Building a modern brand in the digital age

Published: October 18, 2016 7:46:41 AM

The proliferation of mediums in the digital and physical worlds has brought us into an age when building a valuable brand is both harder and easier.

The proliferation of mediums in the digital and physical worlds has brought us into an age when building a valuable brand is both harder and easier.

If you’re unaware of the media proliferation, consider the fact that students are agreeing to be paid mediums through tattoos, caps and t-shirts on college campuses. Or the next time you golf, look in the hole after dropping a putt to find an ad. And if you are unaware of the vast growth in digital media, then you might want to crawl back under the traditional ad agency desk and continue napping. But this proliferation doesn’t make it easier to reach people; it just advances the human ability to ignore brand messages.

Some have started the rumours that old media like TV, radio and print are quickly heading towards a dinosaur death. Times are tough on these dinosaurs, but they are not in museums yet. The largest US audience you can reach (approximately 111 million viewers) for a gargantuan price is still at the Super Bowl.

Starting up is easier, getting through is harder

For a start-up brand, building an audience has never been less expensive on a cost per impression basis. Just set up a Twitter account and sponsor a tweet or boost a Facebook post and do the math. Impressions come at a penny per, or less. For under $5,000 almost anyone can set up and launch a brand. The build-your-own brand industry has never been more robust and inexpensive. Yet, the knowledge gap to go from an idea to a hard working brand is more pronounced than ever.

And the failures are more expensive than ever before if you find yourself infringing on a trademark, copyright or design patent.

The counter revolution to these inexpensive mass mediums is mass distrust. Our societal distrust in brands has never been so high, continuing to increase with behaviours like those of Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, etc. And these are just the big names. The real distrust comes from the proliferation of inconsistent behaviours, puffery, spin and outright lies perpetrated by brands. If you’re wondering what damage inconsistent behaviours can do to a brand, ask Jacuzzi about selling toilets or Harley Davidson about having Elton John as their final act at its 125th anniversary.

Finding a better way to make friends

What choices do we (as brand owners) have beyond just throwing stuff at the wall and checking how long the starch holds? There needs to be a deliberate effort to disintegrate marketing efforts and then reintegrate with a renewed focus on four things:

Have a point of view, a reason for doing what you do and put it forward in your brand communication.

Stop shouting at consumers and start talking with communities of people. The beauty of many digital mediums is they can be both one-on-one and mass at the same time.

Brands need to be more human and consider their audiences as human beings, not consumers.

Every brand has moments when people interact with their service, product or offering. Finding the right moments and designing those for the people you have in mind is critical.

And if you’re asking, can a classic brand be rebuilt as a modern brand, the answer is fanatically, “Yes, it can.” Just look to Shinola, Patagonia and Ford for leadership examples in our modern economy.

Aaron Keller

The author is managing principal, Capsule

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