The term ‘Brand’ has been defined in various ways. Amongst all available definitions, the following definition would suit the thought I am going to pursue in this article.
“Brand is a CONNECT between consumers and companies”. This is a very simple yet powerful definition.
This so called ‘connect’ has undergone a seismic change recently. This change can be attributed to continuous evolution of technology which has really simplified a consumer’s life. Brands are continuously finding it difficult to establish a connect with their consumers and more so in this digital age. Earlier, brands had fewer, what is popularly known as, “moment of truths”. Consumers didn’t have access to much information. Hence choices were also limited. Marketers hardly focused on their prospective consumers. Advertising was seen as a potent weapon as a brand building tool than customer satisfaction and other elements of brand building. Customers had very limited options to voice their feeling about brands.
Digital has had a transformational effect on how brand business is done. According to Interbrand.com, Google was ranked 38th in 2005 out of top 100 brands whereas in 2009 it is ranked top 7th brand of the world. Considering the fact that Google stared its operations only in late 1998, it’s a huge achievement. Brands like Google, iPod, Facebook & YouTube have proved the notion wrong that brands take a long time to become the top brands.
Digitization has empowered the customers with unlimited tools to make them heard. Abundant access to information, thanks to Google, has left little room for brands to act smart with customers.
Brand touch points have increased in comparison to what they used to be. More interestingly, customers now have the power to make them heard at every such point through Facebook, Twitter, Orkut to name a few. Brands are now aware that negative word of mouth spreads faster than positive word of mouth. Hence, brands are continuously employing “Online Reputation Management” tools to cater to disgruntled customers.
Digital has proved that brand building need not be an expensive activity. Brands are constantly exploring the power of ‘viral videos’ which are rather cheap to create and still give the brands great mileage. The recent “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove Evolution, by Dove on YouTube has close to 1 million views so far and still counting.
PR seems incomplete without ePR. Upsurge of blogs and review websites have made people trust their peer group more than the advertisements. Worse, users may give more credence to feedback posted by a stranger on a website more than what a brand is communicating.
Today, marketers are in a better position to understand online behavior of the users that visit their sites. Web analytics tools can be of great help in understanding what pages are most visited by users, what is the path traversed by users before making some purchase on your website, how many users are coming through paid media versus how many users are coming organically etc. Never have brands got so many insights to serve their customer better, all thanks to this Digital Age.
Brand building has become more comprehensive today wherein customer satisfaction, customer experience, customer delight get equal, if not more, weight age which probably only advertising once enjoyed. Digital empowerment has changed the rules of the game. It has opened up a bag full of opportunities for the brands. It has taken brands a step closer to their customers. And the good news is that you can be a top brand in few years if you are updated about the game. You are closer to your customers than ever before. But the point is: Are you listening?