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Branding in the age of the search bar

05:12 PM July 04, 2021

In the digital age, not a day passes that tech-savvy consumers, belonging to multiple generations from boomers to Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and the youngest alpha generation, fail to access the search bar.

That function allows the user to easily look up data, images and information on the internet. It has helped e-commerce thrive, especially amid this prolonged pandemic that has kept people indoors for extended periods of time with the internet as their main access to the outside world.

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But even in this digital world, strong brands have an advantage for they are top of mind when people start scouring the internet.

When a consumer is familiar with the brand and all its attributes, then he or she keys in the brand name into the search bar.

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If there is heated competition in the brick-and-mortar retail space, then there is infinitely more in the online space as brands no longer just compete with their local counterparts but with global brands as well. There are just too many options in cyberspace thus the urgent need to build a brand in order to stand out and win a share of customers’ minds and wallets.

Real world

The battle for the consumers’ mind and pocket power, however, must begin outside the digital world.

Not all products or services are classified as brands. A product or service becomes a brand only when a large number of consumers are able to recall the product or service unaided, as soon as the category comes to mind.

With strong brand recall, consumers are likely to key in the brand they are most familiar with in the search bar or scroll for flagship stores in structured e-commerce platforms, bypassing commodity products. This is when the search becomes organic.

Some brand owners complement organic searches with search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that the brand comes out first or on top in a category search. Some put in ad-boosting investments.

What else can be done to win customers?

Digital space

Establish a clear and focused brand narrative. With most digital ad videos reduced to six seconds, not to mention a plethora of digital ads, brands are challenged to tell the story succinctly in a very short time. That is why use of omnimedia channels, or multiple platforms on and off the digital space, is important to drive home the message.

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Today’s consumers have multiple interests and multiple touchpoints. Having a single-minded story on and off digital reinforces brand knowledge. Brand stories do not come by chance or by whim. It is the result of a long tedious process of brand strategy work that includes consumer insight, developing a brand story that resonates well with the consumers sufficient enough to convert the new category users or make the current users buy more of the product or service; and communicating these online and offline, over the top media channels meant to reach out to target consumers.

Tap user-generated content (UGC) that matches your brand’s narrative. UGC can be by popular, fee-based key opinion leaders (KOLs) or by organic, real people communities who happen to be brand users. These KOLs and organic community must help build strong, positive associations about the brand.

For example, Apple’s Shot On iPhone campaign is a social media marketing campaign complemented by online and offline ads. iPhone harnessed its community by challenging its users to come up with best shots on Instagram and the selected shots were used on billboards, Apple retail stores and online. The hashtag #ShotOniPhone has generated over 12 million posts.

Beauty soap Dove’s extensive use of social media began in 2004 on top of traditional media, with its all inclusive, positive body image and natural beauty campaign #RealBeauty aimed at building self-confidence among women and young children regardless of their appearance. Dove’s latest campaign, #NoDigitalDistortionMark, aptly challenges the world of digital where filters, airbrushing and editing apps proliferate, aptly distorting the concept of real beauty and setting up new beauty standards devoid of reality. This time the #NoDigitalDistortion campaign celebrates user-generated content on TikTok.

Remember that branding is a multimedia platform exercise. A business owner may have a great product and brand story to tell but if this is not communicated in relevant communications channels and kept merely for posterity or by word of mouth, then the likelihood of becoming a major brand is small.

The search bar, indeed is both a test and reminder to determine whether a product or service is a commodity or brand. The more organic searches there are in comparison to competitors, the greater is the likelihood that a product or service is a brand, likely a dominant brand. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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