Branding seeks to increase the customer’s perceived value on your product or services. Marketing campaigns through all different channels (above the line, below or through the line) have always relied on mainly two factors to increase the embrace of the product they advertise: Creating value then let the word-of-mouth game start. And it is well known to all marketers that a satisfied customer earns you 3 others and a dissatisfied one makes you lose 10 more.
Technology has known a disruptive evolution. And a disruptive technology means opportunity and risk. With the appearance of the web platforms and social networks, these rules still apply, though the impact is multiplied by thousands. This is mainly due to the new exposition and virality through which news spread across the web. An upset blogger can, in hours, easily destroy the reputation of your brand or product and force you into a crisis cell to manage this issue. You may well remember the “Failure” Google Bombing against president Bush or the Dave Caroll case with United Airlines. And thing is, word-of-mouth doesn’t remain within the inner friends circle, but as stated Universal McCann, behaviors have evolved, and people started to believe strangers.
To avoid these kind of marketing disasters, it is highly advised to have a proper management of your brand online, at the core of your marketing and PR strategy, and to maintain a reputation in adequation with the standards you’re looking forward off the Internet.
So you’re going to ask: How do I manage my brand online ?
Managing an e-reputation can go from basic operations to a very complex strategy. Whichever the level at which you choose to engage your brand management, there are three points that you will need to address:
- Engaging the conversation
- Optimizing your web presence
The first step is to monitor your brand and your products, evaluate the perception on the web, what people have to say about it. This search should not be limited to search engines results but to blogs, social networks, video websites, social bookmarking websites, local search sites and forums.
During the monitoring process, you will probably come across dissatisfied customers and customers requiring information on the company or specific products. It is highly advised to engage the conversation, provide additional information. If you encounter a negative review, take the time to understand the reviewer’s point of view, apologize and ask for details on which aspects lead the customer to have an unpleasant experience, ensure that the issue will be addressed. Sometimes, this might lead to the reviewer softening his critic. But at no time should you engage an argument with the customer.
On the other side, you should avoid any posting of a false review or “ad”-comment. Should anyone find out, and usually people do, your brand will lose any credible voice it has gained through your efforts.
You should also think about optimizing your presence. Rather than having a reactive action in order to bury the negative reviews, assert a good positioning of your brand in every media channel you can have a presence in. These channels are pretty much the same as the ones you will be monitoring. You should define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in order to define whether your brand is gaining in popularity or whether it is diving in the abyss. Having an optimized web presence is structuring factor in gaining loyal consumers.
Identify loyal evangelists, these are your best success channel. One single post by one single person might propel you into the top 10 trends, be it positive or negative. Today Consumer Generated Contents have a major influence on sales and e-commerce. Identify who these people are, what’s their (hi)story with your brand and products, find your allies and create a network. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”. To enhance this experience, you may engage your faithful customers into a community and have them help you build your brand’s image, just the way Lego did with Universe or Starbucks with My Starbucks Idea. The authentic passion for the brand allows you to generate a higher and closer customer engagement, to the point of involving them into your product creation (eg: Pepsi Cans design).
Let your employees be your voice, not just executives. Your employees engagement could be a major ally to your brand. Define employees communication/social media strategy, allow them to share their thoughts on the company and the products. People are willing to follow their postings to get an internal insight on the brand.
On another hand, it is as much important to track the competition and keep up 5 moves ahead to avoid the checkmate.
Brand management is not just about PR, unlike what most companies think. It takes a proactive action from marketing with an alignment with the company’s global strategy. PR should be seen as a vessel to carry out the message.