The dos and don’ts of online branding


Sinéad Gray

The dos and don’ts of online branding

While there are some excellent examples of how to market a brand successfully online, businesses using the Internet and social media must be aware of the pitfalls. Sinéad Gray, the social media lead at integrated communications agency Kindred, explains what’s clever and what’s not.

To mark its 100th birthday, biscuit brand Oreo wanted to celebrate in style. Reaching a century is a huge milestone for any brand, showing longevity and implying adaptability, but there is only one chance to use that achievement to capture the world’s imagination. Last year, the chocolate biscuit maker set pulses racing with its 100-day ‘daily twist’ campaign, in which a new piece of Oreo-themed content was created every day based on the global news agenda.

The campaign peaked with the now-famous ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ image released during the Superbowl blackout, and was hugely successful at generating an online buzz and reinvigorating a 100-year-old brand.

For the quality of its content, Oreo’s ‘daily twist’ initiative is a standout example of an innovative online branding campaign. But there are other attributes to a successful marketing initiative: engaging, relevant and consistent content are all important. A good media plan to back this up is vital to ensure brand recall and encourage consumer action.

For consistency, Newcastle Brown Ale and its ‘no bollocks’ campaign, based around the promise of “good beer without the bollocks of traditional beer advertising”, ticks all the boxes. The campaign is smart, edgy and engaging and executed superbly across multiple channels. It started on Facebook, where the brand managers started testing their pithy #nobollox one liners, which differentiated the brand from its competitors and helped it achieve cut-through in a crowded market. The #nobollox lines are now used in Newcastle Brown Ale’s above-the-line advertising, and the campaign helped increase sales by more than 5 percent.

When using the Internet to market their brands, businesses must have a content-driven approach. When it’s done well, content gets people talking about—and sharing—brands online. As we saw with Oreo’s daily twist, quality is key. The phrase ‘content is king’ has created a flood of branded content, but not all of it is good. It’s important for brands to be honest and to take a strategic approach; everything a brand does online should be consistent, genuine and joined up.

If they don’t follow these simple rules, brands can run into trouble. A lack of strategic direction, lack of investment and poor community management of online channels are all reasons that brands lose position and influence online. Creating content for content’s sake is a big no-no, while inaction is also a big contributing factor to losing influence online—brands can’t ignore online channels because of risk-averse attitudes or a lack of interest from senior management. Doing nothing means that brands can very quickly fall behind their competitors.

Brands’ social media to-do list

In particular, inaction is advised against. The interactive worlds of Facebook and Twitter provide a great opportunity for mixing with customers, and these people should be listened to. Responding to questions is vital.

A lack of strategic direction, lack of investment and poor community management of online channels are all reasons that brans lose position and influence online. 

There are many other ways brands can slip up on social media. Top tips include: Don’t treat social media platforms as advertising media. A brand’s approach must be focused on engaging its audience—it’s not just another channel to push out messaging.

Don’t be afraid to take a test-and-learn approach to your social media activity; you will need to try new things to communicate your messages effectively. Some will work, some won’t, so mould your approach as you learn.

Don’t use your standard corporate tone of voice on social media. These channels need to be treated differently, so if you have a statement to issue, adapt it for the channel you are using. Don’t do a ‘WHSmith’ on it: the retailer tweeted an entire corporate statement line by line and received a lot of criticism for it.

Don’t tweet in haste and repent at leisure. Even a deleted tweet can be screen-grabbed by a beady-eyed follower and haunt you forever.

Don’t mix up your personal feed and your corporate feed and tweet something at best embarrassing and at worst damaging to your reputation.

Don’t buy likes. There are some dodgy dealers online who will secure you thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers overnight. These will never be genuine fans, so don’t do it. Effective social media is about engagement levels, not ‘like’ numbers.

There are some things that all brands should be doing on social media. Most important, use it. Investing time and money in your social media activity is key. Assigning it to an employee who can give it 10 minutes at the end of each day will not make your social media activity successful. Doing social media badly can be more damaging than not doing it at all.

Do take a long-term approach. If a brand is going to set up social media channels, it must have a plan in place to how these will be managed. Once channels are live, they need maintaining.

Do have a crisis communications plan; all brands should have a system in place for who will take charge and what the response will be in the event of a crisis. This must also ensure that a brand can respond quickly, and it may mean bypassing normal sign-off procedures to stay in control online.

Social media is clearly a crucial channel for online branding. Twitter is growing rapidly and won’t be going anywhere in the near future. The mobile market is also something all brands should be thinking about. Smartphone penetration is higher in the UK than anywhere else in Europe and is increasing year-on-year; how much smartphone owners use their devices for online browsing is increasing too.

All brand sites should be mobile-optimised (many still aren’t) and any information or content a brand produces should be accessible on a mobile device. 

The future is never certain. Five years is a long time in branding: back in 2008 Instagram, Vine and Snapchat didn’t exist and no-one had heard of an iPad. Over the next five years things will change even more rapidly. The online landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented and there’s always the chance of new disruptive technology starting up and overtaking some of today’s major players.

Sinéad Gray is the social media lead at integrated communications agency Kindred. She can be contacted at:

This article was first published on 19 December 2013 in World IP Review

online branding, daily twist, oreo, no bollocks

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