Online Brand Representation: More important than ever

Author: Hamish Anderson

To paraphrase a research article I recently read by Cone Inc; American consumers are now more cynical than ever, seeking to qualify reviews provided to them by trusted sources such as friends and family. With these results likely to be echoed around the world, the figures themselves are startling. Specifically, 81% of consumers will now go online to verify the recommendations above and beyond what is provided to them by their ‘trusted’ source. Furthermore, even after getting feedback on a product from family or friend:

  • 61% of consumers will research product/service information
  • 55% will go online to read other user reviews
  • 43% searching ratings websites for further information

So basically, greater than 1 in every 2 people seeks further feedback about a product or service. By inference therefore, consumers are increasingly questioning the advice and feedback of a trusted source. However, even more shocking than this were further results that showed that the value of the proposed transaction was not a factor, with results showing that more than 70% of consumers would do more research for even low cost items such as a movie or dinner.  This increased to 85% of consumers for moderate cost items and 82% for high cost items such as a car.

Technology Enables Cynicism
This inferred cynicism – or if you prefer, desire to know more prior to purchase – is being enabled more and more by technology. The speed at which people can now access information – blogs, reviews, etc – allows consumers to gather information from a wide variety of sources in moments. What once took hours, or even weeks to compile, now takes minutes. In June this year, Tech Crunch predicted that by 2012, mobiles will account for 20% of all search queries conducted online. With an increase in the number of smart phones, the phenomenon of increased research prior to purchase is only likely to escalate. I don’t believe we are far from a situation where a sales representative will be speaking to a consumer about a product, whilst the consumer actively searches for reviews and information about the product. And what may scare many sales consultants is that with information gained from online posts, consumers are often changing their mind about a purchase. 68% of respondents reported that negative information has caused them to change their mind about a purchase.

As a Marketer, what can we do?

So what does this mean for product managers, marketers and anyone else involved in the consumer purchase cycle? As much as companies have tried to always portray a positive brand image to their target market, it is unfortunately not possible to appeal to all of the people, all of the time. However, it is possible to work towards ensuring that you represent your brand in a way which enhances your profile, which mitigates negative perceptions and which aids customers in a search for information, thereby creating positive emotions towards your brand. I have listed below a few possible options which can be considered – either in isolation or combination – as part of your integrated marketing:

  • Establishing different online communities to cater to different segments of your target market.
    • For example, some segments may prefer to discuss the product features, whilst others will wish to discuss performance.
    • Some may be to discuss technical information and others to discuss features
  • Ensure that your social media persona is consistent with the brand delivery people are receiving. That is, don’t over promise and under deliver.
  • Ensure consistency of message online and offline.
  • Consider integrating your campaign media
    • Drive people to dedicated sites to further their research, monitor what they utilise on the site and work to enhance the site into the future to provide more to potential clients through this portal
  • Stay abreast of what people are saying about your brand online. Establish channels to address negative feedback. This should not only include responding to the author of the feedback and taking positive action, but also ensuring processes are in place so that the feedback is utilised to improve the product/service.
  • Look to make your Brand site as informative as possible, yet keep it consistent with your overall brand image.
    • Consider making it a rich source of factual information which people can utilise in the decision making process. This puts your brand in front of the consumer an extra time which will never hurt.
    • Consider brand demonstrations, or having live feeds from what people have said in social media on your site
    • An added bonus to this is having extra relevant content on your site will only ever be a bonus to your search engine rankings.
  • Consider having a site which is smart phone / mobile compatible if you are aware that people may wish to visit your site when out

At the end of the day, thanks to advancements in technology, the consumer is more than ever in the driving seat. As marketers, our task must evolve. Where we once tried to take the high ground, we must now immerse ourselves in what the consumer wants, and how they interact if we truly want to ensure the success of our brand. To do this we must engage them, learn from them, provide information they are searching for attempt to keep our brand promise and delivery synchronous.  Failure to do so will, could spell ruin.

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About 2binteractive
2BInteractive is an independent digital marketing agency, with all the experience and results of a global agency... without the unwanted overhead. We have the talent and individual expertise to meet all of your digital channel needs. For more information. Visit us at http://www.2BInteractive.com.au/

3 Responses to Online Brand Representation: More important than ever

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