The internet has evolved into the best tool for choosing and selecting products and services that most consumers require. According to wearesocial.com, 86% of internet users in the UK have searched online for products and services to purchase, and 81% of them have purchased online.
This statistic makes the importance of building a brand in the digital space is obvious right?
Before I describe the more expressive benefits of building a brand in the digital space we need to understand how brands, and (more specifically) strong brands are defined.
What differentiates a strong brand from a weak one?
Let's start with the generic definition and work our way into the deeper territory from there. A strong brand is a brand that stands out in the mind of its customers, both current customers and potential customers. Ever wonder what this means?
A strong brand is one that has a clear understanding of its USP. They know their competition very well too. They have a strong sense of how their presence contributes to the landscape of their industry. A major contribution to a brand's strength is the fact that it’s vision, mission and values are well communicated and well understood within the business.
Building strong brands means having a solid brand identity by creating a visual synergy that appeals to its target audience. Visual synergy is created when logos, taglines, colour palettes and icons come together in a way that is both easy on-the-eye and relevant to the industry within which it lives.
A strong brand will use this consistently across multiple touchpoints, both in the online and offline space. In this way ingraining it in the mind of consumers (through recognition and repetition), which in turn leads to the brand being easily recognisable.
Strong brands, therefore, view brand strategy and development as a business function rather than a marketing function.
The benefits of brand building using online marketing:
1. Visibility, Recognition and Reach
Because the internet has a global reach, your brand will be seen by a larger audience than your sales team or brick-and-mortar store can touch on a daily or weekly basis. With higher numbers of people being able to access your brand, awareness of your products or services will be higher than if you were using traditional methods of increasing brand awareness.
The number of times a brand gets seen is directly related to brand recognition. Being present across multiple digital channels lends itself to higher brand recognition.
The stronger the brand recognition, the greater the opportunity to be the chosen brand by potential customers. Ultimately, all brand strategists aspire to create top-of-mind brands.
2. Nurture your contacts through the full customer journey, from awareness phase through to becoming brand ambassadors
Consumers are more likely to choose brands which they recognise. Your brands' presence in the digital space, allows you to nurture your potential consumers from being in the brand awareness phase to entering the consideration phase, where they become educated about your products and services.
Once they’ve decided to choose your product or service over your competitors, they become consumers. And if you’re ticking all the boxes in blowing them away in each phase (awareness, consideration and decision phases), your consumers are most likely to become brand ambassadors.
When considering the customer journey, marketing departments consider many digital marketing elements. Digital marketing planning will include elements of email marketing, social media, mobile marketing, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).
3. Credibility and Trust
A trustworthy brand is an easily recognisable one, has been around for a long time, has a loyal following or customer base, and delivers on its promises.
When a business is viewed as a recognisable, well-reputed brand, the business' credibility increases both within its industry, as well as amongst its customers.
As credibility and trust build so too does loyalty and community. The spinoff is that as word-of-mouth marketing increases and so too does ease of purchase. In the digital space, this means an increase in web traffic, engagement with blogs and social media, and potentially higher rates of media interest too.
This, in turn, has a direct impact on the business' competitive advantage.
4. Build a community
While community building is traditionally seen as the role of social media marketers, it can be argued that community building is everyone’s job.
The first reason is simple. The nature of the task requires input and engagement from multiple people, and who better to be brand ambassadors than your staff. The second reason is that the benefits gained by focussing on community building are massive.
Having brand ambassadors, brand champions and a loyal brand community makes the introduction of new products and services, not only easier but also less expensive. You’ll also work less on building brand awareness.
You’re probably wondering why it would be less expensive, right? Because, the larger and more engaged your online community is, the less of a need there will be to use paid advertising and PR to promote your new products and services.
Due to the advancement of digital media platforms and marketing automation tools, community building has become less labour intensive and much easier than if you were using traditional methods of community building.
Another benefit is related to word-of-mouth marketing. As consumers, we hold recommendations and opinions of our friends and acquaintances with more weight than if we were to see an advert of the product.
When your brand community starts to anticipate and talk about up-coming products, reach is higher, and this organic reach is seen to contribute heavily towards the brands' credibility.
An additional benefit to building a brand community is the access it offers to business stakeholders, to get to know their target audience better. By building a community your business is embarking on an amazing journey of understanding your customer, their pains and the things they love about your products and services.
5. Increase Brand Equity
Brand equity refers to the commercial value that is gained from how consumers think and feel about a brand, and how well a brand commands market share and profit within its industry.
Having higher brand equity means that your business will experience a reduction in the paid advertising costs associated with gaining traffic or awareness.
Higher brand equity is linked to a higher market share, as consumers favour stronger brands over that of its competitors. And for this reason, there is an opportunity to move towards a premium pricing structure.
Strong brands have less need to actively recruit, as people are naturally interested in working for brands with a good reputation. Of course, this means that stronger brands have less of a need to spend on HR and recruitment related activities.