Nine ways to adjust your brand strategy to work online

How to bridge your brand strategy into a digital strategy that will drive content marketing and social engagement   A premium fashi...

8 May 2014 2880 Views

How to bridge your brand strategy into a digital strategy that will drive content marketing and social engagement

A premium fashion brand is unsure if it should follow back on Twitter or remain aloof like its competitors do. An industrial door brand wants to fix its failed social program that talks about its products and its commitment to the environment (because those are the only two topics the company has ever addressed). A company that makes dental equipment wants to attract and engage dentists by helping them online but doesn’t know where to begin. In any of these examples it would be nice to turn to the brand strategy for guidance. The problem is most brand strategies were not written to address the reality of an interconnected, highly social information economy.

Nothing will reveal a weak brand quicker than a strong online presence. In previous posts, I’ve discussed how the underlying cause of most weak content marketing and social programs is actually a weak brand. So the solution seems simple: just fix the brand, right?

If the hair just stood up on the back of your neck you probably work in a mid-to large-sized company where suggesting that the brand be tweaked is heresy. After all, the brand strategy was etched in stone, consecrated by senior management and hermetically sealed years ago. Nobody wants to mess with the brand strategy. Not because the strategy is perfect, but because it’s too much of a headache to fix. Too few people in the organization actually understand the document beyond the fact that it cost a bloody fortune to create and was blessed by their boss’s boss. So what do you do if a) your antiquated brand strategy is dragging your content and social program down but b) you can’t change it?

Get it together. A digital strategy picks up where your brand strategy leaves off to give your online presence a unified direction and focus. The good news is that in many cases you don’t need to change the brand strategy so much as you need to interpret it for use in the digital environment. We use the term “bridging” the brand strategy into a digital strategy to avoid rustling too many feathers. If it is a solid brand strategy and still relevant, then this should be pretty straightforward to interpret it into the digital environment and augment it to address the hyper-exposure brands have online. If the brand strategy is fundamentally weak, then improvisation will be required. Here are a several areas to explore as you bridge the existing brand strategy into the online environment.

1. Objectives & Goals

What objectives have been set out for the brand in the brand strategy (and marketing plan)?  How can we contribute to these online? How can we measure progress?

2. Position

What are the main points of differentiation and how can they be dramatized online? What is the competition doing online and how can we differentiate?

3. Target Persona

Before the internet, your target market was relatively static. Not any more. To build an audience and engage online, you will need a more nuanced picture of your target market than most traditional brand strategies can deliver. It’s no longer enough to have demographic information with a dash of psychographics thrown in. You need to understand and anticipate their online behavior. Your target and their online habits will evolve over time, and your online presence should be there every step of the way from when they are simply searching for information about a problem they have, to when they start looking for solutions, to when they begin to explore brands that could help them with their need, to evaluating those companies, trying the brand, developing affinity and loyalty and hopefully winding up a brand advocate online. These need to be mapped and tactics put in place to intercept them at each phase. If you can keep one step ahead of your competitors in this journey you will fare better than simply providing targeted information about your product online.  

4. Brand Persona

This is an area that usually requires a fair amount of augmentation from traditional brand strategies because the persona those documents often define was a one-dimensional persona that communicated via one-way communication and never had to actually interact or improvise live. Translate the brand model into a workable, three-dimensional brand persona that will guide the brand’s voice (e.g., are you perky and timely, or buttoned-down and timeless) and behavior (e.g., do you follow back or like fans comments or do you remain aloof and avoid engaging, how you react if criticized) as well as overall tone and manner online. It will help ensure that people representing the brand persona online are in character. 


5. Expertise

What topics is the brand qualified to address as an expert? This will also guide content creation and thought leadership efforts. 

6. Facilitation

How does the brand help its followers? What direct and peripheral needs could it address digitally to help prospects and customers? 

7. Interests

What topics is the brand interested in?  Who does it consider its influencers in these areas? This will help with content, outreach and collaboration online.  

8. Causes

What topics is the brand passionate about? What is the brand against and how does it address this? How does the brand give back? How does the brand stimulate affinity among customers? 

9. Look & Feel

How will the brand and graphic profiles translate into web design as well as designs for profile pages on social sites like Twitter and LinkedIn? How will it apply to content like Instagram photos, videos, white papers, graphs and diagrams, blogs, and infographics?

If you feel your online efforts have hit a wall, there’s a good chance the solution actually lies in your brand strategy. A solid brand identity expressed through your brand’s online content and social interactions should go a long way towards differentiating your brand while engaging and building your audience online. However, most brand strategies were not developed with the internet in mind. To succeed with a strategic online marketing program you will probably need to augment your current brand strategy (not change it) to accommodate the realities of today’s online environment. Short of revamping it, try to bridge your brand strategy into your online presence.

Sean Duffy | @brandranter
Speaker, consultant & founder of Duffy Agency, the flipped digital agency that provides accelerated growth to aspiring international brands.