Ready or not, you are now a digital-first brand (and not by choice)

Our homes are now a combined school / office / restaurant / bar / cinema / gym, you must remember never to stand up during a work meeting as you’ve only dressed appropriately from the waist up, you’re with your partner 24/7 and finding out way more about them than you really needed to….

Yes the coronavirus has forced some unusual challenges upon us. Our physical interactions are gone and we have all had to learn how to live, function and thrive digitally.

Yet through our screens we are still reaching out, making vital connections, escaping our containment and keeping our relationships alive – in many cases, strengthening them just by being there.

Brands have found themselves in the same place. Those that rely on an array of channels, not to mention a high street presence and face-to-face interactions, to instil all their values, create experiences and build these connections have been forced into uncomfortable territory.

Suddenly, and through no fault of their own, vital tools and ways to build connections have been removed from the table putting enormous pressures and workload on the platforms left behind. Whether they are able to do so or not, digital platforms now have to step up and do the same brand building and customer experience job all on their own.

These things have been forced upon us whether we were ready or not. So, to try to alleviate some of the pressure we’ve put together a little piece of free advice that we hoped will help you face and overcome some of these challenges head on. Because this can be a time to hide or a time for your relationships to flourish.

 

OK OR AVERAGE IS A DANGEROUS PLACE TO BE

Your website has always been one of the most important things in your brand’s arsenal and is now where your greatest opportunity lies.

Everything you do is now driving people to your site – they have nowhere else to go. So what each of these people see, feel and experience while they’re there is now more important than ever. Make sure every nuance of your brand and what makes you ‘you’ shine through. It will go a long way to shaping how they perceive that brand now and in the future.

Your site might be an area that is already changing and evolving rapidly to accommodate new revenue streams so be careful. It is vital that your brand’s identity, personality and voice is not lost or diluted through change. It’s the one thing you can add that no one else can and will be the difference between a site that is up-there amazing and downright average.

 

STOP. LOOK. BUT MAINLY LISTEN

It’s easy to get caught up in pure functionality – e-commerce capabilities, fluid navigation, multi-platform performance, graphics, product and service descriptions, check-out and booking processes… We’re not saying they’re not all hugely important. But if people aren’t feeling the brand at every stage of their online journey with you, you’ll struggle to stand out in a vast ocean of websites and other options they now have more time to explore.

Looking inwards and really listening to the people behind the brand is so important. Now is a perfect opportunity to speak with these people and take in as much as possible to get under your brand’s skin.

  1. Speak with the founders, the ‘lifers’, those on the front-line and those who are the beating heart of the company
  2. Find out all the elements that make you, you
  3. Once captured, find those common threads
  4. Think how you can transfer that (as little or as much as is possible) online

Then look outwards. A big part of understanding who you are as a brand is fully appreciating the people who interact with you and the relationship between you. The goal of branding is to strengthen those bonds, to improve the links between your products, services and those individuals – ultimately forging a relationship between people and things.

A great online presence will amplify this by allowing people to see who you are. A good one will only serve its basic function, before the person moves on taking nothing of you with them.

Have you never found the time to look at your website analytics? Now is the time:

  • What articles are people dwelling on and what are they bouncing from?
  • Where do they travel to and where do they rarely go?
  • What qualities of the brand do people normally gather from other interactions with you?
  • Are these hidden away and now need to move front and centre?

It might be the perfect time for a re-jig and refresh of your content strategy.

By weaving your unique brand experience through every stage of their online journey, with messages subtlety underlined by creative, you can create the perfect marriage between commercial ambition and the brand/people bond.

 

RIGHT IMPRESSIONS COUNT

Competition is high right now but so is a public willingness to put an arm around those companies they appreciate and that they can align with.

So now might be the perfect time to break the shackles a bit – get more of the company’s ethos, ethics and personality into your site/s and onto your social channels. Consider how better you can demonstrate the people behind the business and behind the brand through:

  • Some personal updates from the founder
  • Regular updates from those on the front-line
  • Use of social assets and video connect
  • A new hit of colour and/or an overhaul of your generic stock imagery

It’s not enough to upload a few facts onto an ‘about’ page and say, ‘job done’. Listen to those behind the brand, get under the skin of it – and tastefully work this in where you can.

Spend any time on LinkedIn and you’ll hear people saying that “people will remember how brands behaved during this time long after it’s passed”. It may be overused but it’s still very true. People will remember so don’t lose this opportunity to make the right impression.

 

DON’T BE A TOOL

There are a myriad of tools at our disposal, but the idea that you have to understand the whole digital world is wrong. In fact, sometimes the people who appear to know the most are more sheltered and less creative, busy hiding behind all that kit.

Strategic thinking and strong creative must come first if you’re going to make the digital journey from good to great. It’s those original, personal, rich ideas that connect the dots and bring everything together for the end user.

Look no further than your local restaurants/cafes and how they’re transposing that atmosphere and personality of their physical spaces into their websites and social channels. Regardless of brand, the principle is the same.

So don’t be afraid to throw off the shackles and get stuck in. There’s a lot to be said for getting the ideas right without concerning yourself with tech pros and cons – and then working with multidisciplinary team members to find a way to make everything work.

By making that strategic, personal, brand-first creative idea the heart of everything, and keeping brand messaging and people front of mind at all times, your digital elements will seem less of an add-on and your site more than just an e-commerce arm. They’ll become a pivotal part of the brand journey, improving the relationship between people and things.

By taking into consideration these areas – well the ones that are right for you – we hope it will help you take your digital brand from good to great for now and for the future.

Some of this thinking in action…

Brand-first website design for The Breakfast Club and Tick Tock Tea
A digital-first re-brand for Chambers & Partners

 

Paul Ferry  |  Director & Co-Founder