Guest post by Sarah Sidney.
Whatever you learned about the definition of “branding” in your marketing courses is wrong. The proliferation of digital channels has significantly altered the meaning of the word, and it continues to evolve.
25 years years ago (when the oldest Millennials were in junior high, and the youngest still in diapers), branding was quite simple. Businesses would run TV commercials, advertise on billboards, play radio jingles, buy a big listing in the Yellow Pages, and create a pleasant shopping experience.
Today, brands need to continually reach out and engage customers and prospects, who have much higher expectations of them. They need to focus on the customer experience, monitor the web for brand mentions and respond promptly, and leverage digital channels deftly.
Companies that fail to keep pace with today’s fast-paced and ever-expanding digital platforms, and decreasing consumer attention spans, will be left behind.
The Four Pillars of Branding in the Digital Age
As branding evolves to keep pace with consumers and B2B buyers in the digital age, there are four pillars on which companies need to base their branding. These are:
Consumers have become adept at sniffing out what’s artificial. Attention spans are diminishing. And advertising spaces are supersaturated. To succeed, brands need to redefine their branding for the digital age by focusing on three essential domains:
- Brand identity and unique selling proposition (USP)
- Visual branding
Brand Promise and USP
The brand promise (such as Geico’s “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on your car insurance”) and USP should be crystal clear and fully baked into all the communication across all digital channels.
This means the website, blog posts, videos, ads, email messages, and apps must all be aligned. Branding no longer stops at the point of purchase.
Creating an appealing visual brand that’s unique and pleasing to your target audience is essential, with the caveat that it has to work within your digital marketing channels. There are often restrictions and requirements for sizing and placement of brand elements, which means your branding design must be done from the ground up and tailored towards digital.
While building a digital brand identity has gotten more accessible thanks to companies like Tailor Brands, this is only one part of it as good design, by itself, isn’t it enough. It must also represent the brand’s values and entice the consumer to interact and engage with the brand.
Digital branding allows for a more defined marketing journey, with multiple touchpoints across different channels. But it only works if the branding remains consistent. Any changes, such as utilizing other brand visuals and style of communication, risk ruining the effect.
Successful digital branding goes further than creating customer personas. They uncover how their audiences act across their most-used channels. Why is this vital? Because buyers congregate in more than one digital medium, and each one represents another touchpoint.
In terms of segmentation and mapping, customer personas don’t provide enough detail for a comprehensive digital branding plan unless it specifically details and establishes all touchpoints of the consumer’s journey.
And as noted, consumers are active in multiple channels. Brands that segment their consumers and create specific target groups will have a greater chance of succeeding in turning consumers into customers and even advocates.
Turn paying customers into advocates. Positive customer feedback is a crucial ingredient to a brand’s success. Brands should have an actionable plan to turn customers into long-term advocates. Loyalty helps attract new customers through word of mouth and the creation of positive online reviews. Retaining existing customers while acquiring new ones is vital to growth.
Having a documented communication strategy will help expand brand awareness, connect with your audience, and drive sales. But it’s a competitive landscape, with rivals targeting the same audiences. All of your marketing tactics must work together if you want to beat your competition and reach customers effectively.
Search and display advertising is often a cornerstone of digital branding. One allows users to find the brand by targeting keywords entered into search engines, while the other is aimed at the target audience on social media and websites no matter where they are.
It’s crucial for marketers to remember that online advertising is not a “set and forget” project. It must be continually monitored and optimized.
In addition to measuring metrics like conversions, measuring engagement is vital as well. Brands aren’t just battling against each other, but social media sites and apps that are increasingly competing against each other for their user’s attention.
Notifications, promoted content, and mechanisms such as unlimited scrolling are designed to keep users engaged. In the fight for attention, brands must produce content and ads that fully engage their audience.
Using web analytics tools to track and measure insights, results, and analyze the customer journey, enables brands to take action backed up by data. When every brand element is connected to an analytics platform with properly defined KPIs, brands can make informed decisions and reduce guesswork.
User experience is one of the main elements successful brands are focusing on. In countries like India, desktop computers are rare, while mobile phones are used for everything. Having a great mobile customer experience that’s fast and streamlined is a strong selling point. But it can only be achieved by tracking users across the platform and making changes based on reliable data.
Traditional strategies play a shrinking role in branding in the digital age. Conventional marketing channels still play their part, but they’re not as effective as digital marketing at delivering customized messaging to individuals at each stage of their journey.
Consumers expect brands to be customer-orientated with a seamless user experience. And with technology continuously improving, brands need to stay current on new trends and enhance their offerings, or lose out to startups that fully embrace the latest advancements, whether it’s utilizing AI to provide lightning-fast service with zero wait times or implementing augmented virtual reality.
And it all needs to be encompassed within a unified brand that has consistent messaging and visuals.
Sarah Sidney is a creative and smart content developer with almost eight years of experience in design and marketing. She’s always striving for excellence in her job and is a great leader.