Brand marketing and reputation building used to be a combination of print advertising and word-of-mouth. Radio and TV advertising entered the mix along the way, but within the past decade or so, brand marketing has shifted dramatically from the tried-and-true, taking on a whole new form in the digital realm.
Today’s consumers are savvy, technologically advanced and, quite frankly, tired of being treated like an advertising target. That’s why digital media plays such an integral role in brand marketing today—it’s a marketing channel that makes it possible to establish and enhance your brand by creating value, not by selling.
New Brand Marketing Challenges
Digital media has opened a whole new world of opportunity for brand marketing, but it has also introduced a few challenges. “The biggest branding challenges that I see come up over and over again in my work with clients are in the areas of differentiation, consistency, transparency and audience,” says Danielle Miller, a brand strategist for women entrepreneurs. “It’s a challenge to cut through the noise, stand out and be heard.”
The vast number of social media outlets and other digital marketing channels leaves many small businesses confused about where to spend their efforts. Instead of focusing on a core strategic plan, they spread their efforts across as many channels as possible. The result? A diluted message and no clear target, Miller says. Transparency is also a common issue, particularly for entrepreneurs and solo professionals, as they struggle to hit the delicate balance between sharing enough to be trusted and sharing too much, which alienates audiences.
Finding The Digital Media Balance
Julie Cottineau, founder and CEO of brand consultancy BrandTwist, says small businesses get caught up in using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and everything else — yet they’re not really sure how they should be using it, or for what. “Don't tweet just because everyone else is if you are not clear on what you want to say and how it can build your business,” Cottineau advises.
Rhonda Page, chief differentiation officer at marketing consultancy Know Your Difference, concurs, noting that there’s a lot of noise in the digital realm and there’s a strong tendency to copycat strategies. “Something works for one person and every else copies and then it’s no longer different,” she explains. What small businesses should do instead:
- Focus on your strategic goals.
- Define your audience.
- Choose one social platform to start with if you’re just getting in on the game; get comfortable with it and make it work for you.
- Expand and experiment from there, slowly building out your marketing platform and scaling it up as you find what resonates with your audience.
- Be willing to modify your strategy, approach and channels based on what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to ditch a strategy or channel that just doesn’t produce results.
The Power of Digital Media in Brand Marketing
You can’t ignore digital media if you want to keep pace with your competition. But that doesn’t mean you should do whatever your competitors are doing with a blind eye to how it will actually impact your bottom line.
“Consumers are finally able to have that two-way conversation that we've been talking about for years with branding,” Cottineau says. She points out that small businesses actually have a strong advantage when it comes to brand marketing in the digital age, “because they have authentic, engaging stories that capture consumers' attention—and often their share of wallet.”
There’s really a simple formula behind successful brand marketing in the digital age: Define your audience, find out where they spend their time and craft powerful stories that resonate and build connections. Once you’ve discovered the right combination, you’ve struck brand marketing gold.
Angela Stringfellow is a freelance writer, social media strategist and complete content marketing junkie obsessed with all things Web, written word and marketing.