When you think about it, every PR blunder or negative customer experience involving a major brand comes down to a single issue: branding inconsistency. Branding inconsistency often results from a misalignment of your branded and product content (advertising, web content, customer service or public relation interactions, etc.) with your brand’s core values. In short, if you want to improve your position in the market, and become a brand that people not only trust, but will also convince their friends and family to trust, it starts with a well-planned strategy around your brand and associated product content in all its forms.
1. Understand Customer Expectations
Before you can successfully align your product content to your brand image, you need to understand what customers will or have come to expect from your brand. In other words, how well are you delivering on your brand’s core values? While this might seem like more of a branding issue than a marketing issue, don’t be fooled. Your entire retail strategy—ecommerce, merchandising, planogramming, and marketing—will be informed by and benefit from a researched understanding of where your brand falls in the market.
One important thing to remember as you compile your market research is that consumers are far more emotionally driven than you might expect. If consumers have a negative or indifferent response to your brand (perhaps due to a slow website, inconsistent brand content, or customer interactions), then it won’t matter whether your products are actually higher quality, or your customer service is more friendly and efficient—they will not buy from you, and they certainly won’t tell their friends and family to buy from you (and even worse they could be a detractor to your brand by sharing bad reviews)
Once you’ve identified your brand’s unique position in the market, and more specifically, consumers’ emotional response to your brand, then you can begin to build your product content around either maintaining your status as a quality or value brand or (more likely) repositioning your brand image to that same end.
2. …Then Exceed Them
Now that you know how your customers and consumers at-large view your brand, it’s time to exceed their expectations with powerful, engaging product content. This goes well beyond increasing the word count on your product descriptions, or switching to high-resolution photos of your products; it’s matching the tone, voice, an attitude surrounding your content with the brand that you want to be and the core values that you champion.
If you’ve done your due diligence in step one, you will know what customers are expecting of you, know the questions they’ll likely ask, and know how to the provide a positive customer experience. As you plan out your content, consider the following questions:
- What is the best possible way to arrange your online product content to be most in line with your brand?
- Will your customers respond to interactive content?
- How can you leverage video content, frequently asked questions, product reviews, as well as live customer services interactions to wow your customers?
Answering these questions will ensure your product content strategy is headed in the right direction.
3. Lay Down Some Ground Rules
Next comes the issue of content consistency, and in these instances, it is important to establish some solid branding guidelines that everyone needs to follow. Branding guidelines protect against inconsistent use of branded materials, like logos, and promotes uniformity in all communications, be they with customers, partners, or the media.
A word about branding guidelines: while they are specifically designed to keep everyone on the same page, it’s also important to remember that brands do sometimes need to change in order to remain relevant. Branding guideline should, therefore, grant enough flexibility to embrace change when necessary and they must be refreshed ensuring they are current.
In addition to branding guidelines and style guides, marketers can also set up consistent approval workflows to make sure that all content (digital, print, in-store, etc.) has been verified and approved before it gets published. On a side note: it’s important to understand that verified content is your protection against litigation. Having current, on package nutrition claims, certifications and other attributes available in your content used across the 4 corners of retail will ensure you are protected.
4. Avoid Content Cobbling
Consumers engage with brands across a rapidly increasing number of channels that extend far beyond the scope of your website or brick-and-mortar locations. Podcasts, video content, social media, email, customer service, print advertising and even third party resellers all represent your brand in different ways and to different customer segments. Nevertheless, if you have different people operating on these different channels without a unified plan (also known as content cobbling), then you’re just opening the door for content and branding inconsistency.
Thankfully, the solution to content cobbling is simple, by employing a single content distribution platform as part of your product content strategy. This will ensure that no matter where your customers or potential customers are engaging with your brand, that your approved and verified content is reaching them in a consistent manner.
5. Empower Your Teams, Create Buzz
Last of all, you need to empower your teams to work together in accessing and sharing your branded content and material. Having a unified strategy, with everyone on the same page and operating under consistent guidelines and approval flows, will naturally create positive buzz around your brand. Customers will be more likely to recommend your brand to their friends and family when they feel like your brand is one of integrity and consistency. More often than not, we see silos within organizations where pieces and parts of the content are reside. Breaking down those silos takes effort but the rewards are worth it.
Implementing a large-scale branding and product content strategy like this can be a challenge. But by getting honest about your position in the market, accounting for all the ways customers engage with your brand, and getting all your people on the same page, not only will you produce a solid brand image, but you will also improve your chances of reaching your marketing and retail goals.
For more tips on product content consistency, download our infographic: How to Stop the Pain of Inconsistent Product Content