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Brand-building with digital media

Author's avatar By 24 May, 2011
Essential Essential topic

Some still don't get the potential of digital media

A friend of mine who works for a brand development agency, made a comment the other day, which summed it up for me. He suggested that digital agencies don’t really need to understand about brand as digital marketing is not really about strategy is it, but about execution, right?

I find this idea both short-sighted and dangerous. The idea that to develop digital communications you don’t need to understand the longer-term objectives and goals of a business just doesn’t stack up. Digital can no longer be (and should never have been) considered a ‘tactic’, but demands the same level of strategic planning and direction as any other communication.

So in my first post for Smart Insights, I thought it would be useful to look at approaches we can use to harness the power of digital media to build brands.

Why branding should be at the heart of digital marketing

Getting to the heart of the brand and business proposition should underpin any activity online, and once a strategy has been set, that’s when online really comes into its own in helping to ‘bring a brand to life’.

Marketers and agencies do not create brands, customers do. A brand is the emotional and psychological connection a customer has with a business and its products and services. What marketers and agencies are good at is creating environments that encourage a brand relationship to occur between a customer and a business, and nurturing that relationship once a connection has been made. And the key word here is ‘encourage’, as you can’t force a customer to have a brand relationship or guarantee that it will even happen.

Every marketing channel a business uses has the potential to encourage or destroy a brand relationship. Equally, every time a customer interacts with a business - whether through traditional awareness advertising, the purchase process, customer service or post-purchase loyalty marketing activity – there is a chance the customer will walk away or become your biggest advocate.

Digital, or more precisely the vast array of digital channels, is a fantastic environment for brand building. As both a sales and marketing channel, digital offers businesses the opportunity to meet the needs and expectations of customers throughout the buying cycle. Also, no other channel offers the level of potential for customer-business interactivity that digital does. This helps explain the almost hysterical clamouring for the next big thing in digital in recent years, whether that is Search, eCRM, Social Media or Mobile.

Where digital brand-building can go wrong

Alongside this exciting potential also comes a certain danger. The instinct to jump on the bandwagon and head off in all sorts of digital directions is one that needs to be considered carefully. What’s right digitally for one brand doesn’t automatically make it right for another and what a brand stands for and how it’s best presented to its audience always needs to sit at the heart of any digital strategy.

The idea of truly understanding a brand – its proposition, messaging, tone, visual presentation – has always been integral to the development of any traditional marketing communication. And as digital becomes more and more important for brands and businesses everywhere, providing even more exciting ways to truly engage with an audience, how a brand is represented online is vital.

Good practice in digital brand-building

There are many considerations when it comes to ‘branding’ online. Of course, creative presentation is the obvious one with any creative idea or design immediately reflecting a brand’s positioning. But there’s much more to it than that...a brand is brought to life online through content, copy, tone, user experience, fulfilment, how it engages with its audience through social media, to name just a few.
At every turn, the nature of digital can leave a brand wide open and exposed to its audience. Here are the opportunities for genuine engagement, but also the reason why a solid strategic direction and consistent brand experience needs to lead the way.

Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing just some of the considerations that I believe should underpin the development of a brand online, ensuring that any brand and business strategy is truly brought to life through all digital communications. And, of course, I’ll look forward to your thoughts and comments too…

Thanks, Al.

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