In the business world, marketing departments have probably had the toughest 2 decades ever. The way we do buy products and pay for services has changed completely since the internet made life a lot easier, and the way we interact with businesses and organisations is way more personalised, direct, and fast.
We’ve also got way more choice now, and there’s plenty of competition in almost every aspect of money-making, creating an intensively competitive market for everything from groceries to cars.
This competition, and more fast-paced consumerism, requires extremely robust awareness strategies, often created by agencies or experienced internal departments, with the single goal of making sure that each product or service is seen by as many people as possible. These campaigns often go above and beyond the traditional billboard, newspaper advertisement or TV advert, using innovative ways of getting a message across, or using events, people or concepts to gain awareness.
For online businesses, exposure is more important than it may be for business with a ‘physical’ presence. Without high street stores, potentially no assets and infrastructure that can be used as advertising space, and a maximum of 20 years’ of existence, and often way less, online and digital companies can run the risk of disappearing from existence without a decent market strategy and more importantly, a solid reputation.
In fact, 9 out of 10 start-ups fail within their first year in the UK, showing just how hard it is to not only build a reputations, but just to survive.
Using the internet to your advantage
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Luckily, the internet, along with other methods and strategies, provides ample opportunities for marketers to improve the visibility and reputation of their product or service. Advertising online has never been more cost effective and wide-reaching, and is often the first port of call for businesses looking for a quick sales and exposure boost.
Traditional banner ads and pay-per-click adverts are still common, but in reality the more innovative the marketing strategy, the better. For example, Ted Baker, one of the world’s most famous fashion brands, has focused attention on a multi-channel approach, and is now investing more in 360 video, VR and interactive advertising than ever before.
This ties in with their ‘premium’ branding and is also a great example of futuristic advertising to help promote brand image.
From a reputation perspective, the internet can also be a double-edged sword. Online communities are fantastic for consumers who want to get to know the organisation they’re buying from a bit better, and are great feedback tools, but they can also act as an open customer services department.
Social media services like Twitter and Facebook provide great opportunities for brand promotion, but if something goes wrong, then the whole world can find out pretty quickly. Just spend some time reading one star reviews on Tripadvisor and you’ll see just how critical the public can be!
Sponsorship and tie-ins certainly aren’t a new form of marketing and communication, but also provide a quick and easy way to start building the profile of a brand or business. The celebrity endorsement is one way to make sure a brand becomes trusted and recognisable, by using a popular figure who can make a particular product or service feel familiar.
From comedian Richard Ayoade bringing HSBC’s famously corporate banking offering to households in their adverts, or Gary Lineker promoting Walkers crisps for the last 3 decades, a squeaky clean celeb is a sure fire way to get more likes and followers.
Alongside celeb endorsements, there’s also the endorsement of events. With a World Cup just around the corner, we’re starting to see the Budweiser’s, Coca Cola’s and TV manufacturer’s of the world ramp up their advertising to show they’re at the football party, but it doesn’t have to be major world events and highly visible sports competitions where a smart bit of reputation building can take place.
A great example of a brand building its reputation and catering to its audience is online poker company 888 Poker. Each year, 888 spends millions of pounds of their marketing budget on the sponsorship of real-world poker tournaments all over the world, with everything from physical advertising in the background of games to equipment, clothing logos to providing resources of a unique poker strategy which is easy to learn.
These tournament games may not be seen by the same numbers as a World Cup final, but online poker players are certainly interested, and may even take notice of the 888 brand popping up at a major tournament. If that trusted tournament is happy to have 888 adverts, then they must be trusted a brand.
The future of reputation building
This clever event sponsorship is also being taken to the next level thanks to more innovative ways of thinking and new technology. Gaming is just one area where event sponsorship doesn’t even exist in the real world, with online-only events still getting plenty of viewers and visitors.
Twitch is a great example of a platform that rakes in millions of views each month, with everything from solo playthroughs to huge multiplayer events drawing in gaming fans. Naturally, this is a great advertising space, gaming companies and online gaming review sites in particular are happy to spend money getting their name associated with some of the more popular Twitch events and users.
Reputation building can sometimes be costly and time-consuming, but when it’s done right, it can rocket a business to the big time quite easily. Back in the early 2000s when Amazon was simply an online book reseller, a predilection to simply do the very best in pretty much any market or vertical has allowed Amazon to become one of the biggest organisations in the world.
Simply put, a mixture of brand building, great customer experiences, and an ordering system that delivers items in the shortest possible time has allowed Amazon to dominate online retail. Now, traditional retailers like John Lewis, Debenhams, and Argos are actually chasing Amazon’s market share by concocting their own digital reputation-retaining strategies (often successfully), a complete role reversal over a 10 year period.
Breaking out is the hardest thing for newer online companies, and once there’s enough interest, maintaining momentum is even tougher. It’s not impossible, however, and as we move into more innovative and smart ways of brand building, there’s even more opportunities to do something different to gain traction, and ultimately, sales.