What Hangs In The Balance?
Branding is about balance, a measured approach across many different media and tools for communications. In this article, we look at some of the parts of a modern brand communication program and talk about the benefits for finding balance that makes sense for your organization.
There are buzzwords, trends, and novelties in every field: Tickle Me Elmo, jeggings, disco music. People clamour about how this is going to bring you big profits, or that is going to change the market.They write about them. They talk about them in the media. They are often touted as the ONLY thing you need to do to succeed. Many times, you can get caught up in the hoopla.
Just like a tight-rope walker, you need to keep your balance. The best way to market and brand is to offer a variety of strategies and techniques. If you use “traditional” strategies, and some of these new trends, you can offer and present to a larger audience and speak more directly to each one.
Today, there are lots of new options to add to your campaigns. Lets take a look at some of the current trends and buzzwords being touted by pundits and media. We’ll provide a definition of the trend, its strengths and weaknesses, and an overall summary of its worth.
“[Branding] is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” -Thomas Merton
Search Engine Optimization
Definition: An introductory definition of “a methodology of strategies, techniques, and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining high-ranking placement in the search results of a search engine” can be found at webopedia.com. While this definition is a bit stale, Search Engine Land shows the process of SEO in a short video they created with Common Craft. The video explains how through keywords, and verified links, a website’s results produce high rankings on Google and other search engines. You can watch the video here.
Positives: The benefits of SEO can lead to a better website with increased usability, and traffic. With the higher traffic, there is greater cost effectiveness and a strong return on investment.
Negatives: It takes time to get SEO results, or that return on investment (ROI) you were hoping for. As well, there is no guarantee of results, or of control over your ranking. Google, Yahoo, can change its algorithm when and how it wants. Finally, a competitor may create fake links (or “shadow” domains), or use malware to decrease the ranking of your site.
Summary: With market competition, ever-changing algorithms, and different algorithms for each search engine, SEO requires an on-going plan to provide current content on your site. SEO is not a set-and-forget exercise, it requires frequent attention and maintenance. While it may bring traffic to your website, it does not get them any further than to your doorstep. If you have a successful SEO campaign, you also need a successful user experience (UX) once they are there.
According to ugurus.com, responsive design is not mobile design, but “a leap forward for design and development on the web”. They go on to say responsive design (RD) means that the same domain, the same content, and the same syntax fit on to the different sizes and orientations of all devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc.) to give the best user experience possible.
Positives: Some important positives for RD can be the flexibility of your content, how cost effective it is, the improved user experience, and the manageability of your SEO campaign. Google calls responsive design a best practice for mobile configuration.
Negatives: RD may require a complete redesign of your existing website, which also means a reevaluation of your content and how it looks on each device. Because everything is downloaded to the device, page loading can be slower on mobile devices and smart phones. Finally, you must be aware the goals of a user change from device to device, and navigation is not the same on each device.
Summary: Responsive Design allows customers to have access, familiarity and comfort with your website’s appearance, but it does not account for the different expectations or limitations of each device. To successfully use RD, you need to ensure the details and path of the user for each device. Not an easy task.
The Digital Analytics Association (DAA) says web analytics is “the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding Web usage”. To help you better understand analytics, and how they have evolved, check out this infographic done by Spring Metrics, but found at Dr. 4ward here.
Positives: Web analytics can provide actionable information (referral sources, browse-to-buy ratios, etc.), define visitor groups, highlight click-paths, among other varied data.
Negatives: Analyzing data is time-consuming, and it doesn’t provide answers or accuracy.
Summary: Web analytics provides you with almost an constant feed of data. Unfortunately, this data provides you nothing. Turning data into something useful and beneficial is time-consuming, and still only general, vague, and mostly guesswork.
WhatIs.com provides a very concise explanation of rich media as “a Web page ad that uses advanced technology… that interact instantly with the user, and ads that change when the user’s mouse passes over it”. Check out examples here.
Positives: Rich media offers more interactions with possible customers, higher performance than banners. As well, the engagement of customers can help create happier customers and grow brand awareness. Finally, on the technical side, rich media is scalable and measurable.
Negatives: The drawbacks of rich media include the cost for production (the size of the team needed can push costs towards TV prices), the bandwidth required which may restrict certain users from accessing the ad, and there are browser and plug-in requirements.
Summary: While rich media can create the most buzz, it also can also take the biggest chunk out of your operating budget. Despite the expenditure, there is no guarantee of traffic, or success. Be wary of anyone who tells you how successful a rich media campaign will be, the Internets are finicky and unpredictable.
“The difference between a good [brand] and a great [brand] is documented strategy.” – Joe Pulizzi
Maybe you’ve gotten the pitch, or seen the tags, about how one company “excels” in SEO or analytics, or whatever trend is all the rage. Then, they follow with how you should allow them to implement that technique for you. With the brevity of campaigns, and relationships, in today’s digital market, this might be a tempting proposition.
Before you succumb to the ease of marketing through projects, remember: in order to have a complete company, you need a complete team. Hiring individual companies to do individual parts of your marketing leaves you disjointed, and spread thin. You may have star players on your team, but you won’t be able to talk to them all at the same time. More importantly, they will each be trying to succeed for themselves first, and the team (your company) second.
Following Joe Pulizzi’s logic, using one company allows you to see everything in one place. To paraphrase above: in order to have a complete brand, you need a complete and balanced presentation. If you combine, utilize, and ultimately, balance the “new” trends and strategies with tried and true techniques, a well-rounded, and clearly documented strategy, can be presented to you.
Will all of these approaches be used? No, but some will. Will only one technique be used? Most certainly not, but an organized plan can be decided upon. The tools chosen will help you see your hopes for the future come to fruition through careful planning and analysis. By combining strategies, your brand becomes a whole that engages a larger base of potential customers, but also responds to their initial interest and needs.
So, "what hangs in the balance"? A brand that is full, true, and whole for you, your employees, your present customers, and future customers.