Agency, Green Industry
There was a time when brand management responsibilities focused largely on making certain that your company and products had a consistent look and feel across all marketing communications materials and in all market segments. In today’s digital world, brand management is now a round-the-clock responsibility, with your organization represented across an increasingly fragmented media environment. It’s more than managing consistency; it’s managing an “experience” for both the distributors and end users of your products.
All of us to some degree live via the brands we associate with. That’s why a company like Coca-Cola® can successfully make their fizzy, brown sugar water stand for something that other colas cannot. Your customers are really no different. To reinforce their consideration set, your brand – both online and off – needs to be relevant, true, believable and—ideally—unique. Today, you can’t think of the Internet as a promotional add-on to your broader media marketing. It’s best to start with the Web and build an online brand that is a destination that stands for something.
As a marketer, you need to learn from what your potential customers are doing, seeing and saying online. With a deep understanding of your audience’s information needs and digital behavior (and how those behaviors shift over time), you can adapt your current brand for the digital world. How are your prospects accessing the information and content on your website? How do sports turf managers, golf course superintendents, nursery growers and contractors differ in their needs and habits? Are they really using Facebook, and if so, for what? What information are they sharing on Twitter, and why? Is your brand mobile friendly? Does it need to be, and for whom?
Just as your brand book guides your language for print and other media, so should it shape your online conversation. If your market research defined your online brand position as an industry expert, make sure that your Facebook fans and Twitter followers know that your company does more than just produce the best products. It’s a source of valuable advice and insight on how the use of those products fits holistically into their operations. Establish standard Web fonts and colors that fit your current brand standards. Examine your logo suite to ensure that you have options that are tailored to common Web, mobile and social media formats.
There’s a lot you can’t control online, but here’s one thing you can: How your brand identity is presented on the Web properties you own. Consistency is a key element of branding. (Use that line when a product manager wants to launch a new microsite with its own “look and feel” for a new herbicide, variety of Impatiens or mower that’s being introduced. Customers should be able to land on any of your Web properties and know immediately that they’ve found you.
Marketers need to invest in monitoring the information they push out. Examine how users are experiencing your online brand for the best chance to adapt and survive. Are users converting into customers through your Web initiatives? Do you know what the industry is saying about you on Yelp? How do they evaluate your products on blogs or forums? For help, use a social media monitoring service. These services will monitor your brand and your competition across all online and social media.
Online brand management is a long term commitment as long as the Internet is popular with your distributor and consumer audiences. There are no one-and-done solutions; it’s a constant measuring and analyzing of your online brand, how prospects and customers are interacting with it, and what you can do to keep it sharp, relevant and consistent. There is no more important marketing work than managing the value of your brand. As the saying goes, your brand is your lifeboat. Don’t ever, ever leave the lifeboat.