Understanding Digital Branding
While digital branding is no longer an enigma for companies and businesses, it is still highly misunderstood and is either over-rated or under-estimated by various segments of the corporate society. Over the years, working as a digital strategist, I’ve met both sides of the coin. People who believed that a quirky viral video can give their brand overnight success and people who simply disregarded the value of digital media to gradually build their brand. The common factor between these two groups is the lack of understanding digital branding as a distinct strategy that should not be mixed with digital marketing, SEO or SEM (yup, most clients do that!)
In layman terms, digital branding is a specialization that focuses on building, nurturing and enhancing the presence of the brand on digital media. It also aims at creating a direct communication link between the brand and the consumer, thereby, making it possible for a on on one relationship.
Going back to the roots
Digital branding as the term suggests is an off-shoot of branding, which simply means, ‘the perception people have (or that you want to create) of your company.’ This perception will either drive them forward to invest in your services or will pull them back from acknowledging your business. Traditionally, branding was the process of creating corporate communication objects that could attract people’s attention – logos, business cards, sleek advertisements etc. The more sophisticated your branding materials, the more chances people will perceive you in the positive light. Today however, branding has taken on a different meaning. It is no longer the logos or the business cards, but the people you employ, the quality of services you provide, the people who invest in you and the people who believe in you.
Howard Schultz talks about branding quite well when he says, “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
And it is exactly this authenticity that digital media boosts. It is not mere viral videos, glossy cover photos or amazing ads. It’s bigger, much more powerful than traditional branding.People can now directly give feedback, rate companies and services, recommend or disrepute an organization. The power truly lies with the customer and this is why we need to take digital branding quite seriously.
So where do we go from here?
We start first with identifying the very basics you need to get your digital branding up and running.
Get your design department rolling. Start by getting branding elements in line
Many clients I know find this an amusing aspect, disregarding it as an utterly unnecessary process that they don’t have the time to delve into. Here’s some relevant psychological facts to ponder upon:
- fMRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features, and facts).
- Studies show that positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments which are based on a brand’s attributes.
The way an organization personifies its image through its designs decides the emotional outcome of consumers. So if you’ve got a bad facebook cover, a cheap and copied logo design, you’re in for some bad surprise. The first step to successful digital branding is ensuring all your digital properties are synced under a unified branding theme. From colors, to post designs to website interface to Facebook ads – everything should be in line.
- Decide on the information you want to put out
This may sound quite rudimentary, but as important as it is to have a business plan, you need a digital branding plan. What are your aims and how would you like to achieve them? Based on that, what kind of content would you be coming up with and whether it should be divided into phases according to a specific timeline? It goes without saying that a focused plan will enable you and your team to start being mutually involved in the branding process. Before you know it, everyone is contributing to creating a brand image that they can be proud of.
- Hire an expert to work with
It’s almost a child’s play now for anyone to be well-versed in digital media. With all the information we have out there, it doesn’t take much time to be an expert in digital media. But knowledge doesn’t mean one can bring results. You need to hire someone who has a working experience, understands the ever changing dynamics of the online world and can help your business move along smoothly. But when hiring an expert, do make sure you do not make the fundamental mistake of believing that person to be a demi-god who will bring you success over night. That is NOT how it works. A digital strategist will definitely work on a number of strategies to get your business out there, but he cannot make you an over night superstar. His main job is simply to manage your brand persona and enhance it. Nothing more to that.
- Deriving Value from the Real World
It’s ironic how businesses disregard the importance of real world marketing when they want to build an online brand. Don’t forget that your audience is getting a real time experience in buying your services/products. With that experience they simply use digital media to connect, complain or cheer your business! So if your real time services are terrible, do not expect digital branding to cover it up for you.
Whether it’s a small start-up or a multi-national organization, digital branding is highly important for securing that trust and loyalty from the audience. But that cannot be achieved if you don’t understand how the system works. It’s not about statistics and analytics – it’s about building a relationship. Ready for it?
© 2016 farah-saleem