Digital branding is a broad term that encompasses all of the ways that businesses court consumers online. While “digital branding” is a broad term, it’s used to describe the combination of content marketing, influencer marketing, SEO, social media, and online advertising. In the digital marketplace, companies are given countless opportunities to promote themselves, but many don’t have a clue where to start.
Unfortunately, beating around the bushes of digital branding won’t get you anywhere and knowing the ins and outs of digital branding is one of the best ways to boost your business and promote your company’s online growth. Read on to learn more.
What is the Difference Between Marketing and Branding?
Contrary to popular belief, digital marketing and digital branding are distinctly different.
Marketing is a specific push encouraging consumers to buy a product or service. It asks buyers to make a decision based on the item’s effectiveness, popularity, or utility. While marketing is used first and foremost to popularize and sell products, branding is a bit subtler.
While digital marketing seeks to spread the word about a specific product, good, or service, branding communicates the essential values of the organization to a customer base. It underlies all of the company’s marketing efforts, and asks consumers to support the company rather than a specific product.
Marketing is tactical, meant to produce a specific result in a small period of time. The right marketing campaign can increase sales, but it tends to be in “spikes,” or dramatic short-term increases that don’t last long. Messages can also vary between marketing campaigns, presenting different faces of the company for different products.
Branding remains even after specific marketing efforts end. It sticks in a consumer’s mind after they make a purchase, and encompasses everything from their experience buying the product to the service they receive to the product itself. Marketing may find and activate one-time buyers, but branding builds loyalty and cultivates lifelong relationships between companies and consumers.
Modern Digital Branding Trends You Need to Know About
Digital branding is a huge industry right now, and several trends have emerged that, when adopted, can help companies boost their visibility and build a reputation online. Here are some of the top trends in today’s digital branding industry:
- Social media. Right now, more than 78% of the U.S. population has at least one social media profile. With this in mind, it’s clear why social media has become such a critical platform for digital branding. When companies begin to develop a digital branding strategy, social media is generally one of the first places they turn.
- Mobile optimization. In the modern digital branding world, the medium is the message, and more and more companies are taking the time and putting in the effort to optimize their content for mobile. And for good reason, too: as it stands now, 40% of consumers will leave landing pages that aren’t optimized for mobile platforms. Because of this, companies who implement mobile-friendly design from the get-go are better prepared to build a strong customer base and a memorable brand.
- Scrolling. While we used to navigate webpages with the help of a mouse, most of today’s web content is designed with scrolling in mind. This allows for a smoother user experience and can help enhance a company’s branding strategy.
- Authenticity. In the days of old-fashioned marketing, companies who wanted to make a splash with their customers turned to sales-y advertisements and cheesy branding methods. Those days, however, are gone. Today, authenticity is key, and companies that manage to come off as authentic and honest in their digital branding are more likely to succeed with customers.
- A focus on ranking. While digital branding used to be primarily focused on helping customers understand a company, the modern version of digital branding is also focused on creating positive rankings. Because customers everywhere are placing increasing levels of confidence in Google, brands who want their digital branding efforts to succeed are required to put some serious legwork into ranking well at the same time.
3 Steps to Better Digital Branding
While digital branding is a critical part of building a successful online business, it’s also a difficult one. While all brands should be undertaking digital branding, it’s important to realize that digital branding efforts are only as good as the skill and knowledge behind them. With this in mind, here are three unique steps to help you boost your digital branding efforts today:
Step 1: Find Your Brand Personality
In order to develop the right brand personality, you have to research your target consumer. What issues are important to them? What problem is your product solving? Does your target audience respond to formal, fact-driven messaging or ads that are more creative and laid back?
Once you determine your personality, you have to find a way to convey those attributes to the public. Every choice you make says something about your company, including logo, typeface, color, tagline, and even your choice of spokesperson.
A good example of brand personality is Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign. Dove claims that their main goal is to highlight simple, natural beauty in all women. To that end, they work to cast women of all shapes and sizes in their print and TV campaigns. Their ads emphasize how natural and mild their product is, without harsh perfumes and cleaners.
While the “Real Beauty” campaign encompasses many different efforts, one of the most impactful and well-received is the “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” videos. In these videos, women sit down in a room with a forensic artist. They describe themselves to the artist and he draws them – without ever looking at their faces.
The women leave and another person who is familiar with the woman comes in. This person describes the woman’s features to the forensic artist, who draws a second sketch. At this point, the women are brought back to view the two sketches: the one they described of themselves and the one other people described of them. The results are moving.
While the concept here is simple, there’s no denying that this series of videos portrays Dove’s branding message perfectly. If you had to sum it up, it would be something like, “Dove thinks that you’re beautiful just the way you are.”
The main takeaway here is that once you decide on a branding personality, you have to make sure it echoes through every part of your business. While the methods can be different, it’s the overall effect that leaves an impression on customers, not just the advertising.
Step 2: Activate Your Brand
Brand activation is a company’s first attempt to make an impression on consumers. During this period, companies must determine what core values will distinguish their brand from others. Whatever they choose must highlight the company’s assets, and provide long-term benefits to the brand.
Initial brand activation is accomplished in a variety of ways:
Experiential events – Live, in-person interaction with products and employees. This allows consumers to physically touch a product and ask questions, which leaves a larger impression than simply reading a product description.
Promotional marketing – Promotions can come in the form of reward loyalty programs, giveaways, special offers, samples, and more. These incentives raise awareness for your brand and encourage first time users to try your product.
In-store retail marketing – By promoting items in-store, companies help buyers choose one product over another at their crucial buying moment. Brands can use point of purchase displays, attractive designs, or hosting retail launches to promote awareness of certain products.
Brand activation works best when it elicits real emotional engagement from consumers. With this end in mind, it’s important that companies remember to:
- Arouse a consumer’s passions using creative ideas and strategies.
- Timing is everything. Connecting with users at the right moment makes a crucial difference in your strategy’s effectiveness.
- The more direct the contact, the better. Connecting with consumers in-store or at local events is more effective than reaching out online.
All these tips help consumers connect your brand with a positive experience, making it more likely that they will want to support it. Once you have their attention, they can continue moving on the path to purchase.
How Do I Know If My Brand Activation Works?
Like any marketing strategy, judging the efficacy of a brand activation can be tough. The following metrics can make it easier when gauging your campaign’s success:
How many potential consumers did the campaign connect with? Were they local contacts or national ones? Does this fit with your branding needs? If needed, could you make changes to amplify the campaign beyond its current limits?
Long-Term Potential for Integration:
Regardless of the initial success, does your brand activation carry long-term benefits? Can it be sustained? Does it find a way to integrate with other marketing channels at the company?
Return on Investment:
Benefits vs. Cost is a crucial metric. Was your event worth the investment? Did you capture consumer data like phone numbers and email addresses to follow up on future leads?
Brand activation is a crucial first step to your overall marketing strategy. By engaging with consumers, you get feedback on features and ideas for improvement in real time. It can bring life to an older brand by courting younger consumers, cutting through the clutter of television, print, and web ads. In the end, it can reinforce your brand in the customer’s mind, helping engage consumers beyond individual purchases.
Step 3: Make Your Brand Stand Out!
The hardest part of any campaign is getting your brand to stand out in a very loud, very crowded marketplace. No matter how good your strategy is, consumers need a reason to choose your product over someone else’s.
The most traditional model of brand differentiation is the Ansoff Matrix, which works by identifying current market issues. Once you have identified the difficulties customers are having in the marketplace, you can position your product as the cure to those ills. You can also use those concerns to develop new products, which can then be marketed to your consumer base.
Ansoff Matrix Method
Good research is the key to any branding campaign. Companies that implement the Ansoff Matrix usually focus on four key concepts:
- Market Penetration – What products are your current consumers buying? Is there a way to sell them something else?
- Market Development – Are there new markets adjacent to your own, where there may be less competition and more opportunity?
- Product Development – Are there areas where you could cut costs, or different ways to develop your product to better serve your customer?
- Diversification – Could you develop a new product and move it into a new market, taking advantage of being the first?
The DRIP format focuses more on the way a brand communicates, rather than the product itself. DRIP is an acronym for its key components: Differentiate, Reinforce, Inform, and Persuade.
A good example of a company implementing this strategy is Dyson, a British technology company that sells high-tech vacuum cleaners. Their branding campaign focused on their product’s technical advances, in a field in which consumers knew very little about technology.
- Differentiate: Dyson’s branding campaign pushed innovations like bagless technology, and whisper quiet motors as a sign of the product’s technological superiority.
- Reinforce: The company used visuals and demonstrations to prove that these alterations led to improved performance, rather than simple cosmetic differences.
- Inform: Dyson informed the public that the problem with most vacuums is “loss of suction,” then showed them how their product fixed that problem.
- Persuade: As the only company with this technology, Dyson positioned themselves as the only logical choice for the best cleaning experience.
Blue Ocean Strategy
The Blue Ocean Strategy can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be the most work intensive. The Blue Ocean Strategy works to create an untapped marketplace outside of the traditional market boundaries.
Rather than finding ways to compete with companies that are already established in your market, you seek to find consumers that have been neglected, or are currently being underserved. By expanding your efforts in those areas, you could potentially access more consumers with fewer competitors.
Starbucks is a prime example of a company that implemented the Blue Ocean Strategy successfully. There were many coffee shops that were more established when Starbucks came on the scene. Instead of focusing on their coffee, however, they worked to brand Starbucks as something different, reaching an untapped level of consumers.
The most important thing they offered was variety. They offered coffee, but they also offered teas, smoothies, and Frappuccino. They also sold CDs and newspapers, encouraging coffee lovers to stay around and chat. This allowed Starbucks to become a social venue as well.
Rather than staff their shops with rank-and-file fast food employees, they hired professional baristas, who were trained in their specialty coffee drinks. This gave the experience an air of artistry and professionalism that helped Starbucks attain “brand aspiration.”
Brand aspiration is the most coveted level of branding, because it means that customers aspire to be connected to your brand, simply because of what it is. Starbucks used the Blue Ocean Strategy to turn a simple coffee shop into a symbol of affluence and leisure, making their unique cups a decisive status symbol.
In order for any of these methods to work, you have to know your consumer. Determining their needs, and where they could be better served, is how you make your brand as successful as possible.
Branding Yourself on Social Media
Social media can be great for generating a steady stream of new clients, and building partnerships with similar businesses in the area. When used correctly, your social media profiles can be a great way to boost your credibility with new clients, giving them access to reviews, pictures, and other evidence of how you conduct business and why consumers should want to interact with you.
For an example of a brand that does this well, consider Oreo. Oreo, best known as a cookie company, is shockingly proficient at social media. While the company does many things well (posting frequently, for example, and interacting with customers on a regular basis), the thing it’s best at is content.
Content is critical for good digital branding efforts on social media, and Oreo wins with content virtually everywhere you look. One great example of the company’s social media content is the series of Vine videos it put out during Halloween of 2013. Designed to portray Oreo as a fun, relatable, approachable company, the videos were spoofs of well-known horror films. Instead of well-known horror movie villains and heroes, though, the videos featured an Oreo.
In addition to publishing high-quality social media content, it’s also important to maintain a consistent image on social media. To brand yourself on social media correctly, make sure to keep your name, image, and identifying information consistent across all platforms. Too many discrepancies can make your profiles difficult to find, and may make new clients doubt your reliability.
People may follow for business news, but they are mainly following your personality. You want to make sure to attract the type of consumer that will help expand your business. If you don’t target your approach, you may gain followers, but it won’t ever translate to sales.
Social media has a dizzying array of platforms, so companies should invest time in figuring out which platforms are most popular among their target audience. Posts don’t have to be the same across all platforms, but they should always relate to you and your business. This helps keep you on the consumer’s mind, making them more likely to visit frequently and refer you.
Once you establish your online presence, make sure to post consistently about a variety of topics. Official business is best, but fun local touches and timely events can help consumers connect with your establishment on a personal level.
The most important thing to remember is that what you put on social media can be seen by everyone, so post carefully. The wrong topic could alienate your followers permanently, and do irreparable harm to your business.
How Does Building a Brand Affect My Business?
While many marketers overlook the importance of digital branding, it’s truly a crucial step in building a successful company.
When done correctly, digital branding can mean the difference between a so-so product and a company that explodes into being a household name (like Oreo). While the internet provides countless venues where businesses can promote themselves, it’s impossible to do it effectively without a proper strategy. Because of this, most companies fail to take advantage of the digital branding opportunities available to them, which damages everything from the company’s bottom line to its popularity.
With this in mind, it’s essential to develop a solid digital branding strategy. In addition to allowing companies increase their popularity, developing and implementing a digital branding strategy also allows for a deeper connection to the customer.
At the heart of every one of these strategies is research, which helps you gain insight into your followers’ needs, so that you can meet them more efficiently. When you connect to your consumers’ needs through things like target audience research, quality content creation, and customer-centric branding, you’ll have a better chance of building a brand that not only responds to your current clients, but engages new clients to help you grow your business – both now and in the future.
This, in turn, creates more stable, popular, sustainable companies that do more than just produce products – they also fulfill needs, help solve problems, and connect with people in an authentic and valuable way.
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