Why Your Online Brand Needs Offline Touch Points

One of my favorite photos from our Social Strategy Boot Camp event series is the one above featuring a few attendees having fun with some of our branded stickers. More than being a great shot of people enjoying themselves on-site (a goal of any event organizer) it’s a favorite of mine for a different reason. I love it because it shows our fans interacting with our brand’s offline touchpoints.

With a billion people on Facebook and new forms of social content like Twitter’s Vine app cropping up, it’s easy for brands to focus more and more attention on their online presence. However, the brands that occupy the strongest spot in the hearts and minds of their fans are the ones that have found ways to connect with their community both online and offline.

This illustrates one of the more contradictory truths of the social web. Though technology has made us closer than ever before, we’ve also gotten increasingly distant. We can reach out and touch someone anywhere regardless of geography but we see people less. As brands, this means we can have relationships with anyone anywhere. But it also means that we may not know our customers as well as we could when they had to come into our shops, look into our eyes, and shake our hands to do business.

Whether you’re an online-only startup or a brick-and-mortar business going digital, you’re probably more concerned with the latest Facebook feature than what small brand touchstone you can put in your customers’ hands the next time you see them in real life.

This is why live events continue to be a powerful part of the marketing mix. It’s also why physical mailings or “snail mail” still matters, especially those containing handwritten notes. You might think going through the promotional product catalog looking for the right tchotchke is a pointless, exhaustive exercise but it too has a place. All of these experiences help people get to know your brand in a very physical, tactile way. A way that’s also very real and very personal.

That’s also why brand strategists will tell you that there’s no more personal connection you can make than getting a customer to wear your brand. If you’ve created a brand story strong enough for a person to walk around with your logo on a shirt or a hat, then you’ve arrived at a new level. The extreme, of course, is Harley-Davidsen fans who frequently get the company’s logo tattooed on their person—literally branding themselves!

And yet, sadly, many executives write off the above as junk under the mistaken belief that our exciting new digital brand touchpoints have replaced their tired offline counterparts. You see, they’re actually meant to complement one another in order to help you build a stronger, fully realized brand.

What can you do to change this? When was the last time someone from your brand wrote a handwritten note? What do you have that’s special that you can put in your customer’s hand the next time you see them?

Our online tools may enhance the reach of our communications but real closeness still happens offline.