The concept of branding has gone through some significant change in the past few years and we’re now in the era of digital branding. In a traditional sense, a brand is a distinct name, phrase, design, feature, or logo that distinctly identifies one seller’s products from another.
Over the years, the idea of branding has been expanded to factor in a more extensive set of considerations that go well beyond visual identity and into the realms of brand experience.
Branding experts typically also consider the thoughts, feelings, perceptions and experiences of their target persona in order to build a brand personality that meets the target personas’ aspirations. This is still very much traditional ‘branding’ - it’s very much how a business portrays itself, or at least how it would like to be portrayed.
Branding by democracy
However, brand management is going through a significant change in a world that is now dominated by digital experiences and social media. Every brand in the world has now been placed in the hands of the people that interact with it. As a result, many brands don’t sell to every man and his dog - they’re looking for mutual fit, particularly in the business to business sector.
How a brand is perceived is now very much a democratic process; it’s now dictated by the two-way conversation between marketers and customers. Your brand is no longer what you say it is; instead, it’s the culmination of what everyone else says it is. Your contribution to that narrative will come mainly through direct response marketing.
It can take years to build a strong digital brand, and just a few moments to break it when the perceived value of your brand is destroyed by unconsidered or reckless actions. The power is no longer in the hands of your branding team. We can create the tools and framework, but it’s our customers that keep us in check.
This has huge implications on how brands are managed, but more important are the wider implications it has on organisations and the cultures they live. You can spend months or even years developing a refreshed brand architecture, but if it’s not authentic and true to your organisation’s culture, you will be found out and all that work will be for nought.
Digital Branding is the culmination of every touch point customers encounter with an organisation. These touch points can be direct interactions with your brand or, more importantly, indirect interactions (through word of mouth, customer reviews and social media) that will uncover cracks in your brand personality if you’re not careful.
Developing a successful digital brand requires the personality and culture of your organisation to be reflected in the brand. Every member of staff within your organisation has to live in the brand playground. If that reflection is distorted, it’s very likely that there are more important organisational changes you need to face up to before relaunching your brand.
Digital branding promotes transparency and authenticity in everything you do. The stakes have never been higher for your brand.
Someday things will go wrong for your customers. And it’s imperative that you have the mechanisms in place to react to problems swiftly when they do arise so you don’t cause customers any more pain. Your customer service and support needs to be remarkable (in a good way!).
Having a record of where you encountered potholes (and how you fixed them) for quick and repeated reference will help ensure that old habits don’t resurface. You can’t publicly state that “it won’t happen again” only for it to happen again months later, as that will end up hurting your brand perception.
By putting your customer’s success at the heart of everything you do, you can stay in control of your brand’s destiny.