BRANDING the Internet

The Internet is a significantly influential entity that has had. and will continue to have. far-reaching effects on the ways in which brands build relationships with their customers. The Internet’s track record of giving people unprecedented access to information and ways of communication has led to it becoming inextricably linked to many countries’ economies and job creation strategies. The author s of The Digital Manifesto forecast that by 2016 the Internet economy will reach $4.2bn in the G20 nations. Apart from its economic benefits. the Internet’s participator y nature opens up new ways tor people to interact.

A strong digital presence that authentically communicates a brand’s personality is an important element tor growing a brand’s profile and customer base. Richer and more interactive exchanges with customers are now possible with digital strategies. The best digital strategies highlight what makes a brand stand out from its competitors. Strategies should always aim to set the brand up as relative. reliable and interesting. Digital strategies that highlight adaptability and agility are becoming ever more important.

The volatility that the Internet brings makes it very important that strategies are adaptive and flexible. Adopting an “always on” approach helps with this. “Always on” entails using actual events to create real-time content.

Memorable digital strategies that find a unique appeal tend to be the most successful. An excellent example is Tesco’s virtual grocery store in South Korea. Tesco, called Home Plus in South Korea, built the first virtual grocery store by creating shop displays in subway stations that mimicked brick and mortar stores. Commuters waiting at the stations could then scan QR codes on these mock up displays to buy groceries and their purchases were then delivered to their homes the sam e day. This digital strategy proved to be hugely effective, with Home Plus being subsequently ranked first among online stores in South Korea.

Digital strategies implemented in the right way not only build brands but have the potential to strengthen and change connections between people. The use of Twitter and Facebook during the Arab Spring in 201O and 2011 allowed information to be spread speedily between protesting groups and the rest of the world and proved that digital strategies have a bigger scope for real social change than was previously thought.

More recently, digital strategies have been used to promote the cause and garner support during political protests in Hong Kong. Protesting students have been using FireChat. a peer-to-peer wireless networking app to organise and source materials during the recent pro-democracy protests. FireChat allows messages to be sent even if the Internet connection is cut or the sender doesn’t have data. The upswing in FireChat usage came as a result of communication difficulties due to network congestion and the fear that the Internet would be blocked in reaction to the protests.

Digital strategies are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They should be nimble and adaptable. Malleable digital strategies can prevent brands getting bad publicity or ruinous campaign results as campaign implementers are able to make changes quickly when negative and unpredictable reactions happen. They also need to be easily scalable.

In addition, digital strategies need to be tailor ed and specifically designed for each brand to allow for its particular strengths and weaknesses. Strategies should be consistently tested to gauge their effectiveness, before, during and after they are implemented.

Consistently checking what strategies are performing best will serve as a good roadmap for understanding that digital strategies are most successful for the brand.