3 Pillars of Digital Marketing

Photo by Lindsey Karberg

Every year, I have the honor of lecturing to Professor Ron Hess’s MBA students at William & Mary about digital marketing. And every year, the students are surprised that I kick off my lecture with brand marketing not digital marketing. I tell them that Brand is the lifeblood of Digital. Essentially, Brand can operate without Digital, but Digital cannot function optimally without Brand.

Why Should Digital Marketers Obsess Over Brand?

The reason having a cohesive Brand strategy is so important is simple: it makes you memorable, it helps you gain trust, and it establishes a connection with your audience. Your Brand is who you are in the eyes of the world, and if that is not clear, your digital marketing could likely come across as a hot mess.

Starbucks Gets Brand Marketing and Digital Marketing Right

Starbucks’s Breakfast Blend hits the spot, but I would argue that its brand-to-digital marketing blend is its most well-balanced achievement. Thanks to the look, feel, and messaging associated with the coffee conglomerate, the brand stands on its own without any digital presence. When you sprinkle on its digital prowess — from its enviable social media community to its powerhouse mobile app — Starbucks takes its brand to a whole new level.

Now imagine that Starbucks’s digital channels, ads, content, app, etc. all looked different and had disjointed messaging. It would not feel like Starbucks. You would likely be confused, skeptical, and quite possibly turned-off by the disconnected experiences.

Digital — coupled with Brand — helps Starbucks extend its reach, foster loyalty, ease customer points of friction, and boost awareness.

Photo by Dom J from Pexels

Starbucks has figured out the three key ingredients for effective digital marketing: Consistency, Frequency, and Intensity. It continually mixes these with the potency of its strong brand, and Starbucks has become a digital machine.

Consistency, Frequency, and Intensity in Digital Marketing

Most brands do not have the resources or reach of Starbucks nor do they have the luxury of being a household name. Here are some tips — for the rest of us — on how to tap into the three pillars of digital marketing with some first-hand examples that demonstrate how to keep your brand identity at the center of your strategy…

1. Consistency

If it does not look and feel the same, it is not the same. To achieve consistency, your digital ads, organic posts, original content, etc. must have cohesion — in both your online and offline worlds — otherwise, your consumers will not connect the dots. If your audience cannot easily make the digital-to-brand connection, you should take a step back to focus on brand cohesiveness in your digital marketing strategy.

At a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand I worked on, consistency was the bedrock of our strategy. We drove a multi-million dollar, nationwide DTC marketing campaign, and we needed to ensure that what a consumer was seeing on our television (TV) ads was the same as what they would see in online ads, through organic social media, via offline promotions, and in person. We learned that when our digital advertising or digital content strayed too far from the core elements of our brand identity, the performance was lackluster. On the other hand, when it complemented the brand’s look, messaging, and feel, the performance was solid.

Consistency is about connecting the dots. If your audience cannot easily make the digital-to-brand connection, you should take a step back to focus on brand cohesiveness in your digital marketing strategy.

2. Frequency

The old “Marketing Rule of 7” — where it takes seven brand interactions for a consumer to take action — no longer applies in the digital world, especially when it has been estimated that an average consumer sees 1,000s of ads per day. It is more likely 27, 37, 47, or even 57+ interactions that need to take place to cut through the clutter. This is why a sound digital marketing strategy requires persistence. It requires a continued effort of digital ads, social media engagements, organic content, emails, etc. served on a frequent basis to keep your brand top-of-mind. With frequency, it boils down to establishing brand familiarity. If prospective customers are not familiar with your brand, you should get the digital marketing machine cranking out more frequently.

For a business-to-business (B2B) brand I worked on, we heavily relied upon dozens and dozens of interactions with prospects to drive action, including face-to-face meetings, digital marketing, and tradeshows. The sales cycle for the product could take months and our sales representatives had limited time, which made the frequency of face-to-face visits and phone conversations lower than often desired. This is where digital marketing helped. Digital played a strategic role in augmenting and supplementing sales representatives’ interactions based on where a prospect was in their individual path to purchase. For example, if a prospect was forecasted to purchase the product, digital advertising and communication became more frequent for that individual. Of course, when it comes to digital marketing frequency, there is a fine line between gently nudging and annoyingly inundating your prospects, but that is something we learned to optimize through continued testing.

Frequency is about establishing brand familiarity. If prospective customers are not familiar with your brand, you should get the digital marketing machine cranking out more frequently.

3. Intensity

Effective digital marketing strategies have a grand presence and elicit big feelings. Brands that do digital marketing well create a “surround sound” effect of content for their target audiences, so it feels as if the brand is larger than life. These brands also rely on emotional appeal to drive up intensity. Tapping into emotions such as happiness or sadness, joy or anger, safety or fear, etc. makes a brand more memorable and relatable, allowing the brand to establish trust and credibility. Ultimately, intensity is about making an impression. If your brand is drowning in a sea of competitors, you should concentrate on tapping into emotions through digital content and creating a seemingly omniscient digital marketing presence for prospects and customers.

For a brand I worked on with both a DTC and B2B strategy, we relied heavily on intensity to make the brand feel colossal when a consumer (DTC) or prospect (B2B) showed signs of interest. Once a consumer or prospect was exposed to the brand through a TV commercial, Google search, local billboard, or Sales Representative, they would start to see and hear about the brand at every turn. We coupled this amplified experience with consistent feelings of joy, belonging, safety, and more, so consumers and prospects could feel connected to and more readily trust the brand. In fact, we used humor to create an emotional connection with our target demographic while blitzing them with strategic digital advertising and robust social media activity.

Intensity is about making an impression. If your brand is drowning in a sea of competitors, you should concentrate on tapping into emotions through digital content and creating a seemingly omniscient digital marketing presence for prospects and customers.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Advanced Digital Marketing Requires Getting Back to Brand Basics

With all the marketing technology, social media platforms, artificial intelligence capabilities, data analytics, and more driving today’s digital marketing, it can be intimidating to embark on a digital strategy. Before you dive into advanced capabilities, get back to the basics. Build a strong foundation for your brand first-and-foremost, and then you will discover that digital marketing becomes much more fluid and impactful, especially when you focus on consistency, frequency, and intensity.

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VP of Marketing at Verana Health. Passion for digital health, start-up life, diversity & inclusion, and improving healthcare. Views my own.

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Lindsey Karberg

Lindsey Karberg

VP of Marketing at Verana Health. Passion for digital health, start-up life, diversity & inclusion, and improving healthcare. Views my own.

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