Cross-Channel Branding

As more media opportunities open up, the issue facing marketers is not only which media channel should carry a brand’s messages but also how to secure brand synergy across media channels. How do you ensure that you don’t dissect your brand’s image into isolated brand islands, fragmenting rather than integrating your campaign? Here are a couple of principles that will help you avoid disabling your brand’s message.

Channel Synergy

Your brand should enjoy synergy across a range of passive and interactive media. For example, if you use television, a passive channel, you could use the medium to direct your audience toward an interactive medium, such as the store. Then, make sure the in-store promotion harnesses the traffic generated by TV. If it doesn’t, failure occurs and synergy is lost. If you run a radio promotion, use that medium to push your audience traffic toward, for example, your Internet site, which enables interaction between your brand and its audience. Use print media to encourage interaction via the mobile phone’s SMS service, enabling another form of consumer interactivity.

See the principle? Shift between passive and active media, and always make sure that you link the channels’ traffic together. This spreads your brand’s message as widely as possible and ensures that consumers have somewhere to go or an action to take — anything that keeps them involved with your brand. Why? Because if you see a TV commercial tonight, you might not be able to act on it until tomorrow, by which time your memory of the brand could have evaporated. The passive/interactive channel combination allows for immediate response. If you happen to pass a billboard but can’t stop the car, an Internet address links the billboard’s message to an opportunity for imminent action. This passive/interactive channel combination secures the constant possibility of consumer action and response.

Tone of Voice

Let’s dispel a myth: A brand needn’t have the same tone of voice across media. Some media channels require a relaxed tone, others a formal and detail-oriented tone. In fact, it’s likely that you could destroy your brand if you try to force a certain tone of voice upon a medium that’s not sympathetic with that channel. Let’s take the mobile phone. You have just eight words at your disposal. Formal language requires many more words. Its tone doesn’t coalesce with the quick, easy, and disposable style associated with the medium as a message carrier.

I don’t mean your message shouldn’t reflect consistency across communication channels. Brand consistency lies in core values, key words, and identifiable style — not copy. Copy can no longer remain the same in every brand manifestation. The range of media at your disposal requires your brand’s tone of voice to be flexible.

Responding to Consumer Preferences

In my part of the world, “Big Brother” is a hit. Viewers vote on who should stay in the “Big Brother” house and who must leave. The TV audience calls a phone number to vote. Most “Big Brother” viewers fall into the 14- to 28-year-old segment, and most have mobile phones and Web access. Despite the fact up to 80 percent of the audience prefers to use email or SMS to vote, these options aren’t offered. Why is that? Because the TV station earns a few cents on every call. How many potential voters is the TV station losing by forcing viewers to use one communication channel? Why doesn’t it leverage the fact SMS or Internet voting would generate other advertising and revenue opportunities and, possibly, 50 percent more viewers?

Choice of medium should not be based on what’s convenient for the marketer but what’s convenient for the consumer. If consumers prefer email, give them email access. If they prefer paper coupons, give them paper coupons. In the end, your choice of channel will affect your traffic and brand loyalty.

Do these three pieces of advice make you an expert in cross-channel management? Hardly. But, if you can say you adhere to these principles, you’re 10 steps ahead of most marketers. They still believe cross-channel management is about including a URL in newspaper ads or a phone number on TV spots.

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