Protecting your brand, from Kendall Jenner to Fox News

Effective advertising can be a daunting task for businesses, and it really doesn’t matter how small or large the company or budget (ask Pepsi how Kendall Jenner creating world peace with a can of their product is going). 

As if identifying your target audience, where/when to reach them, how much to invest in each platform you need to be on, and how to adjust your strategy based on analytics insights isn’t perplexing enough, the digital age of marketing has thrown businesses another curve ball. Consumers today have a renewed interest in the power or message behind your brand; and who you associate your brand with figures prominently into consumer’s perception of your brand and business alike.

In the age of Social Media, consumers now wield an enormous amount of power when it comes to influencing the behaviour of both buyers and sellers. And in a world where everyone with an internet connection can offer an opinion, the carefully crafted messaging behind a marketing plan can go astray if the company your brand keeps isn’t in line with your values or how you wish to be portrayed.

​The #GrabYourWallet campaign, which encourages followers to boycott a list of stores carrying products associated to the Trump family brand, has amassed over 56,000 Twitter followers in only 6 months. Since its inception in October 2016, it has removed 23 stores, including big-name brands like Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Sears, from its boycott list after they agreed (for various, often vague reasons) to break ties with Trump brands. While it remains unclear how much of an effect this movement has had on the revenues of the companies who remain on the boycott list, the damage to the brands’ public image is undeniable.

The backlash against the Fox News program, The O’Reilly Factor, has been swift in the face of serious allegations against the host. While big brands like Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet, and Jenny Craig have pulled their ads from the show, the reasons seem more calculated than principled as most of those dollars have simply been moved to other Fox News programs. And yet while Fox’s bottom line may not take a direct hit, they fired the popular host of their highest viewed program because of advertisers’ fears of being associated with such negative publicity.

By virtue of its size, popularity, and enormous number of users and advertisers, YouTube’s recent struggles have generated a great deal of interest in the marketing world. When it was discovered that ads were being run with videos espousing controversial and extremist views, big names like HSBC, McDonalds and AT&T began to boycott the video streaming website.

Like Fox News and Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, Google’s advertising revenues will likely weather the storm. But what about the companies whose ads are now linked, in the minds of consumers and viewers, to content that is the antithesis of the brand message they are trying to portray? And as we move forward through the Wild West that is internet marketing, how are advertisers supposed to navigate its murky waters and ensure that their brand standards are consistently protected across all platforms they need to be visible on?

Protecting your brand

If these recent missteps have you spooked and searching for ways to market your business while controlling your brand’s carefully crafted image, here are some tactics you should consider:

1. Invest in SEO for your website.

Your website, your rules! A high ranking on Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page) puts you in front of people who are actively searching for something that you provide. The more traffic that you generate through organic search to your own website, the more you can control the content that people see and associate with your brand.

2. Go for Google AdWords!

Because you can select which keywords to use, choose which ones to eliminate with negative keywords, and even get so granular as to only select very specific phrases to show up for, you have a certain amount of control over who sees your ad. Proper monitoring of your analytics allows you to be agile, and gives you the ability to add or eliminate keywords or phrases as you see fit.

3. Broaden your reach with Retargeting!

According to AdRoll.com, as a general rule, only about 2% of customers convert the first time that they are on your site. Retargeting your ads to these customers after they leave allows you to keep your business (and whatever service or product they were interested in) top of mind. And because your ad will show up on the sites that they choose to visit for news, sports, fashion, etc., you can feel confident that they will have a positive association with your ad and brand.

4. Say Yes to Social Media!

Sponsored posts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow you to target as broad or narrow an audience as you’d like. By using demographics like age, education, interests, and even household incomes and postal codes, you can better control who sees your ads. And while an organic presence on these and other platforms (Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) exposes your business to a larger audience, regular monitoring of your social channels allows you to gauge perception of your brand in real-time and to respond to comments which might affect how others feel about you.​

Just as stores do a breakeven on expected revenues from Ivanka’s spring collection versus how many customers they can expect to lose over carrying it, and as Fox holds auditions for the next Bill O’Reilly, Google continues to make changes to appease and win back their big-name advertisers. 

YouTube’s latest policy change involves taking ads off channels with fewer than 10,000 total views across all posted media, in the hopes that truly offensive and brand-tarnishing content will not have amassed widespread popularity and viewership. This, in addition to earlier promises of increased monitoring of content, as well as a host of new tools to help advertisers choose who to include (and eliminate) from the channels their ads are served up on, should be enough to bring many of those lost advertisers back to the fold.

It has been said that with great power comes great responsibility: online marketing has given businesses the ability to reach customers like never before, but this has come with a price. The work involved in creating a media plan for print ads and TV commercials at the beginning of a campaign pales in comparison to creating online content, tracking analytics and sentiment, and ensuring that your brand’s image is intact across a multitude of channels on a near daily basis. 

Brand game

Some businesses will use a “set it and forget it” approach with the view that just being where people are looking is enough. Unfortunately, this can do more harm than good: while you cannot control what people say about your business or associate your brand with online, a regular and high level of engagement means that you can absolutely steer the narrative in the right direction.

Like everything else, no advertising medium comes with a risk-free guarantee – the only thing that you can control is how much effort and time you put into mitigating those risks. And if you don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to go it alone, I highly recommend partnering with someone who does!

 

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