Well before your “physical brand” presents its face to the audience, your “informational brand” and your “personal brand” have to make themselves stand out as beacons of trust, credibility, consistency, and reliability. Only then will your physical brand have a glimmer of a chance to get a look in.
Are you one of those brands that cannot get past the consumer evaluation of your informational brand and your personal brand … or do your informational brand and personal brand act as successive powerful magnets to lure customers towards your physical brand?
In the digital world, you will notice that when you talk of your brand you imply three kinds of associated ideas:
- Your actual brand
- Your informational brand
- Your personal brand
When you assess your brand competencies and trust factors, remember to look at all these three areas – first separately and then together.
Your actual brand: this is the product that you aim to sell
When you are looking to sell product or service brands online, you have one bottleneck, and that is that you can show your product only as an image – and you can show your service only through a verifiable case study.
People may like to sample your product, and so there has to be a way to enable trial. In purely digital products this is easy, but in the sale of physical products digitally, how can you enable customers to not miss being able to touch, smell or feel the product or turn it over to read the label? In the case of a service, how can you make the potential customer relate completely to a case study?
Despite the immense limitations involved in selling physical products and services online, digital marketers as a whole have done yeoman service to all of us.
They have evolved a selling style where the customers have learned to make do with images, less than ideal trials, and to accept case studies as nearest examples of the kind of expectations they can afford to have of the vendor.
Much as you want to be very creative and innovative in the way you sell products and services online, the pattern is so set now, that if you deviate too far from the standard practices you will lose the trust that comes from being close to what is familiar and feels safe as a process for the customer.
This is something you have to bear in mind – that the user has learned to trust a certain sales experience almost universally used online. Too much deviation from this journey makes the product or service look too maverick for comfort.
Your informational brand: the content your brand publishes
You may have noticed that when you own a digital business or put an offline product online, people are as keen about the quality of information your brand puts out in the digital and social space, as much as the quality of your actual product.
In other words, one of the critical ways people judge your product (which they may not be able to touch and feel) is to check out the quality of information and intelligence the brand displays online as a measure of how the actual product may be.
This whole online idea of “content marketing” is thus a way to ensure that the “informational brand” associated with your actual brand gives people a great foretaste of your actual brand.
So when you check the strengths and weaknesses of your product and business, do remember to assess your informational brand on its own and in the context of your actual brand. Again, check this out from the point of view of potential customers, competitors, and “market intelligentsia perception”.
Your personal brand: the authority you can command
The third component of your brand online is your personal brand. You, as the business owner, are judged as an associated brand by the digital public – because most social sites require you to profile yourself first and then create pages for your brand or company. On Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, your personal profile is key to how your brand is perceived.
Again, this is a measure people use to gauge your actual brand (which they can’t touch or feel) by checking out what kind of quality and caliber you personally exhibit. They aim to understand where your brand comes from and what values it may have as an extension of yourself.
Your personal brand will enhance your actual brand if you are seen as “authentic, credible, trustworthy, and authoritative”. Anything even slightly fake will rub off badly on your actual brand.
How people online consume these three brand facets
There is an inter-relationship and a sequence to the consumption of the three brand facets described above. You may have noticed that people – your target audiences – initially tend to research your product and invariably find you online via links to your content. Thus your content brand comes to public notice first.
If the content engages the target reader, chances are that they will immediately look up your About Page to see who you are. They will read through your credentials and get a feel of the quality of your personal brand. This About Page and your informational brand will together help seal the perception of you as an authority they can begin to trust.
A lot more reading of your articles may then ensue, as readers gradually get accustomed to seeking you out for your opinions on different subjects. Now they will not come to you via search, they may come to your site directly from bookmarks or via links on your emails (if they have subscribed to receive updates whenever you write a post).
More reading of your work will either validate or erode into the authority image you initially created, and that is why it is so important to maintain the quality and originality and the tone and content of your posts. The first time people read your work, they gauge you. Thereafter when they read your work, they are looking to see if your standards are reliable and consistent.
The more trust you have accumulated (via a series of consistent quality posts reflecting the high standards of your information brand), the less resistance will be there when you then project your physical brand before the public.
At this stage, it’s not just what is being sold to them, it’s also who is selling and how reliable and commanding is their word. And, of course, as I said before the buying process has to be as close to the universally accepted practices to feel safe, comfortable, and familiar.
Where a number of brands falter: the three traps
Most entrepreneurs and marketers usually shoot themselves in the foot in three ways – which you can avoid if you are careful.
1. Not being tight enough in the overall cogency of their post or article
For example, let’s say, a reader is first exposed to your article on a topic he has searched for and he has alighted on your page via a link. The title and description of the page gave him a sense that he has found what he was looking for.
But on the other hand, when he reads through your page he finds little that matches the title and the rest of the article digresses into related topics of lesser interest.
Chances are you may have been trying to make the article long enough but what’s on the page is not all matched to the elaborate on the title topic. No matter how knowledgeable you are, the reader has come for something specific, so your intellectual digressions are not appreciated.
This is a trap that you can very easily fall into, especially if you are producing tons of content and are not keeping your topics tightly knit. You’ll not only lose the reader but you’ll lose his trust that you are a focused source.
2. Your article does not match the person you purport to be
Even great writers are known to occasionally avail external help to do their blogs or ghost-write their books. This is all very well if the helper is almost as good as the expert in domain knowledge, depth, and subject familiarity.
It’s not good enough if the helper is good at writing alone, for a reasonably good writer can write readable stuff, but he may betray his lack of subject depth – and that is the bigger crime.
There are many instances where a discerning reader can easily tell if an expert has written an article or a novice has, no matter how readable the article is.
Especially if the reader is intrigued to know you better and reads your About Page, and then sees a mismatch between who you say you are and how you write with a breadth and depth … or how your articles are sometimes good or sometimes not up to par … the erosion of your personal brand can be fast and furious.
First impressions count, but second impressions shouldn’t discount! This is another easy trap to fall into.
3. Your physical product matches neither your informational brand nor your personal brand
This is a complete disaster. I remember reading the articles of someone who impressed me a great deal, and I even dutifully bookmarked and subscribed and read everything he wrote.
Eventually, it evolved that I started working with him, only to find that his product itself was sub-optimal, and his informational brand and his personal brand had given false cues.
He had clearly been borrowing high-flying ideas from other expert articles online, and thus when the rubber hit the road, his product was no match for the ideas he had pinched and presented as his own.
Just think … in the real world, how often have we seen wonderful packaging contain shoddy products? It’s the same thing.
The moral of the story then is “coherence” and “consistency”
Your physical brand and its informational and personal brand facets have to be aligned, complementary to one another, and harmonious.
As a digital marketer, all three facets of your brand are on show, all the time – and one facet can let down the other with the slightest of carelessness. So make sure you look at everything you do for your brand online via a three-way mirror!
Do share your thoughts on this topic
I’d love to hear your opinions on the points I’ve made in this blog post. Drop me your views in the Comments Section below.