Brand on Digital or Brand through Digital? When is an expression a Digital Brand expression. Is a Digital Brand topic an important one in current world setting and why? How are global Brand (HQs) coping with digital in terms of organisational design and functional management of digital brand(ing)? How are these two worlds merging and are they? Which brands are digital brands and which not really? Why should yourBrand be a Digital Brand? What is the interplay of digital and online retail and brand?
These were just some of questions that have puzzled me for a while. What was even more puzzling was that there is very little written on this subject. The more I traveled and more I talked with people in large Brand HQs across Europe, the more I felt the need to write some of my own thoughts on these topics, and hopefully get some thoughts back from people. I'm positive that there's a need for a discussion as there's a lot of uncertainty but I also understand that people could feel insecure discussing topics as I guess discomfort and even fear is a human nature's first reaction to unknown. And I can tell you digital is quite an unknown for companies and brands. Why is that? For reasons more than one I would say, but it comes down to an interplay between technical skill gap, inappropriate organisational design, growing plethora of consumer touch-points on digital, speed of change, and last but not least, lack of relevant resources including tools, process and content.
A 'Digital' Brand?
Brand's exist to help consumers navigate among choices. If you run a couple of decades back, first products that were branded, were cows. Derived from Old Norse word 'brandr' meaning 'to burn', cattle was being marked (burned) to distinguish ownership. A lot has changed, hasn't it? Maybe, maybe not. Keep that thought of 'my cow, your cow' as I'll get back to it later.
Traditional view on term brand says a brand is 'Name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one sellers's good or service as distinct from those of other seller's' (AMAD, 2013). These visual or material coordinates were then extended, rightfully, to immaterial ones such as: thoughts, feelings, perceptions, mental images, experiences, beliefs, attitudes which build up your brand image. Brand could perhaps be best described as a personality of something or someone, both projected (you trying to be - in your control) and perceived (how others see you - not in your control).So, what would then be a Digital Brand? I guess one way to describe is a digital personality of your brand. Sum of all digital experiences or experiences through and via digital means. Well, that sounds quite straightforward and simple, why the confusion then?
Well most of the confusion comes from the fact that digital enables consumers to converse, engage and interact continuously with your brand. Digital channels are uncovering brands for what they really are, which might and might not be same as what they say or have been saying. Now, I don't mean here your social media page, communications, tweeting etc. although those are part of the total experience.
What you say vs. what you are digitally
What I mean - if you say you're fast, then there's no way your website can be slow or feel slow. If you're saying you're different (to me) why isn't your web-page / any other digital experience different (for me) or personalized? Are (your) web pages your brand experiences? Well you might consider them to be, but images with your campaign visuals and a product images don't really have a different digital engagement with me than any other brand. This is usually a first failure for most companies. Strip away images and visuals and think: how is your digital touchpoint your brand touchpoint?
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