The way in which consumers interact with brands today has shifted phenomenally over the past few years. During the Web 1.0 era, brands would talk to the consumer - like it or not. Since the more recent Web 2.0 era, brands have started to talk with the consumer. If the consumer's interest is piqued by the brand's conversation, it will engage with the brand and share the conversation with others. If the consumer isn't turned on by the conversation, they will simply ignore it. But, if a consumer is aggravated or annoyed by the conversation, the power that the consumers holds will reach far beyond that which the brand might have achieved through any means of traditional PR or campaigning. Today's consumer is in control and has the power to either make or break a brand.
Gone are the days when branding solely meant that you had to have a successful advertising campaign. A successful brand is built on trust and reputation, and these traits can only be achieved through relationship (trust) building and engaging strategies. No amount of advertising can convince a consumer to trust the brand. It is through on-going engagement with that brand that the consumer will become familiar with and trust the brand. Once a consumer believes the brand's positioning statement through having had frequent conversation with that brand, only then will the consumer try the brand. If the consumer's experience matches up to the brand's promises, then only will the consumer become a customer. By continuing to engage with the customer through regular conversations with them, that customer will grow to become a loyal customer. It is only once the customer has become loyal to the brand, and the trust has been retained with that brand, that customer might evolve into an evangelist for the brand.
As the adoption of technology and digital media platforms advance, brand strategies have had to quickly adapt to the changing consumer needs. Consumers are more product savvy than they used to be. With instant access to information on the internet, they can know everything that there is to know about a brand in an instant. And with today's consumers being more socially networked than ever before, they rely on the opinions and experiences of these brands from their friends. The social media landscape has created fast-moving, instant transparency for brands and these socially; internet-savvy consumers know exactly what is being said about the brand long before they get given the sugar-coated package that they once might have received from traditional media.
Today's consumers want to engage with the brand, but the brand must know what that consumer desires before it attempts to win the consumer's attention. Brands compete for consumer trust and not for consumer admiration. To earn this trust, brands have to become interactive, engaging, intuitive and social.
Interactive (or engaging) branding is a usually implemented by digital media strategists. The approach adopted by most digital media strategists is one that requires a full understanding of the brand before it will recommend a strategy. To better understand the brand, the strategist will need to conduct a digital marketing audit of the brand. This involves a high level review of the current digital media platforms currently utilised by the brand such as its website, email marketing and communications, search engine marketing, banner advertising, partner marketing, customer loyalty program and social media tactics. The audit will include a review of how the brand's online marketing campaigns integrate with one another, as well as how it integrates with its offline campaigns including advertising, marketing collateral, internal communications and public relations activities. Having undergone a thorough investigation of all the tactics being utilised by the brand, as well as having reviewed the historical analytics and metrics available for each medium, the strategist will be able to identify any areas where there may be inconsistencies regarding the messages sent, or concerns regarding the perception of the brand and how it engages with its customers and potential consumers.
The strategist needs to first ensure that he fully understands what the goals and objectives are for the brand. Once the key measurement indicators have been ascertained, then the strategy can be put into place. The strategy will involve acquiring a full understanding of the brand's target market as well as the typical personas that it may wish to engage with. By understanding the consumer better, the strategist can then recommend the most suitable platforms and the ideal message with which to engage in a conversation with its target audience. This understanding can then materialise into an engagement and content plan for the brand with which to base its fully integrated communications strategy on.
By having a thorough understanding of the various digital marketing platforms available to the brand, they will become more perceptive towards incorporating these activities into the brand marketing strategy. Return on investment is driven by increased efficiency and effectiveness of online and offline marketing spend, however digital media accurately measures increased conversion rates, traffic volumes and loyalty which immediately demonstrates the mediums success and return on investment.
Effective digital media planning will incorporate reach, conversion and engagement tactics. Reach tactics such as search engine optimisation, pay-per-click advertising, affiliate marketing, display advertising, acquisition email marketing and social media marketing will build awareness using these various digital media platforms, usually with the aim of increasing awareness, raising web presence and driving consumers to a single location such as its website.
- Conversion tactics will concentrate on achieving conversion to the marketing goals such as increasing fans, acquiring leads or completing a successful sale. Here a strategist will review the effectiveness of the website's design and content to ensure that the user experience is one that results in conversions rather than shopping cart or website abandonment.
- Engagement tactics are those that that are focused on building customer relationships by encouraging repeat visits and loyalty. Typical tactics include email newsletters, social media engagement, website and search personalisation and event-triggered communications. This is the face of new media marketing that has predominantly been built on the prevailing web 2.0 and web 3.0 phenomenon's.
Web 2.0 is the progression of the internet from one-way broadcasts (where the brand or media would do all the talking on the web and the consumer had no choice but to listen) to two-way conversations (where the brand and the consumer interact with one another via the web). Blog posts, reviews and ratings allow the consumers to voice their opinions about their experiences with the brand. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter enable consumers to like or share these experiences
. Web 2.0 has put the power back into the consumer's hands, making them the journalists that others will trust. Mobile apps and platforms such as Foresquare and Yelp allow consumers to share their experiences in real-time at the time of engagement. Pioneering brands have embraced these platforms by developing rich ways in which to draw consumers to their brands by rewarding them for having engaged with their brand.
As Web 3.0 comes into fruition, the evolution of new media marketing strategies
becomes more imminent. This is the next generation of the web which has been enabled by web 2.0. It is the next layer of intelligent internet technology. By incorporating Web 3.0 into the digital media strategy
, brands will not only be engaging, but will become more intuitive. As technologies reach new levels of maturity, brand marketing strategies will progressively shift towards predictive marketing strategies
. Over time, a Web 3.0 browser may learn more about a particular consumer's behavior than through any means of traditional marketing research. The more the consumer uses the browser to search for information, the more the browser learns about what the consumer is interested in, resulting in more targeted and relevant information being presented to the user.
As the internet starts building up its database of unique consumer profiles, the Web 3.0 generation of consumers will become accustomed to a more productive and intuitive web experience than ever before.
While the internet might not yet be quite as intelligent as experts predict it will soon become, there is a huge opportunity for forward-thinking marketers to embrace the future and to start implementing those technologies that will set their brands apart from others. Using a combination of API's (Application Programming Interfaces) in a Mashup, a brand could deliver targeted location-based results to a user while simultaneously showing the consumer ratings for the brand by others consumers who have engaged with the brand within close proximity to the consumer. By correctly tagging its web content with relevant keywords in its metadata, brands may further enable software agents to correctly interpret the relevance of the brand's content to the user's initial search. The more information that search agents can gather from the content and from the user's behaviour, the more effective the semantic web will become in understanding the relationship between various keywords and deliver more contextually relevant content to the user.
The web extends far beyond desktops and notebooks. The web exists on tablets such as iPads and mobile devices such as iPhones, Blackberry's and Androids
; and as the web evolves, it may even become customary for consumers to interact with brands via televisions sets, vending machines or even watches. There are so many touch-points available for the consumer to interact with the brand on various levels
, whether to gather information through research or to engage with the brand through competitions or for pure entertainment. With so many platforms for engagement available today, digital strategists and marketers have several opportunities to nurture loyal consumer-band relationships. Through consistent engagement and genuine appreciation for that consumer's trust, a life-long brand evangelist will be born, one that is far more valuable than any conventional larger-than-life billboard advertisement.