Digital Marketing Strategy Development Part 1: Image And Identity

Last Monday I shared 12 common problems associated with digital marketing strategy development.  Since I’m not one to talk problems and not offer solutions, over the next few weeks I will address these problems one by one.

The first problem discussed was as follows:

1.  Lack of understanding what image you are trying to project

You need to understand this from the start and have a style behind the image, along with substance to back it up.  It also needs to resonate with key audiences.  Most are not consciously sculpting how they are perceived or creating any reason they should get noticed in the first place.

The solution to this is obvious:  spend time defining what image/identity you want to project, and infuse it with your communications, design and branding across platforms.

But how can you know what image should you project in the first place?

Understanding your audience is step one.  But to reach them in any kind of meaningful way, you need to go further:  you must be your audience.  It is not enough merely to study them, you’re only flirting with the necessary insights.  If you’re a strategist or consultant but always an outsider you will never achieve the level of insight available to insiders.  It’s the same reason those not part of a generation almost always get their analysis of that generation wrong.

A quote from Robert Greene’s new book, the 50th law, clarifies the logic behind this:

Understand:  in this day and age, to reach people you must have access to their inner lives – their frustrations, aspirations, resentments.  To do so, you must crush as must distance as possible between you and your audience.  You enter their spirit and absorb it from within.  Their way of looking at things becomes yours, and when you re-create it in some form of work, it has life.  What shocks and excites you will then have the same effect on them.  This requires a degree of fearlessness and an open spirit.  You are not afraid to have your whole personality shaped by these intense interactions.  You assume a radical equality with the public, giving voice to people’s ideas and desires.  What you produce will naturally connect, in a deep way.

Being your target will give you the perspective necessary to know what image/identity will actually resonate.  Companies (and professionals) willing and able to put themselves in the shoes of their targets will always win against those who hide in castles and view things from the “expert” perspective.  Being an expert is well and good, but ultimately you’ll lose against others who may not even be as smart but have the advantage of an insider perspective.  I’d always rather be able to empathize with my audience than have those in ivory towers telling me how I should connect with them.

I’m a coffee lover and web user.  I had an unfair advantage when developing the java beta test.  I knew both audiences inside and out, so marketing to them was effortless.  If I get a client or brand in an industry I’m unfamiliar with, I try their product/technology and become a member of the relevant communities prior to developing strategies.  I did the same thing before developing my own identity in the marketing industry.  I wasn’t first, but I didn’t need to be – I became an active member of the existing communities and as an insider it became clear what path to take and the strategy necessary, including what image and identity I should project.

Again and again during identity development researching isn’t enough when others are actually participating.  You’ll miss the mark when the path can be obvious and apparent.  If any part of your marketing strategy is not both obvious and apparent to you, you’re probably trying to force it even if data exists behind it.  Become your audience instead of just studying them and clarity of the image you should convey will be a byproduct.

image credit: Aleksey Fursov via Shutterstock