Social media is abuzz with “personal branding,” but identity creation stretches far even when the internet is disconnected. People want to see entrepreneurs in person just like the brands they see online. Sprinkle in technology, and branding is even more imposing.
As one expert stated, branding is not just about getting your target market to select you over your competitor. It’s also about getting your prospects to see you as the sole provider of a solution to their problem or need.
Phelix Juma is one such problem solver. The noted electrical and telecommunications engineer co-founded and directs both Patika and Kuza Lab. Also a software developer, engineer and architect, he explained in an Africa Tweet Chat how technology enhances and challenges personal branding.
“Brand marketing entails promoting products and services while ensuring that the communication represents the values and identity of the company,” Juma said.
Stirring technology into the mix streamlines business owners’ awareness.
“Tech has created a feedback mechanism through customer engagements and interactions,” Juma said. “These help entrepreneurs better understand their customers’ tastes and opinions about the brand. In turn, this informs the brand’s decisions on how to improve its services.”
Another factor is the ease of measuring results.
“Unlike traditional media, we can know how many people interacted with an ad and the exact conversion rate,” Juma said. “We now rank the various channels based on effectiveness. That lets us focus only on channels that bring higher return on investment.”
One result is a bigger, dynamic and targeted audience.
“We get to choose the target audience based on demographic factors: age, gender, religion, location and so on,” Juma said. “This promises higher conversion rates. At the same time, you’ll lower unit costs while increasing ROI.”
Even with tech, humans retain their power to time and modify tactics.
“Unlike traditional media, digital marketing benefits from the ability to dynamically modify the content,” Juma said. “Marketers base this on insights derived from ad performance as well as control of when they want the ad to be seen.”
Risky total automation
Technology can seem like a double-edged sword that potentially helps or hurts a brand.
“Tech should be used with a specific mission and plan of achieving the mission,” Juma said. “Are you using technology to augment or avoid human interactions? If your answer is avoidance, your brand is definitely gonna be hurt real fast.
“A chatbot on your website is great, but wrongly implemented chatbots send responses — as we’ve seen before — that could ruin the brand’s image,” he said. “We’ve seen automated tweets go wrong on several occasions.”
Good intent also goes awry when security is lax.
“If not well secured, cyber attackers can access your systems and steal sensitive user data,” Juma said. “In the case of social media accounts, that leads to broadcasting brand-damaging content. That’s why brand owners must ensure the security of all their systems.
“With measures taken to mitigate all the possible risks, the benefits of technology to a brand cannot be fully enumerated,” he said. “These include reduced costs and improved decision-making processes, which help us offer better services to the customers.”
Tech trends have come into fashion in today’s brand marketing, starting with data-driven creativity.
“Analyzing the performance of previous ads helps us understand what makes a performing ad,” Juma said. “This helps us differentiate from the start of ad design to the channel it’s on, along with targeting and timing. Right-time advertising is real-time marketing.”
He also is a fan of personalization.
“This is where people see ads based on their interests,” Juma said. “We have seen increased conversion rates and improved ad reception. Ad systems have morphed into tools that make it easier for us to get what we want, rather than force what we don’t want onto us.”
Numbers behind the voice
Voice search is another tool brands can use to their benefit. Juma cited statistics to back up his case:
- There are over 45 million voice-assisted devices in the United States alone.
- Screenless browsing is expected to account for 30 percent of all browsing in the next year.
- Fifty percent of searches are conducted by voice.
“Because the nature of voice search is very different from text-based searches, it is important for brands to implement voice-friendly search engine optimization on their content,” Juma said.
“Have scannable content,” he said. “Focus on long-tail keywords. Create frequently asked questions pages. Submit a sitemap to Google. Have My Business information on Google, including all the important information about your company.”
Artificial intelligence is vital to boost marketing and sales within brands.
“Deep-learning models have improved the accuracy of visual search and image recognition,” Juma said. “That makes it easier for our products to be found online. Natural language processing has improved social listening and sentiment analysis.
“Social listening helps marketers analyze their brand presence, conversations around their brand and even what people say about them on social media,” he said.
Marketers vie for any way to peek into customers’ minds.
“Sentiment analysis can determine the public’s prevailing attitude toward products and brands,” Juma said. “This helps spot potential issues and lets you counteract them well in advance before they spread widely.”
Artificial intelligence readily helps entrepreneurs compile data and insights into their communities. Juma recounted several examples:
- Audience targeting and segmentation
- Predictive analytics to forecast sales based on several parameters
- Dynamic product pricing and data-driven decisions on what to have on coupons and promotions based on insights from system use data
Daily digital disruption has greatly affected brand marketing.
“Digital disruption has changed the behavior of consumers,” Juma said. “Brands must identify changes in customer needs, move with the tides to fulfill the emerging needs and identify new opportunities presented to them.
“This is an unstoppable force,” he said. “Brands such as Kodak, Nokia (Mobile), the taxi industry, music business, banking and retail bear witness to this. Brands must embrace digital disruption and even better, pre-empt and plan for them.”
Strength in partnerships
The successful entrepreneur is not a spectator.
“Use emerging technologies to your advantage,” Juma said. “If systems have generated a lot of data depicting the user’s behavior on your platform, why not partner with brands like Insense Data Technologies to help you make sense of the data and improve your service delivery?
“Follow the consumers,” he said. “If they are leaving print media to Twitter, why should you continue placing your ads on print media and not Twitter? If they watch video content on Facebook videos and YouTube, why put your ads on TV and not YouTube?”
Juma mentioned “quite unknown companies” that use technologies of the future to shape the industry:
- Gigya: An Israel-based company provides consumer identity management to help companies find their customers online and engage with them on social media. It has major clients such as Walmart, Pepsi and Adidas.
- Ubex: An advertising platform solves the problems of the marketing industry through the use of neural networks and blockchain technology.
- BitTeaser: Its blockchain technology reduces the cases of auto-generated impressions on ads.
- Insense Data Technologies: The decision-intelligence platform’s retail package includes a portal that can help brands make marketing decisions, especially around promotions and coupons.
Juma cautioned startups not to despair.
“Things will definitely get tough,” he said. “You might run out of cash and feel like quitting, but in the end, focus on achieving the mission and building. What people want will always pay.”