June 13th, 2018

Why Your Links Must Be Branded in the Future — The ‘Evolved Link’ Part #2

In my first post, I delved a little deeper into the concept of the ‘link’ in relation to brands, and asked whether organizations are truly considering the full spectrum of touchpoints with their customers when they think about ‘links.’

With that in mind, it quickly becomes clear that branding is key in a truly holistic link strategy and will be one of the key elements for CMOs and CEOs driving the brands of the future.

Why brands matter

Firstly, brands matter. Period.

Any marketer worth their salt knows the importance of a clear, articulated, trusted and recognized brand. A NewsCred study in 2015 reported that brand recognition was the second most important driver of brand loyalty for millennials.

In an increasingly digital world, the places in which consumers come into contact with brands are multiplying by the day. Areva Martin wrote in Entrepreneur that brands have never before had “the chance to build a brand like you can today, then leverage it to expand your business, increase your sales, and enhance your credibility and your bottom line.”

Consumers interact with organizations inside their own homes, out in the ‘real world’, in their workplaces, while they travel and everything in between – through both new and traditional media. If we consider all these touchpoints as ‘links’ as I discussed in my last blog, then surely these should all be given equal focus and attention when it comes to branding that interaction.

Branding and trust are inextricably linked

One of the key motivators for building greater branded consistency throughout all customer touchpoints is trust. And consumer trust is about more than PR and public sentiment – it has a real business impact. Deepa Prahalad wrote for Harvard Business Review “if we look at company valuations, an increasing portion of a firm’s value resides in intangibles”, which largely “speak to how well companies are able to build trust inside the company … and with consumers and the wider community.”

Similarly, Jonathan Hinz wrote for Marketing Land about the power that consumer trust has in furthering a business as a whole.

“Whether you are a business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), technology startup or major consumer brand, you are likely struggling with the same challenges: maximizing website rankings, generating leads, attracting new prospects, keeping existing customers, improving brand loyalty and boosting conversion rates. While there are countless strategies and technologies to help address these challenges, securing your customers’ trust is an effective way to help address all of them at once.”

Consistent exposure to a brand in positive, rewarding and affirming interactions is what builds trust and loyalty with consumers. Today’s customer is savvy: they know they have options, and they’re not afraid to shop around if they’re not happy with their service. And with an entire Internet full of competitors out there, organizations can’t afford to risk that happening.

So why do branded links matter?

URL shortening platform Rebrandly reports that when comparing branded short links (or ‘vanity URL shorteners’) and generic short links, branded links outperformed the generic links significantly. In black and white: branded links can increase click-through rates by up to 39%.

You read that right — 39%! I’d like to see that sort of growth in engagement with my blogs. You’re still reading, right?

Long story short – brand matters in links. Consumers care about brand when they engage with companies, and the data unequivocally shows us that they’re more likely to click on a link from a brand they can recognize. As we’ve written before, social media links can also be fraught with danger due to how easily they can be mimicked, so incorporating your brand into these links is a valuable method to instill more trust and security into these links for your customers.

Rebrandly also provides a good explanation for how links, branding and trust all tie together.

“We are doing this so that people feel they can trust the link they are clicking on. It’s true that most of that trust starts with your brand’s relationship with the customer, but it continues all the way into the link. What are people thinking right before they click on the link? Something like, ‘where will this take me?’ And, ‘this better be worth my time.’ Link trust breaks that barrier down and gets more clicks. Psychology man, use it.”

So let’s put all this discussion of branded links, customer touchpoints, and trust and security into practice. How could this new approach be applied in business and what opportunities does it provide the data savvy CIO?

In my next article I’ll look at all the places today’s companies use links to connect with their customers, and how these could be enhanced by a more holistic, branded link strategy.

Could this be the foundation for the digital superbrands of the future?

*This article was originally published on Medium on June 12, 2018.

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