You won’t believe how these traditional brands bridged the digital divide – and WON

Think of McDonalds. They exist physically with a storefront. But they don’t have any trouble marketing their brand digitally.

Don’t be mistaken: This is hard.

The opposite is true too. Activating a digital brand in-person is really difficult.

So it’s no wonder you’re reading this article. My co-founder Leah and I have worked with lots of brands who’ve faced this exact challenge.

When they come to us, these are the 3 ways we recommend ...

  • digital brands can extend their brand physically and
  • in-person brands can activate their brand digitally.

Let’s dive in.

Part I: From brick-and-mortar to the digital world

Marketers can’t ignore the digital realm in 2023. Just no.

Even if your brand has existed in the physical for decades, you have an obligation to extend that brand to a digital presence. Your customers (and your future customers 😉) patiently await.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Embrace a virtual experience

When your customers walk into your physical store (or hospital or bowling alley – whatever), they’re not just buying a product or service.

They're buying an experience.

The ambiance, the personal interaction with your team, even the way your place smells – it's all part of the package.

But who says you can't replicate that digitally? Maybe not the smells, but the emotions!

The world’s best brand designers and marketers are able to transfer your in-person customer experience to a digital presence – website, brand, etc. Everywhere you exist online.

But before you partner with a marketer, think about how you can recreate your vibes through visuals, sounds or for the more advanced folks, even augmented reality.

It might sound a bit futuristic, but trust me, some brands are already nailing this – even here in the Midwest.

Another example: IKEA. Yes, the furniture we all love.

Their AR app lets you visualize how furniture would look in your home before you buy.

2. Use social media for a personal touch

Social media isn't just about posting your latest offers. It’s an opportunity to build relationships, to add a personal touch to your customer experience.

Have fun with it. Or don’t – depends on the experience you want to create for your customers and audience.

Think about ways you can create a sense of belonging, just like you do in-person.

  • Host live Q&As on Instagram
  • Share behind-the-scenes content on TikTok
  • Start conversations on Twitter

Keep it real, keep it engaging.

Look at Glossier’s Instagram. This is a masterclass in bringing your physical product customers into the digital world. It feels like your next door neighbor’s account, doesn’t it?

3. Use technology (maybe AI) to personalize the customer experience

Nothing beats the feeling of walking into your favorite store and having the staff know your name. It’s doubly cool if they know your taste!

Guess what. You can recreate this experience digitally.

Email and text platforms allow you to communicate one-to-one with your customers and offer personalized recommendations to your customers, just like a store assistant would in-person.

Part II: Activating your digital brand physically

1. Host pop-up events

Pop-ups are a fantastic way for digital brands to dip their toes into the “real world.”

A tangible experience for your customers? Heck yeah.

Generate some buzz for your brand? Don’t mind if I do.

Encapsulate your brand ethos in a small space? Chef’s kiss, muah!

Glossier (yes, again) nailed this with Instagrammable pop-up shops. These experiences are more than just temporary sales spaces.

They’re a physical embodiment of their digital brand.

2. Partner with a retailer

If setting up your own physical presence seems daunting (especially for a traditionally digital brand), why not partner with an existing retailer?

It's a win-win situation. They offer their customers a different, fresh take on their experience, and you get in front of a new audience.

3. Create a signature physical product

This one's about making a physical statement that's unmistakably YOU.

What do you think about creating a signature product or experience that people can only get in-person?

Maybe it's a limited-edition product, a special in-store service or an exclusive event. Think of it as your physical brand ambassador – something people can touch, feel and remember.

Spotify's Time Capsule event at CES in 2018 is a fantastic example of this.

Spotify exclusively exists online. But they hosted a party, complete with a DJ set and lots of live music, to launch a new feature. Talk about immersing your fans in your brand in a memorable way.

So no matter whether you’re a traditionally IRL brand or a modern digital brand, it’s possible – nay, it’s obligatory – you extend your brand to stay atop your customers’ minds and continue growing.

Want to learn a few more ways we’ve helped brands do this? Check out our work or book a consult with us.

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