Six Imperatives Of Creating A Social Brand


Picture this: A client tasks an agency with a very unusual mission. “Build us a brand… a brand that is warm, fosters trust, and speaks volumes of our industry experience, but is uniquely French.”

The agency team sit back, scratch their heads, and respond “Wow.” The client knows quite well what he wants but apparently does not appreciate the magnitude of what he is asking them to do. From logo design and branding elements to his new website, he’s offered them few words in this briefing meeting that would be of any use in this exercise.

This scenario is not uncommon in the creative agency space. So to save you (and your agency) a lot of headaches when approaching your next project, here are six imperatives I feel are necessary for anyone attempting to create a social brand in today’s connected consumer marketplace.

1. Up The Periscope

Acknowledge that we live in a brand filled universe, and your brand will not be an island. Carefully consider and identify key complimentary brands that your target consumer engages with online. One way to perform this exercise is to interview an existing client or customer. Ask them whom, other than your brand, they follow on Facebook, follow on LinkedIn, tweet to on Twitter or follow on Instagram. Ask them about their levels of engagement. Are they active or passive? Pick five brands that your target consumers love and consider how your new identity will sit within the existing customers social ecosystem. There is no substitution for consumer insights and this exercise is invaluable.

2. Take Your Position

The concept of brand positioning isn’t a new idea. In fact, Al Ries and Jack Trout developed this idea in the 80s. Positioning is the act of determining where your brand will sit in the mind of your target audience. Marketing guru Marty Neumeier author of ZAG, suggests undertaking an “onliness” statement writing exercise. The social consumer has unique needs, including access to information on demand, real-time customer service, and the ability to shop 24/7 – these are minimum table stakes. More than just buyer journey stepping stones, social customers also want to be able to have an emotional connection and dialogue with brands they associate with online. UGC, or user-generated content and how it is treated and celebrated are foundational building blocks of intimate social consumer relationships. Ensure that your brand architecture facilitates interactivity and community.

Positioning forces a brand to have clarity around its online voice and tone. Brand sounds are now a critical sensory element in the architecture of a brand. Style, demonstrated by visual elements, images on Facebook timelines, fonts, and messages articulate how the brand sees itself or wants to be perceived by the social consumer. Each of these elements contributes to where your brand sits in a very noisy universe of disruption online. Ensure that your brands’ voice is unique enough to be amplified amidst the cacophony of social media.

3. Create Your Mantra

Your brand should have a consistent and resounding message, embodied in a slogan or tagline, it is important that it is well defined and concise. Key messages should iterate this over and over again to a level that your customers become trained to repeat it. Like Nike’s JUST DO IT, or Apple’s THINK DIFFERENT, define what your brand’s proverbial flag on the moon would say in five words or less. Leverage digital touch points to drive that message home. Get creative, and articulate your mantra in visuals for status updates on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Discuss brand values live on Periscope. Create entertaining gifs for Tumblr, audio files or playlists for Spotify and Pandora, or even games. Then rinse, measure, optimize and repeat.

4. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Demonstrate that you deliver what you promise. One of the most remarkable aspects is that social media provides an excellent stage for which to foster brand myths and legends. The digital ecosystem is also a place where solo advocates can be shaped into a formal community. If you are delivering on your brand promises, show it off. Celebrate happy customers by making them the heart of your content. Delivered a new project? Put it in a status update. Tweet the big wins but remember there is a fine line between braggadocio and confidence.

5. Think Like An Octopus

Digital, mobile and social touchpoints afford brands a faster speed to market with information and two-way communication. By following the advice of #1 and upping the periscope, create those accounts and instances where you can intimately connect with your target audiences. Incorporate all of the tools available to amplify your message including social public relations channels for syndication. Use analytics and data to determine which platforms are going to be the most optimal and aligned with analogue business goals.

6. Use Mystery, Intimacy And Sensuality

Create allure as you create your brand identity. Design your company to foster human curiosity and your marketing message structured so that your potential customers, employees or investors want to lean in. When you are considering your logo or corporate tagline, ask yourself and someone you don’t know – “Would I wear this on a t-shirt or baseball cap?”  If the answer is yes, you have done well. Become a gifted storyteller and capture the imagination of your consumers. Show them how they too can be a part of the brand experience through content.

A brand is never a static object. It is a fluid idea that is shaped by those who wear it, work for it, buy it, make it, and love it. To build a successful brand, first define its values, purpose and meaning. Then spend every day delivering on those promises and delighting those who believe in you. Aspire to a ‘love mark’ over a logo , and you will.