In convo with Edirn Altern, Creative Director of Mustard Seed Relationship Marketing 

Q: How can a brand stay fresh and relevant in a COVID environment? 

A: No doubt the pandemic has changed our lives and the way we interact with the world. It has forced customers to adapt a more virtual approach when engaging with brands. There are so many competitive brands to choose from online that marketers – now more than ever – have to stay true to expressing the uniqueness of their product or service. What is the USP or UDF (unique differentiating factor)? 

According to an August 2020 report by McKinsey, 75% of Americans have changed brands during the pandemic. Most likely, the same can be said for South Africa. Reasons are availability,

value and convenience. This means there are big opportunities for brands to attract new customers.   

This is also the perfect time to reset your brand. However, carefully consider both fresh and familiar aspects with any brand refresh. Brand loyalty is an important factor, so our approach at Mustard Seed is to first work closely with the client and weigh up factors like brand heritage, the target audience and the brand vision.

In today’s competitive landscape, the brands that tell a compelling story which their customers can identify with, are the brands that dominate the marketplace.

Q: How do you differentiate a brand and cut through the clutter?

A: With a plethora of digital marketing messages vying for our attention, the reality is that they can be skipped just as quickly. I call it the ‘wallpaper effect’. Fighting the clutter, your brand can easily go unnoticed, becoming like wallpaper.

Firstly, start with the basic interrogation of what the intrinsic values of your product or service are. Once established, the next step is cracking a killer creative concept around the UDF that will resonate with the

target audience. Lastly, the design or layout execution – including provocative copywriting – needs to express the concept in the most impactful way possible.

Selecting the right media mix is also key for your brand to get noticed. A combination of traditional (above-the-line) and digital media might be the solution, but will depend on your budget and who you’re targeting.

A strong, simple, single-minded message always breaks through clutter.

Q: How do you create a digital footprint for a brand that works?

A: Here are 5 basic steps to creating a brand’s digital footprint. 

1. Create a website
A website is where prospective customers will go to find the essential info about your products, services and company culture. The website is also the hub for your entire digital footprint with links to your social media platforms. Website copy 

should take into account keywords for SEO.

2. Have a social presence
Depending on your target audience, budget and strategy, apt social media platforms should be used. Ranked by number of active users, the most popular networks worldwide as of April 2021 are firstly Facebook, followed by YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat and TikTok. Twitter and Pinterest are lower on the list. 

Although content should be engaging and relevant to the target audience, it should always express the brand’s DNA.

Video content performs best with most search engine

algorithms. It captures a viewer’s attention for longer. At Mustard Seed, we have the skills and facilities to produce brilliant video content.

Using nano influencers with a particular following relevant to your brand can change their behaviour in favour of your brand. 

The use of online tools to ‘listen’ to your audience and track, test, and monitor campaigns in real time is also important.

3. Use email marketing
Email marketing nurtures good relationships with your customers, segment them into groups so you can provide the most relevant content, and steadily guides them towards making a purchase.

4. Advertise on Google
Ongoing Google ad campaigns (via search and display ads) highlighting your company’s offering attract a user’s attention across numerous online platforms such as Google search, websites, YouTube and social media channels.

5. Partner with a creative marketing agency
Planning, strategy, copywriting, conceptualisation and design are all key factors when it comes to building a successful brand. At Mustard Seed, cultivating and steering brands successfully through a vast digital landscape is our forte.

Q: How do you identify and communicate a clear brand purpose?

A: Most brands are good at communicating what they do but not so good at saying why they do it. Your brand’s ‘why’ will help differentiate it. It involves understanding your target customers. What issues do they care about? Then look at how your brand can tell authentic stories relating to what really matters to your audience.

People don’t just want to buy what you’re selling anymore, they want to buy what you believe in. Brands need to show a purpose in helping communities with their greater well-being.

In the USA, clothing brand Patagonia have expressed their concern for our planet for 30 years. Take a look at their website:

In the UK, Heineken took on some socio-political issues and made it work for their brand. Watch it here:

In South Africa, we are all too familiar with the Nando’s brand. With their tagline of “Fire it up” they have aligned their brand purpose with the political shenanigans in South Africa with a tongue-in-cheek tone. Here is an example of one of their ads:

Weaving a socio-political expression into your brand purpose takes bravery. Alternatively, a good CSI (corporate social investment) strategy is a step in the right direction. In South Africa, there are ample opportunities for brands to make a real difference.

We invite you to visit our refreshed website at and see for yourself what Mustard Seed is all about. 

Written by Edirn Altern

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