This week, for FYI Friday, I have another fab guest post to bring you, from somebody who would definitely be thought of as a key player in the online equestrian industry.
Liam Killen has worked in Digital Marketing since 2007 for a variety of public, private and third sector organisations. And he runs the Equestrian Creative Network, the global news site, inspiration source and directory of creative professionals with an equestrian flair.
I am a member of ECN and now write for them on a monthly basis, so when I was looking for guest bloggers, Liam kindly agreed to share some of his knowledge with you, on the subject of using your online presence to create an impact on your audience.
“We first need to understand what is meant by a brand. It is a term which is widely misunderstood. With this established, we can explore what constitutes effective brand experiences are and how to achieve these in an increasingly online world.
What is a brand?
Some people think a brand is a name, a logo, a set of values or a set of rules for how to design for a particular product or company.
In reality it is much simpler and yet deeper.
A brand is in essence a story; an idea which inspires and excites your audience. It is a tool and an asset used by the business to create an emotional and profitable connection with consumers.
Before you design a logo, choose a colour, typeface, tone of voice or any of those other creative communication tools, you must define the brand. This is so much more than simply listing a load of values. There needs to be a coherence – a dramatic tension – a personality, which makes sense when explained. It may never need to be explained – as long as you know what it is and can judge your future brand decisions against it.
So the brand can be considered to be the story, the DNA or even the soul of what we create. You need to be brave and make some decisions about what your brand is and is not. Strategy is about making decisions: do not try to be all things to all people. This is about more than just a unique selling point (USP).
What makes your brand personality different to that of your competitor(s)?
What makes a good brand experience?
A brand experience is any moment in which a consumer comes into contact with a brand with the possibility of making a memory of it. I tend to prefer a very broad definition of this as I believe it’s more realistic.
So we may consider the following:
- All deliberate brand communications – e.g. newsletters, advertising, website, social media channels and posts, references within media and PR activities, business cards, letterheads, vehicle graphics, event sponsorship.
- All deliberate product/service experiences – e.g. staff, telephone systems, online management or ordering systems, email style, automated letters and emails, product characteristics, returns policies, pricing structures, smells in the retail environment, uniforms, packaging design.
- All of the accidental/indirect stuff – e.g. packaging disposal options, your logo in litter, press coverage you didn’t instigate, being talked about in social media, word of mouth, fan sites, competitors’ comparisons against your offer, former employees.
All of these represent brand experiences – your audience will have these (and more) whether you think they are or not. Clearly, to try and control all of these experiences – especially for a small or medium sized business – would lead, very quickly, to a nervous breakdown!
I’m not religious at all, but I think we can take something from The Serenity Prayer here:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Focus only on the things you can control and make those experiences the best that you can. This is the ‘secret’ of the most successful brands.
In deciding what to focus on, you could do a lot worse than to choose those experiences which are most likely to make positive memories.
What experiences make positive memories?
- Exploit sound and vision
Make sure you at least use both of the senses which can be reached directly online –use audio and video content to support your message. A real client recommending you on video is more powerful than a written testimonial.
- Evoke other senses indirectly
Use photos and descriptions which will evoke memories of smells and tastes. Design in textures to your 2D design which connect with the 3D reality of how you brand feels to the touch. A good example of this might be a soap powder commercial – even a name like cut grass or real leather will evoke great smells.
- Actually connect your online experiences with offline ones
This will depend heavily on the nature of your business, but if you express an aspect of your brand story and values online then this should feel consistent with when you come into contact with the brand in the ‘real world’. As a riding school, a brand value might be ‘integrity’ so you push the message that you offer real quality tuition – you can communicate this online but how does it come through in a lesson? Do you have a positive, yet honest de-brief with pupils?
So depending on what stage you’re at, you’ll have some or all of the following tasks to tackle:
1. Identify your priorities in terms of the brand experiences you can and want to control.
2. For each of the experiences on that list, figure out how you can cross-connect your behaviour and communications so that it reinforces the memories of the brand that you want your audience to make.”