Online Personal Branding: Establishing Narrative

Narrative is story, your story. The reason you do what you do, the way you choose to do it and reasons behind why you do these things. Establishing your narrative is important because it becomes the lens that you view success through, it directs and guides almost all the decisions you make as you develop your personal brand. Almost every business leadership book has touted the importance of having a company vision, writing a vision statement, and clearly communicating that vision so that you can lead a group of people in the direction you need. Vision statements are an important part of leadership. They are also an important part of your personal brand. A personal vision will help you frame where you plan to go, and will help you begin working out how to get there. Narrative is, however, different. Narrative brings something new to your vision and message. “Narrative tells the story of why you exist and everyone loves a good story. Good storytelling draws people in; gives readers or listeners something to connect with; and has an underlying moral that teaches a lesson or challenges a thought” (Saunders, 2016). Questions that help you develop your personal vision (FundingSage, 2017): • What problem do I plan to solve? Why do I believe this problem needs to be addressed? Does this problem matter to other people? Do I honestly believe we have the answer to that problem? What changes do I believe I can affect? What are my greatest strengths?...

The Power of Personal Brand

Your personal brand is one of the most valuable assets you can control. Your brand helps your build a career, sell better, start a business or even start a movement. No matter what you’re trying to achieve in life, your personal brand can help you achieve it. In today’s hyper connected digital era we see big potential in helping your personal brand reach new heights. The Internet has become a powerful platform to build a brand on quicker and stronger than we could before. Great brands and celebrities have used the internet to launch their careers and build their influence and many people are seeing the value in building a personal brand online. Personal brands help establish credibility, increase your online influence, secure work and grow your career, generate sales, attract potential partnership conversations, attract employment opportunities and expand your professional network. The boost in image will open opportunities and conversations that would ordinarily be unavailable. While there are practical aspects to your personal brands there are also some more intangible gains in building a personal brand. Building a personal brand will help set you on a path for personal development, it challenges you to improve, to collate your thoughts and to have a clear vision of success. A personal brand will help you find focus and drive your ability to take steps to achieve your goals. If you’ve already started pushing your personal brand but don’t know how you’re doing, a digital marketing agency can help you with a brand audit to measure...

The challenge of a schizophrenic brand

I’m sitting with a client who is sharing with me their latest social media challenge. Its not a new challenge but it is a big one but lets start at the beginning. We want to build brands that people love Its the mantra of almost every marketer. Brand love is important, it affects they way we enjoy our job, the way we look at out brand and the way people interact with it. More importantly (possibly), is that brand love turns into sales and drives customer loyalty. In today’s digital age though, socially savvy customers are experiencing schizophrenic brands almost every day. Brands that have mixed messages, from fun and exciting campaigns to dull and legalised customer contact points. Its hard to trust a schizo brand, let alone love it. So while the digital age has been a blessing for brands, social media channels and communication is posing a very real problem for brands in presenting a single front to the customer that they can trust. Social Media is a Mosh Pit Social Media is not a marketing channel, rather its a mosh pit of conversations that surround our marketing channels. If it were a channel we would be able to control its distrubution and conversation better. We need to understand that social media is the mesh (or mess) between our channels, it affects and feels the effect of everything the brand does. Needless to say this presents a number of challenges for the brand. The biggest challenge I am...

Shifting focus from success to significance

I remember the first day I worked for myself. My major fear was whether or not I’d be able to earn enough to support my family. Luckily, I managed to prove that was possible in the first month. I never looked back after I found a way to extract from this world enough money to live on. I managed to extract a bit more, and a bit more. It became my baby and I devoted every spare moment to making sure my new pet monster was healthy, fed and growing! Like any entrepreneur I became enamoured with my business and who wouldn’t. It was working, I was earning, hiring people and closing new clients. It was a success and I was able to feel the return.  I ended up being able to afford the nice things in life. Around this time I learnt that there are always nicer things, better things, safer things and more comfortable things. I started to realise that the more I earned the less I had. I mean I had more stuff, but that stuff came with responsibility, maintainance and more money being spent. I realised that no matter how much you earn you will most likely live the lifestyle that you can afford to (or maybe that your debt can afford). It felt pointless and empty, I began to hate the idea of waking up every morning to ‘feed the monster’ my business had become. A hungry monster, hungry for time, hungry for money, hungry for...

Artificial intelligence is cool, market intelligence is cooler

There’s a big race in marketing to drive artificial intelligence into their channels and consumer facing products. Especially with rise of chatbots, which has become the perfect interface to speak to an AI product. Marketers should be looking carefully at AI but new technologies are providing value in even better corners of the marketing spectrum. The one area that I think will add the most value to marketers is in market intelligence. Over the past few years marketers have gained the ability to check and measure many more data points than ever before. Primarily, marketers measure these within their channel planning structures. Measuring the success of each marketing channel in detail. It’s a massive benefit and a big opportunity for business to understand each channel better. The evolution of marketing data Today we’re seeing new tools on the market like Linkbundle and Tableau that are helping marketers converge their data points together, beyond the silos of their channels. In simple terms, technology is opening the door for marketing teams to understand their marketing efforts at a much higher level than just channel specific metrics. This is an important step for marketers because channel specific metrics are limiting the value of these metrics. Think about it like this: Your customer attends your event where you’re promoting a product. Some consumers purchase the product at the event and that’s easy to measure, but others who don’t by share the event in social networks and chat groups, these conversations lead to foot traffic...

How Brands are Using Video

In a world run down by information overload, video presents information succinctly and emotively, a huge asset in trying to attract attention and portray messages quickly. It’s no wonder that Axonn Research found that seven in ten people saw brands in a more positive light after viewing an interesting video about them.  So, with video on the rise, let’s look at how brands are using online video in more detail. Storytelling Nothing new here. Brands have been using TV Commercials, Documentaries and Online Video to tell stories about their brand. The film industry is built on storytelling and brands have learnt from Hollywood in this regard. Adobe Systems, a brand that speaks to creative people, uses storytelling in their video, “Red Hot Chili Peppers at SXSW”, to identify with their audience and show why creative people love working with their products. Enhancing the customer experience Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, tells us that brands succeeding in video marketing are moving beyond brand stories, video ads and viral content. He suggests that successful brands are using video to engage consumers throughout the customer journey to educate, convert sales, build relationships and improve customer satisfaction. There is a big opportunity for brands to drive deeper consumer connections by using video in all levels of consumer engagements. A bank in Poland, uses online video chat to revolutionise the internet banking industry. The bank makes consultants available to online banking users. This brings people back into a process that ultimately leaves users...

What Conan O’Brien taught us

It’s always great to look at how celebrities use online marketing to build their brand and career. Over the last few years we have watched as Conan O’Brien receive a seemingly big blow to his career through a fall out with NBC. He has, however, managed to reinvent himself through this fall out, and has successfully used online marketing to rebuild his career. Let’s take a look at the lesson learnt: Forcing Limitations Helps Unlock Opportunity and Creativity Too often marketers are searching for options and variety – they want to cover the broadest spectrum of marketing channels for the best possible return. However, there are times when limiting your brand’s communication to specific channels can be better for you. It can force you and your team to think more creatively and to drive new innovative ideas. Conan’s career always revolved around television comedy, whether writing episodes for The Simpsons or hosting The Tonight Show. Then came his fallout with NBC which saw him prohibited from appearing on TV for a period of time. This major setback became an incredible opportunity to explore new channels. Conan took to Twitter in February 2010 and attracted 30 000 followers in the first hour of his profile being made. In 24 hours, his account stepped over the 300 000 mark and today sits at over 22 million. He used the time away from TV to launch a tour, “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour”, and started using social media to propel and...

Improving the relationship between data analysts and marketers

Data analysts and marketers historically have not needed to work closely together… today, that has changed. Data analysts have become some of the most valuable people in your marketing team as they can help brands understand consumer motives faster, build intuitive interfaces and trigger customer actions, all by using data effectively. In our last Digital Swarm event we discussed the need for marketers and agencies to build relationships with the data analysts in our business. Most marketing teams don’t yet have full-time analysts employed, so they are reliant on their business analysts to fill the gap in their team. Initially we see marketers focusing on mission critical exercises to build marketing competencies that drive innovation and consumer centricity. A few of these mission critical aspects are discussed here, but are summarised as: Collecting consumer information Consumer information is vast and comes in various forms. Market research companies present deep insight into consumers through reports, catalogues and online systems. This information is a combination of data driven insight and qualitative assessment. While it may be difficult to drive this into our data infrastructure, marketers will benefit from being able to make this information available to their wider stakeholder network. Aggregating siloed data Every marketer is measuring every aspect of the marketing plan, but very rarely are they able to break these reporting techniques out of their respective silos and see the data together. New start-up technologies are starting to answer these questions and we are seeing some products become available that...

How Data Helps Marketers Be More Innovative

Is it possible that marketers are out there raving about how data is the future, yet secretly hiding behind ‘data complexity’? All signs point to yes, and this is because they have not yet found out how to harness data in their marketing initiatives just yet. In essence, we believe in the impact of data but aren’t sure how it fits into our world yet. It’s more of a futurist idea than a real value-add today. As marketers, we’re in the business of behaviour change and The Fogg Behavior Model shows that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation; Ability; and Trigger. When a behaviour change does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing. So, how can data equip us in each of these elements? Motivation: Every BIG IDEA in marketing is entered around key consumer insight, the motivating factor for change. It speaks to the heart of people and it the central reason for the success of an idea. The trouble is that it takes time to identify the key insights and build creative ideas around them. In today’s world of instant consumers, we are facing a challenge as marketers to understand customer insights and consumer shifts quicker than ever before. Managing data stores and accessing consumer and business data efficiently will make it possible for marketers and agencies to understand their consumers faster. I’d say real-time here, but that’s a pipe dream that doesn’t work in reality. It’s possible...

How to Innovate Faster in Marketing

It was Steve Jobs who coined the phrase, “Computers are like a bicycle for our minds”; suggesting that much like a bicycle, computers would help people move quicker to the destination once you apply effort. Jobs saw the computer as an enhancer to human capacity instead of a replacement. I have a similar belief that digital technology helps us enhance human potential in business instead of replacing it. In marketing, especially, we see that strong digital foundations and understanding helps marketers improve quicker, innovate smarter and understand customers deeper. When we look at digital, we segment it into pieces from primary technologies, social, mobile, data and The Internet of Things. In this article, I want to explore a simple question: how will data infrastructures help marketers become more innovative and agile? Almost every single marketer would agree that being able to innovate faster is an incredible competitive advantage in business. The trick is learning how to do this, and how to gear our marketing team correctly to achieve it. When it comes to data, we can learn from the IT industry and see how innovative businesses use IT infrastructures as a means to innovate. According to McKinsey, a two-speed system architecture is valuable in becoming more innovative and agile. This implies a fast-speed, customer-centric front end (speed of innovation) running alongside a slow-speed, transaction-focused legacy back end (speed of operation). For software-release cycles and deployment mechanisms, the customer-facing part should be modular, to enable quick deployment of new software by...

Authentic Loyalty Through Brand Utility

Gone are the days of promoting your brand, of talking it up as the coolest brand around so that the customer loves you. We are now in the age of the empowered consumer, and these customers are skeptical of traditional marketing tactics, all they see is a gimmick. Traditional loyalty schemes don’t work anymore, as the brand is no longer in the position of power. Consumers have become savvy to the various marketing techniques, and have been let down by empty promises so many times that they are done with the brands that spend their ad budget on puffing themselves up, without having any real substance to back it all up. Behavioural Loyalty vs Authentic Loyalty Brands who market to their target audience with gimmicks will only receive a very fickle loyalty back in return. These brands are eliciting a ‘behavioural loyalty’, which is superficial and will last as long as the campaign that’s being run. Consumers will quickly see through any brands who are more concerned about what the consumer can do for their bottom line, than what they as a company can offer the public. The idea of ‘authentic loyalty’, on the other hand, is where a brand receives real and pure loyalty from consumers, as a result of enriching the consumer’s life. This type of loyalty is garnered through the brand providing the customer with a service or product that will actually prove useful in their life, not just prove to be a fad or a gimmick....

Marketing Products on Social Media

Historically, product orientated businesses have struggled in social media circles. A focus on product promotion and sales have meant that these social presences have, historically, been very bland and boring. I mean, let’s be honest and acknowledge that a product page on a social network isn’t a top destination for people to go when looking for inspirational content. So, what can product orientated businesses do to build a more engaging and successful social media presence, without losing their mandate for sales and foot traffic to their retail outlets? Firstly, I suggest that you take a read of my last article, “Be Brave: Differentiate with Digital”, to come to grips with the importance of understanding your brand better. Every product has a brand persona that it portrays, whether it’s trying to or not. Doing the work to understand the brand will help you understand the best way to portray your brand on social media channels. Once your brand is clearly understood you should have a clear picture of the persona and differentiation you wish to display to the social media world. This will go a long way in informing your content strategy but there are a few more elements we suggest looking at to make the most of your social presence. Focus on your customer’s needs Too often products focus on functional benefits, like the features and prices of their products. Yet, we have never seen a successful sales strategy driven across social media that only promotes features and price. Instead,...

Be Brave: Differentiate with Digital

Digital presents a powerful opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves against competitors. We’ve all heard the stories of great digital projects and wonder how we could create the same traction for our own brands. In our quest to thrust our brands into the digital era, we have found it to be more difficult than we initially anticipated. The trouble is, brands who are unsure of the value of digital choose a copycat approach to digital marketing. They hear of something that worked for someone else and copy it. Choosing to copy others rather than create new opportunities results in a saturated market of ‘the same old’ digital tactics. We see it all over the place, in social media, as brands and agencies adopt the same ideas over and over again. Even in the mobile apps market, brands are too quick to jump in fast and end up with smaller and smaller returns from their online efforts. We need to make the copycat approach public enemy number one! The copycat approach comes when: Brands aren’t sure of who they are Brands are chasing speed to market over innovation Brands are afraid of failure It’s become my experience that brands who succeed in digital know who they are, they make sure their digital ideas match their overall strategy and they are brave. They’re even a little crazy, in a good way! So, it seems fairly practical that we could apply a simple process to getting out of a copycat approach and I’d...

User experience and the IoT

I remember reading about the Twittering Ferries a few years ago. This story captured my imagination and I started to explore the Internet of Things (IoT) in more detail. IoT, in essence, allows ‘Machines to speak to Machines’ (M2M), provide instruction, feedback on status, and even process artificial intelligence. The reason the Twittering Ferries intrigued me, however, was not the M2M relationship, but rather the fact that the code behind Twittering Ferries created a means where machines were now talking to people. They used social media to facilitate communication to human beings. This has been my interest point over the last few years, and a question that has been plaguing me ever since is: “What happens to IoT when it progresses from M2M to Machines to People, or People to Machines?” I have had the privilege of sitting on the International Advisory Board for the IoT Asia conference, which has given me massive exposure to the IoT conversation. Over the last few years, these discussions have provided a robust understanding of IoT into manufacturing and operational processes, but recently we are seeing more and more conversations leading towards a consumer interaction with IoT. All IoT conferences are speaking to retail tracks, user experience tracks, wearables, home automation and a host of industry that are consumer facing. Historically, IoT solutions have not considered human beings in their equations and strategy roll out; which has proven to be a challenge, mainly because their solutions never came into contact with people, except through...

Effective Influencer Marketing

Essentially, through any influencer marketing project, your brand is hoping to piggyback on a relationship that another has already built up with your ideal target market. And much like how someone wouldn’t introduce you to their friends in a good light unless they already had some sort of good relationship with you – it makes sense that you first have to build up the connection with an influencer on a brand to person level before you can hope to be introduced authentically to their audience. So basically it’s not going to be enough to simply identify who you’d like to work with and then throw product and money at them. If you really want their opinion of your brand to be honestly positive, and not just a sponsored advert, then you need to approach this interaction for what it is – building a relationship as strong as the one between the influencer and their audience. Step 1: Identify To identify the influencers whom you wish to build a relationship with, you first need to identify your ideal target audience: Who do you want to be speaking to? How old are they? What are their interests? What are their online behaviours like – which social platforms are they on? Which part of the consumer journey would you like them to influence? Once you find your target audience, then it’s actually pretty simple to find your influencers – they will be the ones that your target market are already avidly listening to,...

User journeys are broken

Fifty digital enthusiasts tucked themselves into a trendy venue in Durban to discuss ‘Design Thinking’ and ‘User Experience’ at our latest edition of Digital Swarm. During the evening we discussed the importance of the digital journey. We found that the journey isn’t about point A and point B – the bit between points A and B was where we needed to focus. Now, this isn’t rocket science but it starts to get a lot more complicated when we acknowledge that if point B is our chosen end point for a customer, then there are many different Point A’s to consider. We also need to acknowledge that most businesses have multiple point B’s that will help them successfully reach their goals. For example: Jon might travel blissfully from point A to B exactly the way you planned – he made the purchase and even shared that he bought your product with his community. However, Thandi clicks on Jon’s link and arrives at your site halfway between point A and B. She doesn’t have all the information she needs, she is excited about the product, but doesn’t know how to get the information she needs to execute her purchase. As marketers we very often spend hours and hours planning for Jon’s journey and get excited when the stats show us we are getting many people joining Jon’s walk with your brand. However, we don’t often consider Thandi, she becomes lost in the stats, telling us what went wrong, she joins our bounce...

Are you dragging your own brand sentiment down?

It is possible that you are bringing your own brand down. That you are contributing to your own negative sentiment without even knowing it. The more research I do in this area the more I see it. Brands need to think carefully about their response strategies. Someone is upset with your brand and you respond with a simple statement:  “Dear @someone, we are sorry for the problem you are experiencing. We will sort this out ASAP!” A fairly typical response to a customer service experience that many brands adopt on an ongoing basis. Sometimes our responses are less urgent or aggressive but we tend to adopt the same structure. We present the brand as humble, willing to admit mistakes and dedicated to resolving the problem. It’s how we were all taught that good social media should be done. Were we taught wrong? So I discovered something very interesting while working with the new influencer marketing tool Monocle, which DigitLab developed A brand reply like the one above is logged as negative sentiment. It’s not a mistake, it is a negative statement, full of negative words and punctuation that amplifies the sentiment score of the statement. It seems that many brands are contributing to their own negative brand sentiment; sometimes up to a third of the negative sentiment conversation is created by the brand. We started relooking at the normal sentiment pie chart. Marketers use this pie chart to tell the sentiment around their brand and it has been a very useful...

Authentic loyalty through brand utility

Gone are the days of promoting your brand, of talking it up as the coolest brand around so that the customer loves you. We are now in the age of the empowered consumer, and these customers are skeptical of traditional marketing tactics, all they see is a gimmick. Traditional loyalty schemes don’t work anymore, as the brand is no longer in the position of power. Consumers have become savvy to the various marketing techniques, and have been let down by empty promises so many times that they are done with the brands that spend their ad budget on puffing themselves up, without having any real substance to back it all up. Behavioural loyalty vs Authentic loyalty Brands who market to their target audience with gimmicks will only receive a very fickle loyalty back in return. These brands are eliciting a ‘behavioural loyalty’, which is superficial and will last as long as the campaign that’s being run. Consumers will quickly see through any brands who are more concerned about what the consumer can do for their bottom line, than what they as a company can offer the public. The idea of ‘authentic loyalty’, on the other hand, is where a brand receives real and pure loyalty from consumers, as a result of enriching the consumer’s life. This type of loyalty is garnered through the brand providing the customer with a service or product that will actually prove useful in their life, not just prove to be a fad or a gimmick....

Popular Myths Associated with SEO

With the social media platforms, content recommendation services and search engines all trying to tout their services to perk up the traffic to your website, the search engine optimisation or SEO gets lost or acquires a secondary position. Added to this, there are several myths about SEO. These myths should be dispelled and the importance of SEO should not be undermined, as they can offer huge benefits to the entrepreneurs. What Is SEO? SEO or search engine optimisation is the process of enhancing the visibility of a web page or website in the search engine’s unpaid results. This is referred to as organic, natural or earned results. In general, the higher or earlier a website ranks in the search engine’s page results, the more frequently the sites appear on the search results list and from the users of the search engine, it receives more visitors and these visitors are converted into customers. SEO targets various kinds of search, such as local search, academics search, video search, image search, industry-specific vertical search engines and news search. The Popular Myths Associated With SEO: Myth #1: Optimising Meta Titles and Description in Search Engines over People Search engines and Google continue to emphasise in creating content that guides user’s experience to the best content. If you are optimising the keywords in such a way that speaks more to Google than to humans, you would be punished in search engine rankings. Thus emphasis should always be on the customers and not the keywords. Myth...

Curated Commerce

If you were to search for a “black dress” on Amazon.com right now, you would be faced with a daunting 472,962 results (at least, at the time of writing that was the figure… there will probably be even more results when you do it). Our access to information has never been better, which has certainly empowered the consumer, but at the same time has also effectively rendered them more indecisiveness than ever before, due to the sheer amount of information in front of them. Information overload has created the need for editors, tastemakers and curators to turn the world of choice into bite sized pieces that make sense. Consumers now find themselves in a space where they need an ‘expert’, to filter the information, and then feed it back in categories that make the information meaningful for the consumer. These experts are people whose opinions are trusted, and even sought out – they are the curators of taste. These curators effectively do the work for the consumer, by taking that sea of data available to everyone, and filtering it into bite-sized, and ‘approved’ pieces of information for the consumer to trust. A taste-maker’s stamp of approval helps to lead consumers out of their indecisiveness, and more often than not, towards the desired commerce. Who curates? Traditionally effective curation has originated with the editors and taste-makers of the world, and they still have their place in this digital information age. These curators still have weight when it comes to influencing the...

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