How to ensure digital strategy is aligned with brand strategy

How to ensure digital strategy is aligned with brand strategy Mitch Duckler is a managing partner at FullSurge, a consulting firm specialising in marketing and brand strategy for Fortune 1000 companies. Mitch has more than 25 years of experience in both brand management and consulting and has worked with companies such as Deloitte, ExxonMobil, Boeing, and more. Subscribe to receive notifications on Mitch’s upcoming book, “The Indispensable Brand."

Most marketers today are well-versed in digital tactics, but when it comes to connecting those tactics to broader brand strategy, many are a bit lost. Fortunately, ensuring digital activation is consistent with the brand strategy it's intended to serve is a simple – but important – task.

In a survey of marketing directors, 91% agreed that executing successful digital marketing efforts requires adherence to a clear brand positioning. Despite this truth, most brands fail to consistently develop their digital tactics with brand positioning in mind. As is the case with brand strategy on the largest scale, the solution to more strategic digital activation requires marketers to change both their mindsets about digital activation and the frameworks with which they execute them.

Why digital activation needs to begin with brand strategy

Digital activation shouldn't just be consistent with brand positioning – it should be inspired by it.

Brand positioning lies at the centre of every successful activation, digital or otherwise. A consistent positioning helps marketers stay "on point" with regard to messaging and overall experience. And when there is consistency between brand positioning and the digital activation that results from it, consumers experience the brand in the way it's intended to be experienced – whether they encounter the brand at a pop-up stand or in an online article.

Sadly, many marketers lose sight of positioning’s importance online in favour of short-term results. Digital activation makes it easy to achieve and measure tangible business results – and that’s not a bad thing. However, marketers cannot afford to sacrifice long-term brand equity for short-term business results. Successful companies need both enduring brands and consistent, near-term business results in order to thrive.

This mindset shift from only short-term horizons to both short- and long-term horizons will distinguish which marketers are most successful with digital activation over time. The internet might have a short attention span, but online content doesn't come with an expiration date. Companies that execute digital activation in a manner consistent with their brands' positioning are the ones that will be most successful in the long haul.

The role of employees in successful digital activation

Digital activation has narrowed the divide between customers and companies. Thanks to social media, blogs, and related channels, it’s easy for companies to reinforce their positioning in the eyes of audiences – but that ease of communication is a double-edged sword. The wrong message at the wrong time, placed online for all to see, can do lasting damage to a brand. While it can be challenging to control what consumers say about brands online, it should be much easier to control – or at least strongly influence – how employees represent the brand online.

This doesn't just apply to the marketing team, either. Thanks to the blurred lines between the digital and the real world, every employee needs to be considerate of how to represent the brand in every online interaction, including content creation, blogging, and social media. Consider the following digital areas in which employees' attention to brand positioning – specifically, acting in a manner that is consistent with it – is essential to long-term brand success:

Content development: Content is king, but that throne isn’t guaranteed to brands that fail to uphold their positioning through the content they create. Today’s online audiences expect content to educate them, whilst companies expect that content to drive tangible business results. If that content fails to represent the brand, customers won’t remember which company they should favour for providing such great insights.

Rather than use content merely as a sales tool (as opposed to also an effecting brand-building vehicle), follow Red Bull’s example and use content to remind customers of what the brand is all about.

Social media: Anything employees post on social media must also be aligned with brand positioning. To accomplish this goal, staffing agency Kelly Services focuses on multiple target audiences: prospects, customers, current employees, and candidates. Each group is interested in the company for a different reason, and each group uses social media. But the brand positioning is a common thread that underlies all activity.

To communicate effectively with those audiences, Kelly Services adopted the EveryoneSocial platform. Using this tool, employees at the company can log in every day to catch up on new company and industry content, share their own views, and track engagement through a built-in reporting tool. Immersing employees in company updates empowered Kelly Services team members to be better brand advocates in all aspects of their jobs, boosting social reach by 1,000 percent and web traffic from social media by 1,150 percent in just two years.

Customer service: The days of long hold times aren't over yet, but the people at Wistia – a video hosting and analytics company – are working to change that. It's created an entire library of video content that provides great customer service and introduces customers and prospects to real members of the team.

"When it comes to communicating technical concepts or processes, videos are the best," said one of Wistia's customer happiness teammates. "Even if I can explain something clearly with words, it's totally different to be able to show someone how few steps it takes to get from point A to point B." Don’t limit customer service to phone calls and emails. Instead, use customer service to show people how helpful, knowledgeable, and capable the brand can be. And of course, make sure the video content created for this purpose is not only useful, but is also created in a manner that is consistent with the brand persona, and tone of voice.

Digital activation in these categories represents opportunities for increased sales and improved levels of customer satisfaction, but when they are also executed with brand positioning in mind, they move beyond short-term goals and set the stage for long-term brand equity-building. By keeping the brand positioning in mind online, companies can show all relevant stakeholders – customers, employees, and everyone in between – why this brand deserves their attention and loyalty.

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