Nearly every major brand has multiple social media accounts, a YouTube presence, and even a place to call home on Pinterest. In the post, “15 Brands Rocking Tumblr,” for example, Mashable singles out Calvin Klein, Disney, and Lexus as just a handful of the major brands that are leveraging Tumblr’s microblogging platform to connect directly with their target audiences.
But while digital marketing looks straightforward enough from the outside, the internal gears that churn behind the scenes of the typical online brand-building approach are anything but simple. As direct marketers know all too well, the act of engaging consumers is actually getting harder—not easier—in today’s congested marketing environment.
Here are four ways direct marketers can borrow a page from some of the most successful online marketers and begin leveraging digital marketing to enhance their brands:
1. Instead of repurposing, try reimagining.The age-old DRTV trick of repurposing content may not be as effective in the digital space, where consumers are hungry for imaginative, fresh content. In The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World, author Rick Mathieson says it’s important to remember that digital is not simply for repurposing content that exists in other channels: “It’s about reimagining content to create blockbuster experiences that cannot be attained through any other medium.”
2. Think beyond the ROI calculation.Developing a strong digital marketing brand takes time. “The key is to build sales overnight and brand over time,” says Kim Bellomy, Hawthorne Direct’s senior digital account strategist. This advice often falls on deaf ears in DRTV circles, where direct sales often take precedence over long-term brand-building. “DRTV marketers can be at a disadvantage with online brand-building, because everything they do requires an ROI calculation of some sort,” Bellomy adds. “At some point, in the interest of the brand, you have to be willing to take a negative media efficiency ratio (MER) in order to find the right balance between closing sales and building that brand in the digital space.”
3. Be consistent online.You wouldn’t dream of using different logos, packaging schemes, or signage in your offline branding, so why would you let this important consideration lapse in the digital realm? Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when dozens of colors, graphics, photos, and related options are put into a marketer’s hands. “Consistency in your brand goes beyond a logo and a tagline, and is crucial in everything a customer sees before, during, and after a purchase,” writes WebDAM Solutions’ Melissa Kelly in The Dangers of Inconsistent Branding. The messaging and design elements on your website, for example, should always align with all other marketing efforts; the last thing you want to do is confuse a potential customer. “If your website isn’t clear and doesn’t call out your value statements, your brand messages won’t stick,” Kelly says.
4. Don’t assume that the Web is a no-cost proposition.
Sorry folks, but the Web just isn’t the free-for-all it was 10 years ago. And even when the platforms themselves are free to use, cultivating an online branding strategy requires both time and effort—neither of which is free or easy. “A lot of brand marketers hear the words ‘digital marketing’ and assume it’s all going to be free for the taking,” says business consultant and Startup Professionals Musings blogger Martin Zwilling. Come up with a budget (of time and money) for your digital branding initiative to avoid unexpected surprises down the road. “There’s an awful lot involved with successful digital marketing, so be ready to put the time and money into making it work.”
With more DRTV advertisers integrating their campaigns with social media platforms, online video channels, and mobile advertising mechanisms, the need for solid brand-building online isn’t going to fade away anytime soon. In fact, with technology advancing at the speed of light, the number of digital marketing options will surely expand further over the next few years. Instead of being left behind the curve, follow the tips outlined in this article to start ramping up your own digital branding strategy right now.
Photo by KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Timothy R. Hawthorne is founder of Hawthorne Direct.
The above post originally appeared as the Ask the Expert column in the February 2014 issue of Electronic Retailer magazine with the original title "Digital Marketing Tips for Brand Builders."