Four ways to showcase the faces behind the brand
May 2, 2012 Leave a Comment
The world of online shopping is both growing and shrinking. There are now more brands online than ever — while at the same time, the landscape is increasingly dominated by mass-merchant behemoths like Amazon. A new study by WorldPay found that fully 43% of shoppers worldwide have used Amazon.com in the past three months; in the U.S., the number is even higher, at 83%.
For small to medium-sized merchants to thrive in this environment, it’s crucial to communicate a strong brand identity. Brands that occupy a unique position in the marketplace distinguish themselves from the crowd and can compete against the big brands by giving shoppers a sense of community with other brand followers who share the same vision, outlook or lifestyle.
One of the best ways to communicate that identity is by showcasing the brand’s expertise and authority. Toward that end, merchants have long employed expert buying guides and lifestyle content to help define their brands.
Now, with the advent of social media, merchants are taking the concept further and showcasing the individuals whose passion and knowledge collectively contribute to the brand’s expertise — not just founders and CEOs, but employees from all aspects of the business. Consider these new ideas for showing off the faces behind the brand:
Take buying guides to the next level – Rather than one-size-fits-all product lists, publish buying guides with personalities behind them. Let the authors be opinionated and write copy in their own voice about why they endorse the products that make the list. J. Crew’s home page features a summer style guide by Gayle, “our do-it-all super-stylist”. The guide is assembled like a magazine layout, with callout quotes from Gayle about fashion trends, such as “for me, stripes are a neutral;” shoppers can click on looks to select individual products for purchase. A link on every page of the guide connects viewers to a profile of Gayle, with personal details such as her predilection for Ritter Sport chocolate. The overall effect is a highly personal take on fashion trends from an authoritative voice.
Go social – Social outposts are a great opportunity to communicate the brand’s voice through status updates and posted photos and videos. To add individual faces to the mix, showcase employees whose passions and expertise support the brand’s identity. MarketLive merchant Title Nine uses its Facebook page to showcase staffers who participate in local athletic events — as in the entries below about runners and cyclists participating in races. The message is that the company doesn’t just sell women’s athletic apparel, but is comprised of individuals who live the same lifestyle as their customers. The post on runners even led to a product discussion, with one poster asking, “Now tell me which sports bras are good for not chafing while running a marathon” and brand followers and employees chiming in with their opinions.
Forge in-store connections – Bricks-and-mortar retailers have a unique source of brand expertise: store associates, whose individual areas of expertise contribute to the shopping experience. Bring that expertise online with features that spotlight individual store representatives, as Guitar Center did with the “Experts” section of its site. Store staffers have individual profile pages detailing their music expertise, including photos, videos and audio, along with recommended gear lists. Shoppers can browse profiles to find associates with interests similar to theirs, shop directly from associates’ gear lists, and send direct messages. The page below for Scott H. shows shoppers that this store representative doesn’t just sell guitars, but uses them in his own performances and has extensive musical training. The profile showcases the depth of expertise of the Guitar Center staff, adding to the overall credibility of the brand. In addition to being accessible from the global navigation link, profiles are displayed on the pages for individual locations accessed through the store locator — signaling to shoppers that their nearest location is staffed by experts. Shoppers browsing local inventory can access profiles relevant to the category they’re perusing.
Don’t forget behind-the-scenes staff. When showcasing employee expertise, feature personnel who contribute to the brand’s core identity, even if they aren’t responsible for front-line sales. For example, recreational outfitter REI has given its sustainability director the opportunity to post about his work on the REI blog — such as in this post about eliminating plastic packaging for shipped goods. The in-depth article gives shoppers a peek into the company’s sustainability efforts and bolsters the environmentally-conscious image of the brand.
How do you spotlight the personalities behind your brand?