How You Can Build a Meaningful Brand (#contentmarketing info) Posted by Hannah_Smith Earlier this year I wrote a post about the future of marketing. In it, I made a handful of predictions; arguably the most out there of which was this: in the future, only brands which mean something to consumers will survive. In todays post Ill be exploring what it takes to become a meaningful brand, and how you might go about building one. SEO is not dead Just so were clear, Im not saying SEO is dead, or that organic search is not an important channel :) These stats speak for themselves: However, what were being asked to do as SEOs is constantly evolving. It used to be that you could build a very successful business online just by being great at SEO. But today, the SERPs are changing, and ranking first doesnt mean what it used to: The BBC still rank first organically for weather—but their listing is pushed beneath the fold. Plus, given the that the information the searcher is seeking is displayed right there in the SERP, Im guessing theyre not receiving as much traffic from this term as they once were. But its not just informational queries: Skyscanner still rank first for the term flights to paris, but again here their organic listing is pushed beneath the fold thanks to paid search listings and the proprietary Google flight product. Google is even going so far as to show its proprietary products against branded searches (hat-tip to Barry Adams for pointing this out): MoneySuperMarkets organic listing is above the fold, but Google is nonetheless being very aggressive. As a consequence of these changes, as SEOs, were being asked to do different things. Clients of yesteryear used to say things like: Get us links! But today theyre saying things like: Get us press coverage, social shares and exposure [links] on sites our target audience reads. Whilst they may not explicitly be asking us to build a brand, nonetheless much of what we do today looks a lot like brand building. But where do we start? What does brand mean? Before we kick off I think its worth exploring what brand really means. We have a tendency to use brand and company or organisation interchangeably, but in reality they are two distinctly different things. Heres a definition: brand - to impress firmly; fix ineradicably; place indelibly Therefore a brand is not a brand unless it leaves a lasting impression, and of course, it needs to be a favourable impression. Essentially companies or organisations need to build brands that mean something to people. However, right now companies and organisations are struggling to do this effectively: In Europe and the US, consumers would not care if 92% of brands ceased to exist ~ source That means that consumers would only miss 8% of brands. Clearly we have a mountain to climb. How do we go about building meaningful brands? Particularly on SEO retainer budgets? You can learn a lot by deconstructing the success of others Like many in the search industry, Im a fan of taking stuff apart to figure out how it works. So, when trying to figure out how to go about building a meaningful brand, I started by looking at what meaningful brands are doing right now. I uncovered three core principles—some meaningful brands do all three; some just do one or two—Ill deal with them each in turn. 1) Meaningful brands find opportunities to delight customers Most peoples interactions with brands suck. But great interactions stand out and are shared. Lets take a look at some examples: @smartcarusa Heres how @smartcarusa responded when someone suggested that a single bird dropping would total one of their cars: Now the takeaway here is not to rush out and make a bunch of infographics on disparate topics. Out of context, the infographic is neither remarkable, nor particularly interesting, and I dont think it would have garnered coverage had it not been created in response to this tweet. But I think a lesson we can take from this is that going the extra mile to respond in a novel way can yield out-sized returns. @ArgosHelpers This is how @ArgosHelpers responded to a customer asking when PS4s would be back in stock: The takeaway here is not people love brands who use slang—I think this is actually a very artfully worded response. See how the brand has taken care to use the same language as their customer without being in any way condescending? Thats what you need to shoot for. @TescoMobile This is how @TescoMobile responded when someone described their network as a turn off: Whoa! The lesson here is definitely not be a dick to people who are dicks to you; I think the lesson here is that a well-judged, cheeky response can travel. Ultimately you need to tread carefully if you want to use this type of tactic. I think @TescoMobile got away with this one—but it is really close to the line. To do this sort of thing you need to have a deep understanding of your audience—whats considered funny and whats just plain rude? This can vary hugely depending on the niche youre working in and the public perception of your brand. Moreover, if youre a brand engaging in this sort of activity, you need to consider not only your own response, but the potential response from your audience, too. Some brands have an army of loyal advocates. But if brands arent careful, they may unwittingly encourage said army to attack an individual with a response like this. Of course its not just interactions that have the capacity to delight—sometimes being nimble is enough: @Arbys When Pharrell turned up to the GRAMMYs wearing *that hat* heres how @Arbys responded: The takeaway here is not that you need a bit of luck, instead its that you need to be ready, willing and able to take advantage of opportunities as and when they arise. I think that if @Arbys hadnt tweeted that, then someone else would have done and their brand wouldnt have benefited. Hopefully you can see where Im going with this; lets move on to principle two: 2) Meaningful brands give people the ability to define themselves to others Have you ever thought about why you share what you share on social media? Most of us dont think about it too much, but The New York Times did a study on the psychology of sharing in which 68% of respondents said they share things via social media to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about. For example, I might share an article from hbr.org because I want you to think Im the sort of person who reads Harvard Business Review. Or I might share an Oatmeal comic because I want you to think I have an excellent sense of humour. I might share something about the Lean In movement because I want to let you know where I stand on important issues. If youre seeking to create a meaningful brand, this can be an excellent space to play in because brands can give people the ability to define themselves to others. Now I dont necessarily mean by creating content like this which literally allows people to define themselves: Brands can also help people define themselves by creating things people look good sharing—lets take a look at some examples: GEs #6SecondScience The takeaway here is to create things which are tangentially related to your brand, that people look good sharing. When people shared this content they were sharing stuff that was more than just cool—by sharing this content they were also able to express their enthusiasm for science. In a similar vein meaningful brands create commercials that dont feel like commercials—again, these are things that people look good sharing: Wrens First Kiss This film definitely got people talking. To date its received over 94 million YouTube views and coverage on over 1300 sites. But this isnt just a video content play... Oreo When Oreo turned 100, they created 100 pieces of content over 100 days: This campaign got over 1m Facebook likes and thousands of pieces of press coverage. But actually, I think the smartest thing about this campaign was that it was highly topical content which put the cookie right in the centre of peoples conversations without being self-serving. Still with me? Lets move on to principle three: 3) Meaningful brands stand for something above and beyond their products or services This is difficult to explain in the abstract, so Im going to shoot straight to some examples. BrewDog BrewDog is a craft beer company. Their brand values are drawn from punk subculture—theyre anti-establishment and believe in individual freedom. So when Dead Pony Club ale was banned because the phrase rip it up down empty streets was printed on the label, their response was to issue a press release apologising for not giving a shit over the marketing rules breach. Their fans loved their response: The takeaway here isnt that sweary press releases get attention (although they undoubtedly do)—by refusing to take the ruling lying down BrewDog showed people they were a brand which stood for something beyond great beer. Nike A core value for Nike is if you have a body, you are an athlete, and these values have inspired incredible creative like this: I think that this advert is powerful because Nike isnt talking about how their trainers enhance your performance, theyre talking about celebrating everyones athletic endeavours. Its about more than just their products. OKCupid I think that taking the decision to stand for something is perhaps most potent when it could actually cost a brand customers. When Mozilla appointed a new CEO, OKCupid showed this message to Firefox users: They went on to say: The takeaway here is not align your brand with a cause and win the the Internet, but rather, taking a bold stance on a relevant issue, even if it could actually hurt your business, can create a lasting impression. What do I mean by actually hurt your business? Sadly, not everyone believes in equal rights for gay couples, as such, taking this stance could cost OK Cupid. Using these principles day-to-day The reality for me is that right now, much of this I cant affect—sadly no clients have dropped several million into my lap and asked me to create them an ad like Nikes :) That said, I do think that its helped me to clarify my thinking on what it means to be a meaningful brand and how to figure out how to get there. At Distilled (the company who is good enough to employ me), the place we play most frequently is principle two—we create content which allows people to define themselves to others; things that people look good sharing. Perhaps more importantly, were taking the time to understand the companies were working with better so that our creative work is better aligned with their brand values. And so, dear reader, over to you—Id love to hear what you think it takes to build a meaningful brand, and whats working (and not working) for you, do let me know via the comments. This post is based on a session I presented at SearchLove; those who are interested can view the full deck below: Existential Crisis Management - SearchLove 2014 from Hannah Smith Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you dont have time to hunt down but want to read!
Posted on: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 08:32:45 +0000
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