Online Brands – Beyond ‘Differentiation’ to ‘Individuality’

sarah fenwick
Sarah Fenwick

Given the sheer number of companies doing business online, the old strategy of differentiating your brand from your competitors’ does not go far enough anymore.  Currently, getting your brand noticed requires more commitment to individuality and personality.

In these days of social media and Google, your brand needs to be human, and I’d go so far as to say that it has to be a decent human, one that admits to mistakes, works to improve good relationships with customers, and offers a meaningful, valuable service or product.

The online strategy of company individuality goes beyond shallow lipservice to values, and instead, wins hearts and minds by being dramatically ‘there’, by being part of the ups and downs in its online community.

Let’s not be coy, the Internet is a marketing communicator’s wet dream. There are billions of people online every day, easily and precisely targeted through convenient channels called websites or search engines.

There’s just one catch; marketing messages are more easily avoided and ignored than on traditional channels like offline TV or radio. People don’t have time for them, they set up banner blockers, pop up blockers and then, all that money goes to waste.

What’s the solution? In my experience, marketing communication messages have to be sent in a more community-friendly and creative way to stand out. For example, if you sell shoes, set up a website that not only sells shoes, but donates to a charity for the disabled, and make it part of your sales and marketing pitch. If you sell books, sponsor a live-streamed spelling bee with great prizes.

All these and other creative outreach ideas make your website an event worth visiting repeatedly, not just a showroom.

Social media is a key part of the strategy to become an individual brand, and goes a long way in putting a human face on a brand. Remember, that when you are using social media as a marketer, it’s the equivalent of being in someone’s home, you’d be surprised how personally people take it. Aggressive, hard-hitting messages are out of place in the social context. If you go to a party, you don’t force someone to buy a drink, you offer it in an attractive way, so it becomes their choice.

Finally, and the most important part of being an individual brand online, is the importance of retention. In individual terms, this translates to a trustworthy relationship, in which the company is always there for its customers. Mutual respect has its place in this relationship, possibly the first place.

The internet customer has no time and too many choices to put up with rudeness, intrusiveness, unprofessionalism or inefficiency.

Bottom line? Think of your company as an individual, one that your customer would enjoy having in their home, and from whom they would welcome any messages, because they are sent with respect.

About Sarah Fenwick

Sarah Fenwick is a Jazz singer, Journalist and Communications expert specialising in online communications and reputation building. She started out as a journalist in 1991, writing for national newspapers in Cyprus and working in Switzerland for ThomsonReuters as a correspondent covering Swiss Stock Exchange news.

In 2009, one of her passions became tangible when she co-founded, an independent source of news and blogs from Cyprus and the region. Sarah is proud to have won the Think Water blogger award in 2011 (European Journalism Centre) and was a final nominee for the 2012 Cyprus Businesswoman of the Year Award.

E-marketing consultancy – The Internet is a sea of words to surf.
The popularity and development of the Internet was an opportunity to capitalise on her interest and experience in writing. Since 2004, she has been active as an online marketing, communications expert and and brand journalist, and consults with online brands in the financial services, gaming, music, media, coaching and publishing markets.

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