“Digital marketer” is a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Even the most forward-thinking companies were thinking of their digital web offerings as additional channels for content, but not strategizing and seizing them as marketing opportunities. Look at the marketing landscape now. More and more companies are shifting the bulk of their advertising dollars from traditional media to digital, and almost all others have ramped up digital budgets in their media mix. As marketing directors and team members transition from more traditional media strategies to digital ones, some are apprehensive about how to change their approach. The trick is to view it as a modification or extension, rather than a change. Marketing is still marketing. Customers’ reasons for buying and responses to advertising stimuli haven’t changed. Marketers simply have more tools to work with. To that end, here are five basic rules to follow as you extend your marketing expertise into the digital world.
Insisted on a Well-Defined Strategy and Style Guide
Let’s start with an often-ignored but critical marketing 101 concept: strategy. Every business has one, but many companies suffer from the people who are in charge of implementing it not being on the same page. CEOs, Marketing Directors, Sales Managers and their staffs need to be in lock-step, with a clear understanding of their product, brand identity, target goals, and tactics that will be used to try to achieve them. Product knowledge is simple. It doesn’t matter if your company programs online solitaire games or manufactures brooms. You don’t have to know “how the sausage is made,” but you must understand your product. Know what it does, and what it does differently and better than your competitors.
All the other strategic elements need to be cemented by decision makers and codified in a comprehensive but concise style guide. The style guide should be distributed to all employees with one-sheet versions posted in common areas. It needs to provide a mission and vision statement that says, “who we are,” a one-sentence explanation of the company’s goal for the quarter or year, and the business logo and branding statement. The comprehensive guide needs to also break down brand marks, including preferred fonts, logo usage guidelines, and color scheme.
Craft and Maintain a Distinctive and Consistent Brand Voice
Digital marketers need to understand the importance of brand voice and use it properly. A potential customer interacting with your advertising needs to feel like they’re being spoken to. Your brand voice is the way you do that. For example, if you sell highly technical medical supplies, you will probably incorporate tech-speak and complex language in your brand voice. If you sell flip-flops, on the other hand, you want a brand voice that is casual and fun. Your brand voice is all about the attitude of your business, and it needs to be crafted carefully. You can’t be “edgy” or “irreverent” one day, and then be “dignified and thoughtful” the next. Develop it carefully through internal discussion and focus group testing if possible.
Once you’ve created your brand voice, you must always use it. Chances are, one person will not be writing every line of your ad copy and every social media post you put out into the world. This means that you need to extensively train every person who is responsible for this, and not let them write and publish on their own until you’re certain they have bought in and thoroughly understand your brand voice and attitude.
Take a Multi Platform Approach to Brandmarks
“Digital Marketing” is a somewhat misleading term, because it sounds like a single, unified concept. Really, there are several different advertising platforms and channels that comprise the digital landscape. A digital ad buy could include static web-banners, video pre-roll, Facebook ads, promoted twitter posts, geotargeting campaigns, email blasts and more. To that end, when designing logos or ad elements, try to be as utilitarian as possible. Aesthetically, stick to simple, bold text and single-color logos whenever possible. If you are using stock photos or product images, make sure they are simple, clear, and easy to distinguish in small settings.
Speaking of small settings, always take a “mobile-first” approach to digital ad design. Simply put, start by building your smallest-sized ad and work to make it clean, clear, and effective. Too many marketers make the mistake of working on the biggest size first and building grand, complex visuals. They then try to “down-scale” them for their various other applications. This is a recipe for failure that’s easily avoided. Build up, not down.
Customize Content to Each Relevant Platform
While you need to be consistent with brand marks and voice, you do also need to be platform-specific with your ads. To begin, resist the urge to try to shove a single ad onto multiple platforms. Television ads are great examples of this. Many businesses simply take their thirty-second TV commercial and try to use it as web pre-roll or social media posts. Research shows that web pre-rolls shouldn’t be longer than fifteen seconds. Most social media videos are watched on a mobile device with a vertical feed, meaning your widescreen television commercial is getting smooshed to a smaller size. Also, most smartphone users have the volume off when they scroll through their feed, so videos with captions get better responses.
These are two excellent examples of why it’s important to take the time to create multiple versions of video ads. When you place your ad buy, itemize every platform and channel, and don’t take shortcuts.
Finally, digital marketers need to take an objective approach to their ads’ performances. Social media platforms and search engines provide back-end analytics that would have been an ad-buyer’s wildest dream twenty years ago. Within a matter of minutes, you can see how many people clicked-through your ad, how long they stayed on your webpage, where they came from, and where they went to, afterwards. This is incredible insight that will show you what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to adjust your demos and goals, if your messaging stays consistent.
Digital marketing requires cohesive strategy, consistent branding, and platform-specific messaging. Use these guidelines to help you get the most out of your digital dollars!