Brand Management Strategies for the Digital Era

By: Qhawekazi Mdikane, Executive Head, Momentum | Tuesday, 25 June 2024

An award-winning marketing leader with 21 years of experience across various industries, Qhawekazi excels in crisis communications and brand management. Over the years she has led high-performing teams and innovative campaigns for multinational companies, consistently delivering ambitious business growth and staying culturally relevant.

In a recent conversation with the Global Woman Leader Magazine, Qhawekazi shares her views on the digital era's impact on brand management and the latest industry trends. She also talks about effective strategies for overcoming marketing challenges, and aligning business goals with social responsibility to build audience trust.

In recent years, the world has witnessed an unprecedented shift towards digitalization. In what ways does the digital era impact brand management, could you explore the latest trends that shaping the world of brand management?

The advent of social media and other digital platforms has made brand management more complex but also more dynamic, engaging and exciting. Brands must stay agile, engage authentically with their audience, adapt to the ever-changing media landscape to maintain their presence in the market and utilize data to tailor personalized experiences.I would say that digitalisation has impacted brand management in five ways: increased consumer power and engagement, real-time feedback, behavioral targeting and personalization, content strategy and execution and reach to a global audience.

Increased Consumer Power & Engagement

Social media has influenced consumers significantly by empowering consumers to broadcast their voice, express their views and opinions freely. This influence has inspired many brands to engage more authentically.

Real-Time Feedback

Brands can receive immediate feedback from consumers, and this has inspired brands to have a more agile approach to brand management. This has also allowed brands to respond swiftly to negative feedback which has the potential of impacting brand reputation.

Behavioural Targeting & Feedback

Brands now have access to consumer data that they can use to understand consumer behavior enabling them to tailor their marketing strategies to a specific audience to deliver a personalized experience that resonates with the target audience.

Content Strategy & Execution

Brands have access to a plethora of digital media and a big fan base to reach a wider audience. Social media has allowed brands to communicate in an authentic, culturally relevant and personalized way making brands more authentic in how they show up.

Global reach

Digital media reaches audiences worldwide, enabling brands to expand their reach but also requiring them to tailor their message to diverse cultural context.

Customers today expect personalized experiences from the brands they interact with, what strategies or approaches have you found most effective in overcoming challenges and navigating crisis situations as a marketing executive, particularly in relation to brand custodian roles?

As a brand custodian I have become acquainted with the way social media is the first port of call for any issues and complaints raised by consumers. Positioning your brand as a brand with meaning and purpose builds positive brand reputation that fosters trust with your audience. The brand gains goodwill with the audience so that when things do go wrong the audience can become your brand ambassadors.

As a successful woman leader, how do you balance strategic direction and hands-on experience to guide groups, implement operations and tactically prioritize the data-oriented actions?

It is a challenge and in fact every year at my company we do an exercise called Word of the Year. The idea is to choose a word that can ground your intentions for the year. This year, ‘Surrender’ is my north star. It has allowed me to adopt an empowering leadership style that allows my team autonomy and momentum to make decisions and work together to achieve a common goal. I provide them with tools to be effective while taking ownership of their work. This leadership style is the one I resonate with as it has given me authority to make decisions and boosted my confidence in my abilities throughout my career.

With the increasing focus on conscious branding and community care in the post-pandemic world, how do companies align their business goals with social responsibility initiatives to produce a favorable effect on the target audience and build trust among them?

Today’s brand narratives need to strike a chord with entire communities and societies and not only with a narrow customer base. Active citizenry can strike anywhere against any poor business practice and will not come only from an individual brand’s own consumers.

To meet the demand to be a conscious brand it must be part of your business - it is different from Corporate Social Investment it truly means that companies need to practice what they preach in a way that aligns with their brand and company’s purpose. It’s about having a purpose as a company that drives the culture that will then dictate how employees behave and treat others externally.

What are the ways brands employ data analysis and AI to empower brand management, predict market trends, and increase customer satisfaction through support and engagement?

Brands are doing a lot in the space of AI by strategically employing data analysis and AI to gain a competitive advantage, foster stronger customer relationships, and achieve sustainable growth. AI has been used by brands to analyse social media data to extract insights to optimize brand campaigns, enhance customer experience and engagement, and forecast demand and manage inventory. There are a lot of AI images that attract the consumers’ attention and create talk ability amongst consumers. But it is important to be cautious and beware of the dangers of AI. There are privacy issues to consider and other ethical considerations that a Brand needs to take into consideration.

How can brands effectively align their pursuit of positive change for the planet and society with their profit motive, ensuring that their actions not only make a positive impact but also contribute to their long-term financial success?

We need brands that drive positive change for the planet and for society, especially for the vulnerable in society. Brands are able to convey their messages in languages that their target audience can understand and relate to whether humour, music, mass cultural movements or sport to land their message for years to come. It’s about being intentional and having a purpose that everyone can rally behind no matter what position they work for. It can be tricky and it’s a different way of thinking but it’s about understanding that all our fates are tied. So, if we keep being ignorant about sustainability for instance there won’t be a planet for us to operate in. A positive change benefits us all and businesses should be at the forefront of driving change.