. Put together an editorial calendar or schedule

Your content marketing strategy will be much more successful if you are consistent with it. Set yourself a target for each week, and stick to it! Assign certain days of the week for certain content activities (allowing time for research).It can be a good idea to plan ideas for content in one go and add them to an editorial calendar or schedule. Don’t forget to be flexible as the environment and your customers can be unpredictable.

2. Collaborate

Creating quality content week after week can be difficult. Think about utilising your network, lifting some of the pressure and getting help. If you have a team of staff working within your business, consider spreading the responsibility for creating content. This also allows these people to become more engaged within the company and also this may be attractive brand enhancing element as users get to know the staff, who are also content creators.

3. Stay professional and on brand

This is so important. Being silent and not engaging online is not as bad as being off brand or unprofessional online with content. When you’re updating your business’ blog, or Twitter feed or Facebook page, it can be tempting to stray outside your area of interest. Take my advice; don’t do it! It’s vital to stay professional and on brand. A good way to do this is to set out from day one what topics and interests you are going to post about. Also ask your audiences what they wish to see and hear and get them to contribute. Getting your audience writing content for you is worth it’s weight in gold.

4. Stay Humble. Stay Persistant

It’s NOT possible to be an overnight success in the digital world. Look at any successful blogger or YouTube broadcaster, and you’ll likely find that they were creating and sharing content regularly for a long time before they received success. This will also be true of you and your business. It’s important to stay motivated and keep going, even if it feels like no one is paying attention at first. A moment may arrive that gains some traction and builds momentum for you, your business and your content. Experience will help you attain higher levels of impact and increased chances of traction amongst audiences.

In Summary…

No matter how big or small your company is, you have the ability to use the principles of this marketing strategy and use it to reach out and connect to your audience. They want it, crave it and have time for it, so there’s no excuse. Find the right mix of type, resource and timing and success can be only round the corner.

It’s important to plan and research before jumping in with both feet. Before you get started it’s important to think about what kind of content will best showcase your business’ brand, and what kind of topics and interests it will be most relevant for you to cover. What have your competitor’s done? Are there examples abroad that could be mirrored or tweaked to suit your business? Taking the time to put these thoughts together in a strategy will be much more beneficial in the long run than jumping right in with both feet into writing and creating any sort of content.

Keep engaging your audience with quality, on brand and timely content, and you’ll see the benefits.

Likes Don’t Save Lives

How many brands, campaigns, causes and status updates do you typically “like” every week on Facebook? How much weight does this carry for the brand? The answer to the former is likely to be “quite a few” and the honest answer to the latter is hardly any. Because of the frivolous nature of a like on Facebook being ultra accessible along with Facebook consumption being highly saturated, shows that a like is becoming the norm, generally actioned with no real consideration of the value to the user. Combine this with the fact that a like can not be quantified in a tangible or financial way – ultimately means a like more often than not means nothing.

You can’t buy anything, support a cause or save a life with a like. A great campaign brought to my attention recently by UNICEF in Sweden really hits home that a like means nothing when it comes to generating funds for food, shelter, supplies and vaccinations. Nothing puts the limited value of a like into perspective more than charity and this brutally honest campaign does it really well.

Cited in The Telegraph Unicef Sweden Director of Communications Petra Hallebrant said: “We like likes, and social media could be a good first step to get involved, but it cannot stop there.

“Likes don’t save children’s lives. We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”

I see a lot of this online on a smaller scale. Lots of people I know are involved in various endeavors for Charity. Their posts about raising funds, the charity they are supporting and their efforts in training or fundraising, tend to get lots of support in the form of likes. More often than not though this perceived “support” is skewed massively by the level of actual donations when you see their amount raised online. I don’t mean to suggest someone may not like a post by a brand or an individual but it’s value can be hugely questioned for the reasons already mentioned. So… if you have what you think is a high number of likes or so called “fans” on Facebook, whether it be 250 or 250,000, take a moment to consider how valuable that truly is?

Developing Facebook Apps for Brands: Why Light and Simple is Best.

Facebook applications can be a great way to increase a company’s fans’ tie to their social presence, while simultaneously delivering valuable user and customer data. For a large number of brands, apps can be essential to their healthy Facebook presence in order to add value to their growing fan base through online sales, personalisation mechanisms, incentives and competitions and more.

For the majority of brands though, producing their own apps is not essential, nor should they be. If you are perhaps thinking of a Facebook app for your brand I am not trying to convince you otherwise. If your current, or future Apps work by definition because they have a function and output for the user that supports the brand, aids user discovery and interest – and adds value to them as a consumer, then it’s going to be a good investment of your time. Ultimately for the organisation, data is collected, the app and brand messages are shared and the successful app can go a long way to establishing or strengthening social media and online brand traction.

In this short article I wish to show why, if a Facebook application or a range of applications are chosen as part of a social strategy – to be effective it should be as light, simple, quick, accessible and user-friendly to achieve its goals.

Complex and immersive brand experiences really, in the norm, do not belong on Facebook because the world’s no.1 social platform for business and personal usage – lends itself to, and has already established a user experience based on speed, lots of content to scan at once, a user’s nature of browsing over content immersion, and simple actions and user experience actions driven by speedy and simple calls to action.

Mobile First.

Of course now, mobile needs to always be part of the mix to ensure that the main points mentioned above stay true. In a recent report 600 million of Facebook’s 1 billion users are classed as mobile.

With native apps and a mobile version, Facebook as a content source and content creation mechanism for the user is working well for mobile. But within apps is where bad user experiences have the potential to be hugely exaggerated due to more obstructive and slower data capture, navigation and reading of content if designers and developers to not make their Facebook apps fit for mobile. To ignore mobile for apps is an online crime that should be avoided first and foremost.

The view that “less is more” when it comes to the Facebook app experience is supported by Paul Adams, global head of brand design at Facebook who said recently, and whose quote was inspiration for this article:

“Almost every app built for a brand on Facebook has practically no usage…heavy, ‘immersive ‘experiences are not how people engage and interact with brands. Heavyweight experiences will fail because they don’t map to real life.”

This powerful statement would be enough to make anyone thinking of investing in a Facebook app for their brand, or evaluating any current apps, take a step back and consider the user experience  combined with the brand benefit before proceeding with a plan of action for a Facebook app.

Whilst agreeing with Paul Adams and his quote, a key word here is “almost”. Not all apps built for a brand are heavy and immersive in their user experience. Many are light, simple, ‘fit for Facebook’ and add value.

The following branded facebook examples are worth checking out for this reason:

1. Cadbury’s Crème Egg: “Cling to Your Fling”.

Cadbury Creme Egg

In this Facebook app Cadbury’s use a campaign supportive app to allow users through a simple photo upload to enter a competition to win a personal mug.

The app is simple, fun, shareable and ties in perfectly with the 2013 Easter campaign for Creme eggs. Nothing more than a photo upload and a share is all that is required.

Okay, some effort is involved in taking a photo with your creme egg first, but after that it’s plain sailing and this app has great viral potential and is well linked to a supporting online and offline brand campaign.

2. American Airlines: “Spin to Connect”

This Facebook app is a great example of a simple app that takes no more than a click to play a fruit machine style game to win an in demand product to enhance the American Airlines real life experience by offering free In Flight WiFi.

Simple functionality, ease of sharing and a value add top to the user makes this app work work really well.

3.       Adidas Originals: “Create a Cover”

adidas Originals pimp your cover

This app again uses simple point -click  functionality to enable users to personalise their own Facebook timeline picture through their app.

This clever campaign is covered in 3 simple steps and its power lies in the visibility of the outcome through a range of branded timeline pictures being noticed by a fan’s friends. An experience that looks slick yet is simple and quick to engage with is what makes this app a great user experience that benefits both brand visibility and the user’s online identity.

4.       Boojum: “Free Burrito Day.”

Boojum is an Irish owned Burrito Bar with 2 main outlets across Ireland that I and Mammoth have worked with for the last 2 years and I’m showing this example to illustrate how the action of a simple like can harness so much power.

With 2 restaurants in Ireland; one in Belfast, one in Dublin, and Boojum wanted to promote and deliver a FREE BURRITO DAY to one city in the Summer of 2011 to reward fans and customers. The idea we came up with was simple. Whichever respective Facebook page delivered the greatest number of likes during the competition duration would result in a FREE BURRITO DAY for all in the city. The app was set up to record, visualise and encourage shares and likes and that’s simply all that was required. The results were great and you can View the Case Study Here. 

So these examples are a handful amongst thousands of great or good examples, where a brand is able to successfully engage and interact with their audiences in a way that gives the brand valuable data and of course more likes – but importantly the apps are quick, simple, shareable and accessible. Many brands have now woken up to the fact that users on Facebook, in the main, do not want or have time to participate heavily with your brand, but if you manage to attract the few that will take a look at what you can offer then be sure of one thing – the app needs to be clear, concise, add value and most importantly, be simple.

Content Curation: Digging out and delivering digital content that works

Content Marketing is the trending Digital Marketing topic of 2013. A strategy for the online content you are publishing, now more than ever seems essential for online engagement, search and social sharing of your brand messages or services. It’s not new of course, it’s always been there in various forms. Now though, everyone is a publisher – everyone is a mass consumer – everyone is a media outlet to spread the news – everyone is using digital as a communication tool. Now you simply cannot afford not to give your audiences the digital content they crave, how they want it and in a way to keep you competitive and engaged with your audience and customer. It’s not an easy challenge to effectively and strategically develop a content strategy that will work, especially if resources are limited.

As a blogger I know all too well that thinking, planning and actually delivering on original content to write on my blog or post on social media can be time consuming and challenging. Inspiration comes in many forms. Often the best content is not always 100% original. Often the best traction can be attained from curated content; but it has to add value. It must correlate to your brand, products, services and generate insight, interest and debate beyond the original author(s) points. Now… if you are really looking to have an impact with your audience, curation should not be the beginning and end of your content strategy. Totally original content (if there is such a thing) if you are involved in digital marketing, or mostly original, should still be a key part of your content strategy; it will build brand recognition, trust, thought leadership, differentiation and enhance your sense of meaningful content contribution to your audience. Overall though, for the majority of brands, organisations and individuals – it makes sense to centralise content curation in addition to publishing original articles and any other form of content such as news, events, products etc in their various forms.

It Takes Time…

Effective content curation happens over time. Of course it cannot exist individually, staying active across social networks, industry events and of course originating your own content play a big part of the content marketing challenge. Curation though, can play the central role in generating your brand awareness, credibility and popularity. Having something interesting to share in context to how you interpret it, the benefits to your audience, or your opinion on it’s industry validity and use can often be as effective, or if not more, effective than original content that might not meet your audiences needs.

1.Source – 2.Curate and Comment – 3.Publish

Successful curation does not happen by chance. Of course, stumbling across something worth sharing naturally occurs, but this doesn’t mean you should; you are right and also your audience might not want or care about it right now. By effectively setting up channels, approaches and time to correctly source, filter and the in a timely and effective manner, publish content, you will find results become measurable, resources can be allocated and trends can become established.

1. Source

Your sources of content to curate could be.

  • Subscribing to the most appropriate online and offline publications
  • Social Sharing sites you can or should subscribe to
  • Social media monitoring tools like Social Bro or Hootsuite
  • Aggregators such as Storify, Flipboard and Scoop.it
  • Press release distribution services
  • Google Alerts

2. Curate and Comment

Your curation content can be a selection including some of the following content types

  • Statistics, research, white-papers and reports
  • Posts from influential people important to your target audience
  • Best practice content writers on blogs, news, training, industry events sites
  • Guides and eBooks
  • Infographics are hugely popular and easy to digest information from
  • Tips and “how to” lists.
  • Videos are great for engagement so embed away…
  • Slide share presentations, which can also be embedded

3. Publish

Where might you publish curated content…

  • Company or brand blog, of course – this should probably be your hub
  • Email Newsletters
  • eBooks, guides and white-papers
  • Social networks
  • Guest author posts on industry sites

Success Factors

Strategic and timely content curation, as part of an overall content strategy can lead to many positive online factors:

  • Improve website traffic, interactivity and engagement
  • Help you or your brand / business to become a thought leader particular topic (this will take time!), naturally you’ll be more find-able online as a result
  • Generate website leads through awareness, SEO and carefully constructed calls to action.
  • Become well known by people of influence in your industry leading to networking opportunities and organic sharing potential.
  • Increased conversion on audience goals due to improved confidence in the curator and organisation

Success will be gained, as with all content marketing, when you take the time to learn and focus on what matters to your audience or community and align that with your own online value proposition. The more considered you are about any content you curate, or in-fact create, the more naturally you’ll optimise the content that your audience is craving and it will gain traction across search engines.

This video below is well worth a watch, breaking down the purpose and tactics around successful content curation and supporting some of my previous points.

My Top 5 Digital Marketing Curators

Some of the many blogs and social accounts I value highly from a curation point of view are listed below. I could list 20+ reputable sources but I guess everyone that might read this already subscribes to mashable and e-consultancy for example. For me, these curators add value as they don’t always post the same content type, don’t simply re-tweet the obvious posts from the big players, they have interesting comments and opinions based on their sourced content and keep their curation efforts varied, fresh, engaging, on brand – and importantly sprinkled with thoughtful opinion and insight. Naturally, they do not solely curate. Original and engaging content forms part of their mix and that’s one of the key reasons why their content curation is also highly valued by myself and many others. I’d recommend you visit and follow them for your own digital marketing curation efforts, or look at what they post to get some good ideas.

Simply Zesty

http://www.simplyzesty.com – @simplyzesty

Christopher Wellbelove

http://about.me/wellbelove – @wellbelove

The Drum

 http://thedrum.com – @thedrum

Silicon Republic

Siliconrepublic.com – twitter.com/siliconrepublic

Ion / Niall McKeown

http://ionology.com – @niallmckeown

Digital Human

Staying Human in a Digital World

I have recently read Nick Harkaways book “The Blind Giant” and found it a fascinating, engaging and eye-opening read. It makes you realise that we must not forget that those who follow us, will be born into a purely digital society, where eBooks and augmented reality will have gone from exotic to everyday. In The Blind Giant, Nick Harkaway, considers whether this new world of ours will be a place of purpose or hellish.

Some of Nick’s arguments about what could lie ahead seem a little extreme, a little affiliated to “Minority Report” but we cannot ignore that as more and more of how we consume and deliver content is not only digital by nature, often it’s out of necessity, not choice – and that trend is likely to continue. Ultimately, Harkaway makes the case that technology is like any other tool: neither a good or bad thing, except in how we use it.

Reading this book opened my eyes not only to the future of digital in our world but also the present. Technology, software and the devices we use have of course shaped our social and human behavior on a number of levels, from shopping, to leisure, to business. Lives are lived online, and the opportunity to have a live feed into the minds of those you care about is becoming a clearer reality. People are more willing to share and consume horizontally through their social networks, rather than vertically. The organic spread of ideas, relationships, and trade can now be observed and measured on scales of unprecedented detail.

Amongst all the positive aspects of instant global communication, accessibility of information, improved efficiency and the potential for learning, it is clear that there are negative “de-humanisning” aspects of the Digital World now and this will likely continue in the future. People see less of other people, there can be a lazy attitude inherited as a result.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I want to highlight how in the context of businesses to consumers, organisations can act, appear and deliver more human aspects of behaviour both through and alongside their digital communications to complement each other.

As more and more businesses advertise, show and deliver pre – sale and post – sale communications online, there is no doubt that they have had to adapt to a world of highly concentrated digital consumption. This though can deliver opportunities to show human connection through and alongside digital. For example an online retailer can still bring visible human aspects to their business. They can:

  • Show the people within the business on their website and LinkedIn page etc,
  • Personalise their twitter with a unique or range of staff administrators assigned to social media, giving a personal tone to the messages and responses
  • Ensure sales and support emails are from staff addresses and use appropriate signatures
  • Deliver video and audio content to connect with the audience on real terms and improve brand personality.
  • Personalise emails both through whom it is addresses but also based on preferences.

A high street retailer that also has an “inevitable” online presence can also humanise their consumer’s digital experience as well as complement the real in store experience by:

  • Promoting specific exclusive offers and promotions online but only available in store to drive footfall
  • Building knowledge of the online offering amongst staff to help deliver sales and consumer loyalty
  • Use social media to help profile the products, local team(s) and staff to consumers
  • Have staff actively engage with customers online
  • Ensure telephone numbers are clearly promoted online.

I think we all know the inevitability of an increased trend for more digital consumption and communication out of necessity due to rapidly evolving commercial, media and interpersonal landscapes. But this doesn’t mean we have to be any less human. It’s about balance. We must continue to act, sound and appear human even online and I hope that the norm isn’t that we get lazy and devalue personal contact by default over a more convenient digital equivalent or alternative.

Google Glass is an example worth noting. This technology due to launch next year has the potential, for us to act more human, from the perspective that our digital media consumption can be consumed whilst interacting visually and in body with the real world. An argument to this though is that we may as users of the product, disconnect from the real world as we focus on what the heads up display is communicating to us. The latter is a de-humanising effect, (well… based on our definition of human behaviour) but perhaps a new set of human and social behavioral attributes need to defined “the norm” in light of communication and technological advances and trends.

Related to this discussion from a social media perspective is a really good Q&A worth checking out with Nicholas Christakis from the TED series, entitled: “Our modern, connected lives.” It’s interesting as it raises many points around the our influence and behaviour driven by our modern connected online social experiences. It’s a well-balanced series of responses to topics of friendship, social influence and even online dating from a real world vs digital perspective.

The Importance of a “Digital Centric” Approach to Your Brand

This post is a summary of a recent blog I wrote for Smart Insights on how a brand strategy must consider and ensure a “Digital Centric” approach to the brand creation and ongoing activities.

In 2013, more than any other year; website(s), search marketing, mobile content, social media, rich media, e-commerce, email marketing and their interaction, all have to be carefully considered in a brand building process.

Key Brand Factors

1. Customer

In a branding process it all starts with the customer; considering a number of factors from age to gender to disposable income, through to their estimated frequency of purchase.

The demographics will have a digital footprint, It is vital to determine what these customers will search for, what devices they will be using and when and which social networks, websites and apps they engage with, how often, and when.

Offline, a brand’s connection with customers will deliver an experience good or bad. For example in retail, a customer can call to get a location and opening hours, drive to the location, walk into a store or warehouse, access the checkout, purchase effectively and leave safely and securely.

Online branding should deliver the same experience that you wish to deliver for your customers; including accessibility. There is though a long way to go for this to be taken as the norm.

In a recent survey only 18% of brands surveyed admitted to being “seriously” committed to delivering the best possible online user experience (UX). More reading on this statistic via a recent Feb 2013 report is available via e-consultancy.

2. Identity

For some, this is their understanding of where branding starts and finishes. Of course, we know there is much more, but it is true that it is what instantly connects customers with brands. It can create interest, curiosity, affinity and connections.

A hugely important factor to consider when it comes to identity is naming. In Digital Marketing this impacts most on search.

Another key factor is how the brand stands out in a multi – platform crowded experience. Our bookmarks, web apps on our browser, image results for search and also our mobile app icons and more, should make everyone think about how the identity performs and connects with the audience.

Facebook is a great example of how it’s distinctive “Blue F” and like “thumbs up” icon works well alongside or in isolation to the Facebook logo making it perfect for a multi – platform approach.

fACEBOOK THUMBS UP Facebook logo Facebook

 3. Competitors

From searching online, to sampling apps, to experiencing website UX and subscribing to their emails, competitor analysis is more open and accessible than ever before.

More than ever before, insight can be gained to learn what they offer, how they communicate, what experiences they have and where they focus customer and product attention.

All brands have to be aware that they are being watched, Prices are being matched, tweets are being scanned, and websites are being trawled through so as brands can  begin to gain a competitive advantage.

4. Messaging

Key messages to support the product, service or customer value are essentially what add weight to an identity and enable consumers to “get it” in a few seconds.

Tesco’s key ‘brand driver’ is simple; “Every Little Helps”. This means different things to different people, but Tesco strive through digital, to make shopping easier, more helpful, and personalised and more rewarding through its content, features, rewards, mobile apps, personalised offers and multi – channel shopping experiences.

“Every Little Helps”, suits perfectly.tescoonline

Sky’s key message is “Believe in Better”. Sky do, over all the home entertainment and connectivity providers, have best in class solutions and the user experience it always seems is largely ahead than their competitors. Sky online products just feel right. I believe their products and user interface is “better” and I also have noticed  their belief in being better has led to them being first for key innovations such as their “Sky Go” app.

5. Location

When developing a brand project, location is a key factor. With online, location becomes important because the business is not in total control of its audience and their location.

A key element to online branding with regards to location is the fact that if a business is selling online across various countries then it MUST invest in a commitment to at least consider the impact of language, culture – centric online advertising and importantly also be able to deliver on shipping timelines which customers expect.

Location, as part of brand awareness and engagement has also become much more of a factor with the use of smartphones. Location based apps to help customers on the go find a business, buy using their mobile, share etc are adding value to the brand. A great example of a brand investing successfully in digital brand strategies per location is Starbucks.  Read More about Starbucks’ digitally aligned strategy here

6. Product

In branding processes, products are considered in terms of their key messaging and top level display in line with the brand image and positioning of the company. If a brand is positioned as having unique or ‘competitor busting’ attributes then what digital media allows is the opportunity to show this like never before with features such as:

  • Video content
  • Interactive personalisation
  • Sharing facilities
  • Augmented reality
  • Real time configuration

A great personalised online brand product experience comes courtesy of Nike. Nike ID  This fits Nike’s highly personalised and user -connected brand experience which offers personal and complementary products such as Nike + and Nike Fuel.

v

7. People

How people in an organisation understand and deliver the brand are central to making the brand work. Online, people still remain an important element to the brand on a number of levels. Customers may see, hear and read about key members of the team; customers may wish to check the history or find out more about a person they met to ‘suss them out’ further.

People are responsible for the online brand delivery because a digital brand communication strategy is nothing without content. Businesses must ask these people related questions:

  • Do I have the resource to communicate online?
  • Does my online content style match my messaging and tone of voice?
  • What channels do I use to enable efficient customer service?
  • I have a team of content writers online how do I ensure consistency?
  • Will my staff’s personal and business related online activity strengthen or harm my brand?

In Conclusion…

Branding and brands simply are not successful in 2013 without ensuring digital is central to how they are communicated, advertised, consumed and shared. By taking into account the key factors mentioned in this article and ensuring there is a strategy that considers the right digital mix in support of the brand position, businesses can strengthen their online position in the marketplace and thrive in the digital world.

View the full article on Online branding: a digital-centric approach to developing brands here.

Billy Ray Harris: Lord of the Ring

A Homeless Hero: The Power of Online Storytelling

This week I stumbled across a story online, not only worth sharing for it’s interesting content but also for it’s ability to highlight the true power of the digital world to share something positive, engage with people’s emotions and then encourage positive action.

Billy Ray Harris of Kansas City recently returned a diamond engagement ring, which fell into his collection cup, to it’s rightful owner. He found the ring among loose change after its owner, Sarah Darling, accidentally dropped it when she was giving him some change. When Sarah went back the next morning, she found that Harris had been waiting for her to return that ring.

What a humbling and amazing gesture for a man with nothing. A man who could have used the ring’s value to improve his current situation and get himself some things to help him survive. This story certainly helped add some more positive weight to my global humanity perception scale.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, to show their appreciation, Sarah and her husband set up a Giveforward fundraiser with a goal of raising $1,000 for Billy Ray. The total now sits at the time of writing, €138,000 after only 10 days. With 81 days left Billy Ray could become a very wealthy man indeed. He certainly won’t be out on the streets begging for loose change.

Sarah’s husband posted a blog post updating donors with Harris’s response to the news and his plans for the future. He wrote:

“We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future the ring may … be passed down to my daughter. We talked about how insanely positive all this has been. We talked about what he’s planning to do with the donations. The details would be better left for later but know that he has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen.”

For me this example really highlights the ability for the virality of the web to raise awareness, capture the hearts and imagination of those that care, of those who become aware of such kind acts of humanity and who may not have given Billy Ray or any other homeless person their loose change. How this money and new found fame affects Billy we’ll soon see. I’m sure his selfless attitude will ensure he spreads his fortune. I’m sure amongst the escape from poverty will come a struggle with adapting to the real world and rebuilding his life under the public eye, but for now I am delighted to see the virality of the internet once again proving it’s positive worth for sharing stories, connecting individuals, raising hope and rewarding those who deserve it with positive actions.

Whilst writing this article it made me think of a previous blog post that I wrote after my Ad Age Digital Conference attendance last year. In this article I mentioned how the true value in content engagement is creating content that is emotional. People will take action, engage with and share content online that emotionally connects with them and their friends, peers and connections.

With Billy Ray Harris and this campaign, those who donated are not just donating money online to any homeless guy they heard about. If that was the case, every homeless person would set up a donation page right now and get rich. With Billy Ray, your emotions are supercharged by the story behind the campaign; the humbling actions of a man in need, who made the right choice over the selfish one and who has created the unlikeliest of friendships that we can all now read about. Now that’s emotional content. That’s what makes a difference to people’s level of engagement and that’s what has made Billy Ray Harris an overnight sensation and changed his life forever.