Key themes in Digital Branding and Engagement

I recently finished a course on EdX, Digital Branding and Engagement from Australia’s Curtin University, and while it had a lot of information that is commonly known, there were also some tidbits I wanted to share.


You need to engage with, not talk to, your customers

The focus of marketing is now on an engagement model and not a sales model, where you provide actual value to your customer or player. Traditional disruptive one-way advertising messages are being replaced with deeper two-way relationships with consumers. As a business, you have to consistently engage your customers; which requires compelling content that is interesting, creates value, and has opportunities for interaction. A true value exchange is one that creates loyal customers.

A key dynamic driving this engagement model is that consumers are no longer captive. A captive audience is one where a message is created and channeled to consumers who passively receive content. Consumers are now the beneficiaries of a power shift. The power shift is from media companies who used to control what consumers saw, when they saw it, and how they saw it. Now the power shift is with the consumers.

As they pointed out in the course, the notion of captive audiences is one that lives in the past, even in the online environment. There is a growing acknowledgement that marketing has changed more in the past one to two years, than it has in more than half a century before.

To succeed in this environment you need both to communicate interactively and add value. Give them something for interacting. It could be tips, discounts, compelling stories, etc., with the key being it needs to be something they value.

Customers expect communication

Consumers now expect two way communication. When they are dissatisfied, not only will they communicate this to you but they expect a (fast) response. Consumers expect a two-way dialogue with brands and personalized ads relevant to their needs. Even if you are sending a newsletter, it should be personalized based on your customers’ preferences.

Go to the customer, don’t expect them to come to you

An evolving opportunity with social media marketing is participation marketing. With participation marketing, you build a team around an event that is going to happen on social media, then have them talk about it and respond very quickly (Super Bowl, Oscars, World Cup, eSports, etc.). Rather than creating the event, you piggyback on to a topic people are engaged with, connect your product or game with that content, and create a conversation with potential customers.

Once you engage with customers, on their terms, you can then bring them to your assets. Reaching people in areas they are most interested in, engaging them with content that is directly relevant and taking them through to your owned resources.

How to create great content

Unlike the Mad Men era, content is no longer about making the brand look great. Good content is now focused on the customer and not the brand. The key is when creating content you should put people first, with the product in the background. Good content should be focused on the customer, not the brand.

At a high level, there are four keys to creating compelling marketing content:

  1. A brand should start with a clear vision, focus or story
  2. The vision should be set at senior or strategic levels
  3. The vision must permeate all levels of the business and there should be a long term commitment to the strategy with clear objectives
  4. The vision must be aligned with and support a brand’s DNA

Overall, a successful content strategy is clear and aligned internally not only in the marketing department but with all decision makers.

Key takeaways

  • Marketing has evolved to an engagement model, where rather than talking to to your customers you provide them value and engage in two-way communications.
  • Rather than expecting your customers to see your content or visit your owned media sites, you need to reach out to them where they are, for example when they are online discussing a sporting event.
  • The key to creating effecitve content is putting people first, with the product in the background

Focus, not shiny

Although I have written about the need to focus and personally always try to, it is much easier said than done. I recently came across a blog post from VC Mark Suster, Why Great Executives Avoid Shiny Objects that does a great job of stressing the importance of focus on the important. One quote by Suster drives home the problem, “many leaders fall into the trap of doing too many things but not accomplishing enough.” Suster makes the point that it is most important to complete the important things, not to start a lot of things.

Suster points out that while it is great to talk potential deals with a dozen companies or interview twenty candidate for a position, actual value is driven when you close a deal or have a candidate start at your company. Suster uses the graphic below to differentiate what is important.

Suster blog

The top of the funnel is what he describes as shiny objects. They are activities that make you feel and appear busy, often make great conversation items with your boss or at Board meetings, but in and of themselves do not create value. While you do need a funnel so you can eventually achieve the important thing, you should not spend a disproportionate amount of your time on it. As Suster says, “having interesting and frequent opportunities at the top of your funnel is important, of course, but the ultimate score is only measured on the bottom end of the funnel.”

Executives do not always pursue the top of the funnel because they do not understand the relative value, it is often the path of least resistance. It is relatively easy having a first business meeting and showing your Powerpoint or talking to someone you met at a conference, while analyzing a potential deal and negotiating the final agreement is very hard and time consuming. Sometimes people focus on the top of the funnel because it makes them look busy but is actually the easy route.

To truly succeed, and make sure your people succeed, you need to be “obsessed” with the critical tasks as Suster is. It’s why he “[is] willing to disengage at times from the flurry of ‘activity’ because when [he has] something that needs to be finished the only way [he] know[s] how is maniacally focus on the bottom end of [his] funnel.”

You should build your own funnel, analyze your activities, and make sure you are spending most of your time on the Bottom End of Your Funnel, my guess is you will be amazed at the results.

Key takeaways

  • Many leaders fall into the trap of doing too many things but not accomplishing enough.
  • While it may be great to talk about all the business leads you have or candidates for critical positions, you only create value by doing the hard work, closing the deal or bringing the right candidate on board.
  • To truly succeed, and make sure your people succeed, you need to be “obsessed” with the critical tasks.