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Considerations for Online and Offline Brand Management

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 14 May 2018, 09:12 Hrs
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offline vs onlineIn the current environment, almost every aspect of offline content has to find reciprocal space in online space. In case of brands, while there are a lot of similarities in offline and online behavior and considerations, there are a lot of diverging aspects also. This is primarily due to highly democratized nature of information in online space. While the organizations retain most of the level to manipulate their brands in public domain, there are multiple filters present in form of social media, user forums, and online brand communities that regulate or filter the stimuli generated by the organization. The organization has to be cognizant of this external variable in all its branding efforts.



Once an organization moves to online space for its brands, the sustained engagement becomes more important than offline scenario. Unlike offline branding, organizations do not have to depend on post facto market research and similar mechanisms to assess the brand standing or impact generated by a brand intervention in online space. The online feedback is more real-time and actionable thru analysis. This changes the dynamics of branding for brand managers and even organizations as a whole. The purpose of this literature review would be to highlight key differentiating factors as well as modified approaches to existing mechanisms for branding in an offline vs. online environment. The considerations for offline vs. online branding would set up a reference for not only moving an offline brand to online space but also strategies for online branding individually.



Reasons in support of offline and online branding



The gap between offline and online branding is diminishing. Consumers are watching TVshows online. Newspapers and products are using QR codes to provide additional information whereas e-paper has become the preferred mode of reading news. However, there are certain unique dimensions to each.



Key aspects of offline branding are:



1. Proven and accepted branding techniques



2. The audience is already familiar with methods and mechanisms



3. Success or failure is easily measurable.



Whereas in case of Online branding there are further advantages of:



1. Improves cost efficiencies



2. Unimpeded reach to the audience



3. The better possibility of audience ongoing engagement.



The reasons for the consumer to use offline vs. online word of mouth are just reverse. For online, the reasons are social, functional and emotional in that order while for offline customers the order reverses to emotional, functional and social.



Hence we can conclude that there are multiple similarities and differences in online vs.offline branding scenarios. However, both offline and online branding is complementary rather than exclusive. Now, we will look into elements of combined strategy. Additional Advantages provided by online brand engagement



Almost real-time engagement: People want to get a response right away when they need to have certain information. Standard 24-48 hrs of response time to mail is not good enough in the current scenario. Here, online brand engagement provides an option for real-time and slightly informal response mechanism. This way timely action can be taken to enhance as well as protect the brand.



Informal and personalized brand experience: People like to interact with other people rather than large monolithic organizations. An informal online brand communication and its responses would be far better customized than template based generic information that assumes one size fits all. As branding team would already have a lot of background information about the specific user, the brand aspects that will of most relevance to him can be easily highlighted.



The openness of information: All concerns or issues with brand raised by customers are also available for others to see. Not only the brand can address concerns for one customer, indirectly can convince other users by highlighting its responsiveness and providing resolutions. In a way, it becomes a channel to reinforce the brand elements that organization is trying to display.



Better Brand Awareness: Online networks follow very highly integrative as well diffused. Being referred in one post may allow the brand to be noticed by a huge number of followers or contacts. This will be followed by a multiplicative effect. While impact would depend on the message going out, the reach of the brand awareness would be beyond any specific boundaries.



Online users are better at spreading brand knowledge: Most of the online users are therefor social purposes. Active users post regular updates. If they have a positive brand experience they tend to broadcast it aloud and thereby creating a positive brand image. This reinforces brand perception and adds credibility thru word of mouth references.



Integrating online branding with Offline branding



We have already established that offline and online branding are complimentary in nature. Now the next question is that if an offline brand has to be taken in online space what are the considerations that should be taken into account. Some researchers have found that synergistic and supporting role of the offline and online medium is not always true. Hence, it is important to highlight key overlapping points that help in the development of an integrated approach. In case of Online and offline branding, divide can be huge as many companies have separate print, web and social marketing teams that develop their strategies and implementation mechanisms. But we have to be conscious that customers deal with a singular brand and organization and not individual departments. Hence, there has to bean optimized approach that is developed for best result and each of the media is used for its strength while negating the weakness of other mediums.



For achieving the optimized approach the first and most important point is unified, Monolithic brand presence. Unified brand presence can be achieved thru developing a common thread between different media and identify gaps in terms of message, segments etc. The core value of the brand should be central to both online and offline branding mechanism. The audience should be aware of the connection between the brands offline and online presence. The offline brand has a distinct advantage of having a clear brand image to build upon. Customers with good offline brand perception tend to pay less credence in case the same brand performs poorly online. A strong interaction between online and offline branding to drive a seamless brand can capitalize on the integrated approach between channels like TV adverts, Bill Boards, print ads with social media platforms like Facebook, twitter etc. A lot of organizations are using this presently e.g. with a print ad about brand features in the newspaper there is a mention on a website to get further details or there is a QR code that users can scan and be pointed to relevant information on mobile itself. This was each of the media is capitalizing on the strength of other. The newspaper is generating the eyeball while the online medium is reinforcing it. The similarly online website creates excitement about new product launch (e.g. a new car model) under a brand in the minds of young customer and then guides the customer to nearest dealership for the test drive. This is an example of the whole changed approach, but also has the benefits of adding current initiatives to increase both reaches and is not about conversion from one medium to another. A continuous loop of handoffs at right stages among both mediums generates fast ROI and acts as a force multiplier.



Using data from offline and online brand presence to enhance delivery for other medium is a good strategy. Most customers want their brand experience to be personalized to them. The information generated from online brand presence should feed into offline brand image management. E.g. online retailers issuing co-branded bank cards with brick and mortar establishments like a gas station would enhance presence for both the parties. In case of multi-channel approach of a single brand, there will be better synchronization of efforts in this manner.



Measurement of Offline and Online brand engagement



Measurement of brand engagement has been an ongoing process with multiple researchers contributing to a body of knowledge in this area. The first wave of measurement was focused on traditional branding elements with more or less similar core underlying constructs of cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions. Some users developed scales with the individual in the center to capture the uniqueness of perspectives. There have been attempts to define an adequate mechanism for measurement of online brand engagement. Among available options scale suggested by Linda Hollebeek seems to be robust and relevant in the current scenario and can be used as a reference to measure online brand engagement.



Strategies for taking the offline brand to an online medium



Here we will talk about some strategies that have been suggested and used in taking offline brands to the online medium.



 Creating a digital version of product offering: Most of the physical offering is becoming associated with a digital version. Recently new car and bike models launch has been accompanied by the launch of website and app for users to gain information or even have digital experience of the product beforehand. This phenomenon has been present in movie industry even earlier [16] (Bakker, 2001). Even movies like Krissh have associated online games and offline merchandise associated with them to create seamless branding experience. Hence, we can say integrated immersive experience is a key step.



Leveraging existing social channels: Customers are already users of common online channels like Facebook and Twitter. Brands should build upon the features provided by these channels to enhance their reach and equity. There has been positive effect observed on brand equity, awareness, and image associated with the use of online platforms.



Integrating online brand presence with current social discourse: Brands should keep themselves integrated with current social discourse. An offline example advert of Amul butter which covers most of the current issues while multiple online brands have also tried to engage with the community by becoming participants in efforts like disaster relief.



Convert existing social meet-ups to online groups: customers see brands continuous, seamless entity. They will become users online brand channels as they see it as an extension of existing relationship. The positive perceptions of the offline brand will partially carry over to online brand also.



Maintain right brand content online: Understanding the need of the customers and proving the same information with ease is important. In general, customers visiting online brand page are looking for customer service, providing suggestions and opinions, joining the community, posting the reviews, participating in events, getting general information and discounts. The online content should cater to these requirements so that customers do not revert to offline channels.



Customer engagement: Near real-time customer interaction is the biggest advantage offered by online branding. The strategy for online branding needs to have both reactive as well as proactive engagement mechanism with the customer. Larger organizations are managing it in-the-house while others are looking at specialized agencies to do this activity for them.



Conclusion:



Online branding is not a delighter or extra offering for customers in the current scenario. Most of the customers are expecting it as a standard offering. While mere having an online presence does not offer any unique advantages, w.r.t competitors, the content and customer engagement with a brand can offer distinctive features that will be appreciated by customers. Organizations should leverage their existing offline brand to transfer their brand trust online and use it to reduce the risk perception of the customer. An optimal approach combined best features of online and offline channels should be adopted. The strong offline brand offers an excellent base to start from but engaging the customers online would allow organizations to reap maximum benefits.



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