Digital marketers today are witnessing a fundamental paradigm shift — one that's moving us away from the typical process, of building information and content for search engines to find, to a much more direct-access scenario facilitated by today's consumer experiences.
Objective facts about your business can now be injected directly into the third-party services people are using to search for information. In our last Great Marketing Minds post, we asked a variety of experts from across the field of Digital Knowledge Management to explain how the evolution of these AI-driven discovery services has influenced their marketing strategies. Today we asked them how this shift is informing their approach to building and maintaining brand persona.
The popularity of mobile, apps, voice services, and chat means more and more brand interactions are occurring off the company website. Do you think brand persona will become more important or less important in a world where business information is delivered directly to consumers through third-party services and experiences?
Lily Ray, SEO Director, Path Interactive: More important — absolutely. Not only are apps, skills, and voice search devices becoming exponentially more popular, but Google is simultaneously displaying more of its own content and ads natively within the search results, giving brands less organic visibility. This means brands won't be able to rely exclusively on traditional SEO to bring in new visitors and cultivate relationships with existing customers. Brands will need to explore new methods of improving their users' quality of life — building sophisticated and highly usable apps, integrating with wearable technologies, developing skills for each voice search device, or nurturing online social communities that users feel inspired to visit as part of their daily routines.
For brands to be able to stand out and compete in this new landscape, it will be necessary to create a branded presence that extends beyond a standard company website, and to think carefully about how the brand's personality will come across in these new communications. What voice will be associated with the brand? What tone will it use in its messaging? How will customers feel when associating with the brand? All of these questions must be considered when building out voice search strategies, apps, chatbots, or other off-site brand experiences.
Eric Enge, General Manager, Perficient Digital: Understanding how to project your brand persona out to these new platforms is going to be more critical than ever. Research into how people are wired for speech has been around for decades. Did you know that even prior to birth a baby's heart rate goes up when their mother speaks? And it drops a bit when other people speak?
Did you know that men prefer hearing male voices, and women prefer hearing female voices? That introverts prefer hearing the voices of other introverts, and extroverts prefer hearing extrovert voices? And in case you're wondering, it's also proven that we'll respond to machine voices very much the same way as we do to human voices. As humans, we're wired to respond to speech.
Put this in the bank: You need to plan on developing your own voice personas, and you're going to need to map this to your existing brand persona to get it right. By the way, third-party services that don't allow the brand persona to come through (if any such services are created) will fail, because those that do will be far more compelling.
Christi Olson, Head of Evangelism for Search, Microsoft: The brand persona is going to become even more important as consumer engagement moves from touch-based interactions to conversational-based interactions. Companies and brands alike need to create a virtual manifestation of their brand. It's a natural evolution — first brands created their physical brand persona for 1:1 in-person interactions. With the dawn of the internet, they had to create their digital persona to represent the digital experiences from websites to apps. Now, as we move into the Experience Age and Conversational Era, brands will have to create their virtual brand persona — one that can be represented through digital assistants, chatbots, or even augmented and virtual reality.
As a brand, you want your personality to shine through across all of the ways customers engage with you — and you should want it to be consistent. For instance, if you are a luxury brand that is somewhat quirky, that persona and voice should manifest across all of the ways that consumers experience and interact with you — otherwise your brand persona and brand voice will come off as disjointed and you could lose customer loyalty.
While Siri, Cortana, and Alexa have their own personalities, they are still using search as the intelligence layer powering the answers and responses they provide when speaking responses to questions. It means that companies need to think about their brand persona and infuse it into their existing site content so their brand voice and persona is represented through the third-party systems.
Brent Csutoras, CMO, Peak Activity: I wonder how much we discredit the decades of brand persona marketing that occured before the internet, but even looking back over the last five years or so, I have seen most of the large successes in marketing utilizing a combined offline and online marketing strategy, that strongly relies on brand persona.
When we talk about companies using Twitter right, we point to the ones with the most personality, like @tacobell, @jetblue, and @charmin — so clearly a brand's persona is important to today's customers.
Unfortunately, most companies are not properly aligning their teams to cohesively support a unified brand persona, which is really evident for customers, who might spend weeks emailing and calling with a customer service department and then find a solution in five minutes after sending a tweet or message through Facebook to the company's accounts.
There are technology and process learning curves, I understand, but ultimately no customer wants to go through two different experiences with a single brand.
This is going to continue to be important as we start have things like chatbots, voice assistants, and other third-party apps.
Read more from Great Marketing Minds here.