John Horsley
John Horsley 31 March 2014

Brand Bravery: Enabling customers to mould your online brand identity

What makes a compelling digital brand story? Nathalie Nahai, the Web Psychologist, talks ahead of her keynote at Sitecore Digital Trendspot to explore knowledge gaps and ‘listicles', and why brands need to relinquish control of their brand story.



An interview with, Nathalie Nahai 

What makes a compelling digital brand story? Nathalie Nahai, the Web Psychologist, talks ahead of her keynote at 
Sitecore Digital Trendspot to explore knowledge gaps and ‘listicles’, and why brands need to relinquish control of their brand story.


Today’s digital ecosystem has clearly evolved the manner in which brands interact with their customers; communication between these two parties was once typically top-down, less of a conversation and more of a one-way dialogue.


While this was acceptable in an analogue age, brands have had no option but to accept that in making the ‘digital switch’ their customers now expect a ‘flat hierarchy’; one in which they are able to interact directly with an organisation and help influence and shape the brand story.


Brands that have created the most engaging and persuasive stories online are those which have been receptive to this demand and brave enough to allow their customers to become a central character within their story. Many businesses are reluctant to relinquish any control of their brand story because they mistakenly fear an ‘always on’, two way dialogue, which can consequently have a negative impact on building stronger customer relationships. Failure to relinquish control to customers in this way often goes hand-in-hand with poor use of social media, a failure that I have observed many times before.


It’s a challenge many financial services firms face, for example. By nature, companies in this sector are less agile, commonly bound by strict legal constraints and bureaucracy, which means they are often reluctant to cast customers in the central role of their brand story.


Marketers who face this type of challenge should focus on making incremental step changes to their brand’s online persona to try and build a level of trust with their customers in the first instance. It is also important for marketers to offer customers some degree of personalisation if they wish to create a powerful and engaging online brand personality.


Admittedly, customer personalisation does have some potential to concern a select few people who may worry that their privacy is being compromised. However, generally, people are willing to trade a certain level of privacy in return for a more personal and tailored user experience where they can clearly see the benefits – and again, this often depends on how much they trust a company.


Those brands which are looking to build trust with their customers should aim to demystify personalisation and the opportunities for customers to take control, and highlight internally the benefits of applying a few key principles of web psychology to their digital strategy.


It’s a given that every brand will have customers who have had a negative experience at some point, but it’s important to remember than even anger can be turned into advocacy. By taking a proactive approach, being open and transparent, and engaging directly with the customer, brands can transform negativity into something positive.


The point is that creating a persuasive and compelling digital brand story can be achieved in a number of ways; one of the most effective methods is to create a sense of curiosity or mystery around a brand. The new breed of publishing companies, such as BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, do this very well. They create a ‘knowledge gap’ that people are desperate to bridge, often by teasing a headline (or a ‘listicle’ as it’s known) such as, ’17 problems drivers know too well’, which is clouded in mystery and, therefore, drives their intrigue.


Other brands choose to focus on creating a mischievous and playful identity online by encouraging their customers to share their experiences and enjoyment of the brand. Nasty Gal, a US fashion company, is a great example of this; the brand involves its customers by asking them to upload pictures of themselves wearing the apparel. This helps to create a series of micro-stories which turns the narrative and attention away from the company and on to its most valuable asset: the customers.


Ultimately, brands that put their customers first have nothing to fear, and will be the most confident and flexible when it comes to managing their brand story and identity online; consequently helping to build stronger relationships with customers and, crucially, drive sales.


Nathalie Nahai is speaking at Sitecore Digital Trendspot 2014, which is being held on 10th April at the Business Design Centre, Islington



You’re invited to attend Sitecore Digital Trendspot, a day to discover the art of digital brand storytelling. Visit the event site to discover more about this year’s Sitecore Digital Trendspot, Thursday 10th April, Business Design Centre, Islington. Readers of Digital Doughnut can get a 50% discount on the ticket price by using the code: DNUTDTS50 at the checkout.


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