By Lora Kratchounova, Scratch Marketing + Media
Given that today’s paradigm of customer centricity has coaxed brands to adopt a Marketing the Future stance towards their relationships with their customers, we need a new framework for building and measuring the brand’s ability to meet its customers’ expectations.
That framework is Digital Brand Authority.
In a world where consumers are inundated with information, progressive brands are becoming the sources of Zero Moment of Truth for their customers — playing the role of educator, enabler, and need fulfiller — all at the same time. Brands built upon Digital Authority incorporate the principles of Marketing the Future (discussed in previous posts) — customer centricity, continuous delivery, and ecosystem support — to create clear and actionable roadmaps for marketing their reasons for being, their domain expertise, their products, and their services.
Digital Authority Defined
Digital Authority is rooted in the principle that brands need to participate in the Zero Moment of Truth stage in the customer purchase journey if they want to be a viable alternative when that customer is ready to buy. Focusing on selling is no longer the way to win new customers; that’s outdated thinking that doesn’t apply today. Instead, companies must define their “why” — parsing their purpose to the finest degree — in order to understand what exactly it is they have that customers want and need.
Digital Brand Authority comes from the concept of educating consumers on your domain. Think Red Bull, which can be seen as both selling energy drinks and sharing stories about active lifestyles — the two are inextricably entwined in the culture the company is promoting. Or Skyword, which doesn’t merely push customers to buy their content marketing platform but shows them how to develop content that engages customers throughout their journey. These are companies that defined their “why” well, and built their success by establishing their Digital Authority in those realms.
The Digital Authority Funnel
This is today’s Digital Brand Authority Funnel, and it’s needed because the customer journey is no longer straightforward. The first order of magnitude for marketers isn’t to build awareness of your product (that’s Marketing the Past), but to educate consumers why they need the type of product or service you sell (Marketing the Future).
Today’s consumers go through the funnel in a deliberative fashion, and the more complex, expensive or involved a purchase is (however large or small the product), the more time they spend educating themselves on competition, prices, etc. Brands need to create clear associations with product and service domains, so when the consumer thinks of the best selection or example of X, your brand comes to mind. Best selection of shoes? Zappos. Best cloud services? Amazon or Google.
The Digital Brand Authority Funnel begins by acknowledging that the buyers are in control and will educate themselves. This is where the modern marketing imperative lies.
Educating vs. Selling in the 21st Century
Education is the key to capturing customers at the Zero Moment of Truth. Consider the software container segment: Docker, a company less than five years old, dominates the Google search results for the term, as well as the market. They did it not only by creating a great product, but by educating customers in the following ways:
- Evangelizing for software containers as the best way to develop apps
- Providing tools for the developer community
- Convincing the community that the change is for the better
- Engaging millions of developers through their engineering blog
This is the power of education in Digital Authority. By creating such a strong demand association with their brand, Docker became the common name for the very product they create, like Kleenex or Band-Aid. Competitors have very little market share because they came late to the game and Docker had already taken command of the playing field. Therefore, they must somehow find their own wedge into the market.
Don’t Just Do — Teach
Key brand leaders today are educators — they act as “domain media houses,” teaching the market about a new domain and its possibilities. Such leaders first create strong associations with specific domains and only then do they push for specific solutions.
This is why Digital Brand Authority is the foundational concept of 21st-century marketing. It provides the framework to develop targeted and actionable go-to-market plans, strategies, and tactics for any company. We will be building upon it in upcoming posts. But if you can’t wait for more information about digital marketing, please visit us at www.ScratchMM.com.
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