Personal experiences drive digital brands

At the International Marina and Boatyard Conference, Steve Chandler held a general session on “Branding in a Digital World.” His session focused on the differences between branding and marketing, what defines a brand and how utilizing digital media can build the brand.

As Chandler noted in his presentation, there are a few key differences between marketing and branding:

  • Marketing is telling people what you are selling; branding is the impression you are trying to create about who you are.
  • Marketing is short-term and tactical; branding is long-term and strategic.
  • Branding is distinctive; marketing is not.

“That’s exactly what branding is about for one simple purpose: two people cannot occupy the same space,” said Chandler. “It’s about having a distinct identity.”

A brand is the business’s reputation – it is what customers and potential customers say about you when you’re not around. Branding relies on aesthetics, aspiration, consistency, knowing your identity and invoking emotion.

“The more emotional people are about your product, the more they’ll pay. That means building relationships are really important in your branding,” Chandler said. “If people love you, they’ll pay a premium for you. You’re worth it.”

Almost more importantly, trust is also a key component of branding.

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“For your brand, this is everything. The moment that trust is broken, then your brand is really, really broken,” said Chandler. “People have to know what you stand for.”

So how does digital play into building a brand? Chandler called the digital world the “great equalizer,” where everyone is in the branding game and can participate at any level they want to. It’s not just for the “big guys” with big ad spend. This makes branding more competitive and transparent than ever.

The digital marketplace has also created a wealth of choices for customers, and it has changed branding from being more than an ad and a catchy slogan.

“We have to be in a lot of different places, and that’s tough because we don’t have a lot of time, do we?” said Chandler.

Because the world is measured differently and communication has changed, the rules for banding have to change with it. Chandler said to take measurable steps to build your brand with a digital audience, remember that you are who you say you are and you are what others say you are.

“If you want to build your brand, get people talking about it. That’s why social media is so important and so opportunistic for you,” Chandler said.

Branding in the digital world, he added, is about creating authentic experiences and memorable moments. The digital world has allowed everyone to be so impersonal that people crave those real moments even more. Sixty-two percent of consumers have chosen, recommended or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.

“Your offline experience matters most. You want to brand in the digital world? It’s about your product, your service, the people, being real,” said Chandler. “Anything can be digital. Not everything can be personal. … Don’t worry about the digital. Be real and personal first, and then use the digital to take advantage of it.”

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