How do you antidote Digital Brand Poisoning?
Every brand gets poisoned on the net. That’s right, every brand – product or service. Here’s how.
Let’s take a great brand – Raymond. They have spent decades and hundreds of crores creating the moniker ‘The Complete Man’. It is one of the most desirable brands in India. But here’s what the net does to it. Go to a shopping site, and start looking for formal shirts. A whole lot of shirts, different brands, will show up. Raymond included. At 50% off! That’s how the brand first gets discounted. But there is worse. The carefully cultivated image of the complete man goes for a complete toss because the Raymond shirt is on the same set of models (or mannequins) who are otherwise shown wearing brand X or brand Y! Now the brand has been discounted completely!
Take another example. A bank, say SBI – India’s largest bank which just became one of the world’s 50 largest! Let’s say you are looking for a loan. Go to the net and you’ll find several sites that compare several bank loans and suggest the best for you. So right there SBI is reduced to one of the banks of India, not its largest. Second, all those features such as service, concern, years of experience, speed of approval, peripheral services et al get waylaid. SBI is just a number, the rate at which it lends!
Can Raymond or SBI stop what is happening to their brand on the net? Absolutely not. Short of not being available on the net, which in today’s world is suicidal, there is NOTHING a brand can do about how it is presented by some other site. So what is the solution? Let the brand wither? After all as the saying goes, ‘What can’t be cured must be endured’! So what meaning does all the brand building that happens across all other media have? Is it all a waste?
It will be if the brand owner doesn’t realise that it is vital to nurture the brand on the net if it is to remain a brand. It is critical to realise that while all those sites ‘sell your brand’ it is up to you to ‘market your brand’ and retain its salience. How’s this done? The most critical weapon in the brand owner’s arsenal is the website itself. Whatever advertising you do on the net the destination is always your website and this is where you must anchor your brand. If that sounds elementary, check out any website and you’ll find that most treat it as a place to tell you all that they’ve got. Nothing about what you want! Whereas brands carefully nurture an image of a ‘want satisfier’, most websites act as if anyone coming there can be taken for granted. Hardly anyone sees the website as a ‘marketing tool’ that can showcase a brand and all it stands for.
The point simply is this. When a customer goes to a ‘sales site’ and is shown your brand along with others, you get devalued. When the same customer comes to your site to ‘check you out’ before making the purchase, as consumers often do, it is your job to take your brand right up there where you put it. The website must be ‘the Brand experience’. It should be conceived and crafted just the same way as your press campaign and TVCs; with the same attention to brand values and salience.
In fact, your website should be so dynamic that it changes several times in a year to reflect what your brand is doing. To take the Raymond example, in summer when they are showcasing their summer collection, the website could be blue sky, ocean, beach sands – an exotic island! The summer collection should be presented in this environment. During autumn, the site could show vast parks with brown leaves on the ground during sunset, bare trees and perhaps a romantic couple taking a stroll. The site should be all warm colours. You get the picture. At all times the Raymond website should be about The Complete Man, his environs and his lifestyle! Not a Corporate Brochure and Annual Report rolled into one with a few ‘consolation’ pages on the brand! It is time everyone recognised that for every ‘board room visitor’ the web will get a thousand brand customers!
Website development must disabuse itself of the mindset that a website is a ‘say-it-all’, low cost parking place for ALL info about an organisation, its brand, products/ services etc. In other words, build your website with consumer-centric, creative people who have behavioural insight, not with web masons!
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