We were invited to present at Adtech 2016.

It was a great day filled with lots of inspirational stories. For those of you that weren’t there, I thought I’d share the core thinking in my presentation – how to build brand equity in a digital world. I personally think brand equity isn’t something you can control. It’s not about hitting a certain frequency or running so many impressions or tarps. That kind of thinking just doesn’t work anymore. For a start, most real people don’t like advertising – it’s the stuff that blocks us from the stuff we want to watch. Secondly, we have become so good at filtering ‘advertising’ out that no matter where you run advertising, people will block it or ignore it.

So how do you build brand equity in a digital world?

Somethings haven’t changed, at the end of the day you need to build your brand story and you’re going to do that by having a clear purpose, being distinctive and relevant and, lastly, by introducing new people or occasional users to your brand. But how you do that today is different.

We believe you build equity by doing, not telling. In the mass media past you could just tell, and tell and tell. Now it’s about your actions, your products, how you make them, your service, your ethics, your foot print, your contribution to society. It’s about all these things and more. We live in a super transparent world, a world where anyone can know almost anything about how you operate. So the more clearly you can live your philosophy the better.

So do great stuff first then talk about that.

The next challenge you have is figuring out where your customers are hanging out. Today there are so many different options, different channels. You can’t rely on mass media to get your message out there. So you need to develop a different sort of channel plan. Now we talk about creating an ecosystem.

This is a map of where your core customers spend their time, what channels or applications do they use the most. Develop up this view of the world and then overlay it to make sure you have a good spread of channel types – paid, owned and earned. Make sure you think about how your membership systems, email systems and website work in this ecosystem.

From this you can develop a content strategy, which really is just a guide to what sort of messages are right for each customer segment in each channel. So talk in lots of different places, places that your customers hang out. Don’t expect the first ad to sell anything, it should just start the conversation. Then you need to build on that relationship and tell different stories, longer stories and build your brand over time. But how do you do this?

So what do we need to do differently?

Over the last 18 months we’ve developed a new way of working. This has come about through our experiences as well as the experiences of others. Through a series of trials and errors we’re learning a new way of working in this digital world that just works.

Firstly, to do this you need to think in an integrated way across digital channels. Just doing great emails or great search won’t fix things. You can’t jump from underperforming to delivering world class new marketing overnight – you need a roadmap to get there.

There are four stepping stones you need to to do this. Typically these need to happen sequentially, or at least they need some coordination so things happen in logical fashion. Through this you’ll learn, get some runs on the board and develop your new marketing toolkit.

  • The foundation is about getting your core website assets sorted. Getting your website, analytics and reporting sorted are key priorities here.
  • Community is about understanding how to get your campaign content in front of the right people. Understanding the right social channels, being able to measure and produce engaging content is the outcome you are looking for here.
  • Membership is about creating a club, why would people volunteer there support for what you are trying to do. You need to create something compelling with clear value and a purpose. This phase moves you into the data driven world of CRMs and marketing automation.
  • Lastly utility is where it all comes together. Utility is about creating things that customers want to use, things that are helpful and allow them to get things done or achieve their life goals. Utility is about combining creative customer centric thinking to develop something that is genuinely useful for them.

So build your brand by doing not telling, be inspiring and interesting, be where your customers are and create experiences that they can engage in. These principles all make common sense. The good news is that all of this can be done within your existing budgets and it is a much more action oriented, measurable approach. As marketers it’s a different approach but nothing good happens without an effort.

Do you want to find out how you can transform your marketing approach?

Read our white paper 'Modern Marketing' which explores the approach needed in this new marketing world. It describes how to think differently, be smarter, and to do work that makes an impact.