Digital branding: what it is and why it matters

Before we dive into digital branding, let’s look at some numbers. 45% of the world population uses social media, 70-80% of people research online before making a purchase, 91% of people read online reviews and 84% trust them pretty much as a personal recommendation.

Welcome to the digital world! Where most of decisions are made after experiencing brands online.

The digital world is, however, a crowded place. Users are spoiled with information and choices. So, having a strong, meaningful online presence is essential. This effort of making a memorable impression on users is, actually, a job for digital branding.

But what is digital branding

Digital branding may seem just like another kicky word. Well, it may be kicky, but it refers to strategic actions a company should consider in order to mark its presence in the digital space.

Digital branding is the process of creating brands, developing them through online interactions with users, aiming to project the company’s image online, to build positive association of the brand, nurture trust and loyalty.

But digital branding goes way beyond that simple website design or other visual enchanting elements. It comes from the core of the company and it underlines the value it provides to its customers. With so many and various online touchpoints (websites, apps, reviews, social media, search engine results), digital branding efforts must take care of each one of them. And the relevant digital communication channels should be spotless.

And what is not digital branding

At this point, it is also important to make a clear distinction between two concepts that can be confusing, as are used interchangeably.

Digital branding is not really the same thing as digital marketing. The main purpose of digital marketing is to push forward products or services and have an immediate response – sales.

As for digital branding, its impact is more subtle and determined by long-term objectives. It does not necessarily focus on particular products, trying to make conversions happen right away. Instead it focuses on the company’s values, going for strong relationships with customers, based on persistent and real, trustworthy communication.

In simpler words, marketing is what happens at internal company meetings, while digital branding is what the consumers get to see about your brand.

How does digital branding work

There are four dimensions to be taken into consideration.

Identity

Before planning social media posts, creating blog articles and Instagram feeds, there is one very important process a brand must go through. Building its online image. Just like in offline, the brand must enter a branding process where the logo is created from scratch or adapted for digital. This process also includes building brand personality, looks, behaviour, dos and don’ts, colour schemes, tone of voice and online presence guidelines.

Image

The main tools for building an online identity and the most powerful ones are content marketing and social media. If content marketing aims to provide relevant and valuable content to make the customer journey easier and smoother, social media is great for awareness and engagement.

Visibility

A multitude of touchpoints ensures the brand exposure: website, digital ads, online search results, social media platforms, ratings and reviews. Even though the safest of them are the ones you can control, like your website, the most influential are the ones you cannot control, like reviews – remember those numbers we’ve mentioned earlier: 91% of people read online reviews and 84% trust them?

Credibility

It’s hard to build and it’s time consuming, but it’s also so valuable. Credibility incorporates the user experience and a fundamental mix of transparency, trust and authenticity. Social media is one of the mediums where credibility can be nurtured through relevant engagement with the audience.

Why does digital branding matter

We truly do live in the digital age. This is a fact, not just another saying.

The internet penetration rate is about 57% worldwide, while almost 67% of the world population have mobile devices.

What do all these growing numbers say? That an online presence is essential as it has become inevitable. It’s all due to continuously evolving technologies and increased mobile adoption. And that’s an opportunity.

The digital age offers businesses both the tools and space to communicate and engage with users and customers. From mobile apps to email, social media platforms, landing pages, websites, companies now have a rich and powerful mainframe to spread the brand messages and, even better, to emotionally connect with their audience.

And more than that, through digital branding, brands can actually get instant feedback from consumers. This is something vital that has been missing until the internet was evolved enough.

The purpose of the digital branding process is to build and consolidate trust, loyalty, to offer a sort of empowerment in competition with others. This will, at the end of the day, draw conversions.

So, what are the main benefits Of digital branding

Digital branding works wonders most of the time. Here`s how:

Makes a difference and generates differentiation

In the business world, competition is fierce and being like everyone else doesn’t help at all. Branding is what can put your business in the spotlight by highlighting its key elements, its unique story, strengths and successful outcomes. Maybe products and services are similar to others. But the way you present their benefits and communicate your messages will make them different. By doing that, you will ensure a place in the audience mind, you will have a chance to be recognisable and memorable.

Provides multiple communication channels

Social media, messaging platforms, search engines, apps, online events – digital branding facilitates a multi-channel delivery. This allows branded messages to spread out fast and easy to various customers. Also, one of the greatest things ever is that messages can be customised to multiple audiences or even to each customer.

Leverages “word of mouth”

When something online is cool, it spreads fast. And that is a real big deal. That is what going viral means. Virality comes with huge exposure in a shorter period of time and with less costs, as it is fuelled by the actions of others through measurable online interactions: like, shares, comments, reviews etc. However, going viral is very, very rarely done intentionally and with zero budget. Naturally viral things are as rare as an albino lion. They can happen, but it’s really hard to control.

Facilitates interaction

Today, it’s not so much about the product itself. It’s more about the experience the customer has with the product and the brand it represents. Digital branding is able to create multiple and meaningful interactions with customers and offer them unique experiences that will imprint in their minds and impact their future acquisition decisions. YouTube videos, Instagram Stories, Facebook polls are all opportunities for interaction in the digital space.

Strengthens connections

This is the most representative and powerful gain. Stronger and more profound connections are linked to brand loyalty that ensures customer retention. Also, they ease the process of transforming prospects into customers. In addition, better connections mean that brand’s values will remain relevant in the future.

Ready to be digitally remarkable?

Digital is not a tactical solution to be used occasionally. It can be the key to delivering a complete, authentic brand experience. Or it can be your main communication channel.

For success to happen, creating a wide range of online activities, being constant, perseverant and working on a digital mindset along with a digital strategy is mandatory.

Use all the potential that digital has to offer to connect with your audience, to stand out, to impress. Remember it’s not only the products or services that you are selling, it’s the image, the experience.

And if you need some help with creating remarkable digital branding, we are here to give you a hand. Drop us a line anytime. We’ll get back to you soon.

From start to finish, the whole process is messy. Especially for those of you who are marketing managers or brand manager. Implementing the strategy, tactics and actions, using the right tone of voice, mix of channels, media, audiences, in the right order, in the best moments is messy. You have all this info and you have to take into account and use it wisely and decide when and where and how to use it.

Part of this huge process is understanding your buyer types and their particularities. But this is also messy and it can actually be even harder to understand, simplify and make actionable. Most of the clients I’ve talked to, worked with or consulted for over years had a s**t tone of data. Qualitative, quantitative, observational, digital or offline. If you can name it, most likely I’ve seen it.

Yet, a lot of clients struggle with clarity over the bigger picture. Tiny disclaimer here: allow me please to settle this — the client, for me,  is the business that I work with, while the user / buyer is my client’s client.

Does any of it sound familiar?

If you’re a junior, probably not. But if you’ve worked in the communication / marketing department for 1-2 years, you’ve most likely experienced these:

  1. Awareness campaigns where you have to grow your brand, turn it into top of mind choice or increase predisposition to buy or recommend your brand or increase brand authority.
  2. If you work with a big brand, you have one or two (if you are lucky enough to have the budget) image campaigns per year where you want to emphasize your mission, values and the positives of your brand, not the product.
  3. Then you have product campaigns (launch, rebranding, redesign, promo etc).
  4. You also have some special campaigns and activations.
  5. And most definitely you have your sales campaigns (Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, 1st of March, 8th of March, Halloween, Black Friday, White Friday, Summer Friday, Back to school, Summer sales, Winter sales, End of season, Start of season, you name it).
  6. You work with the brand agency. Maybe you have a dedicated digital agency, production agency or BTL agency.
  7. You have your performance campaigns and SEO and content.
  8. Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, maybe even Twitter and LinkedIn.
  9. Once a year the research company brings you new data and instead of making things simpler, this makes it even harder to remain focused.

This is where clear, simple and easy to follow strategies and frameworks come in to save you from going nuts.

Buyer types — small bits for big games

I decided to start with the typologies of buyers because I think they are more important than most of us like to admit.

You already have our target in place, we all know we want to communicate with 18 to 60 y.o., average income, higher education, male and female. Like the many. “We have a mass product and we want to be appealing for everybody and communicate with all of them out there”. If you’ve worked for at least 6 months in advertising I guess you’ve already heard this once or twice. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as a species over the centuries is that you can’t make everyone happy through one thing. There is no universal 1 thing that works for a mass of people. Because we are not the same. We come from different backgrounds, grew up in different environments, learned different things in school, read different books growing up and developed different behaviors and patterns of thinking.

OK, this sounds even more complicated than the first 3 paragraphs. What do we do with this? How do we simplify and transform it in something easy to handle?

There are two ways:

EXCLUDE

Exclude the secondary target and try to find some common characteristics that can bring you closer to the core audience, while trying to attract as many as possible from the secondary target

or…

MICRO-COMMUNICATE

Split and group the target in clusters based on how they decide to buy and the way they decide what to buy. After that you design micro campaigns that reach out to them on the exact level they are in the buying decision funnel.

Buyer types — what kinds are there?

The beauty of our differences as humans is that we are not that different. And from this thought, we can split our target into typologies of consumers or buyer types. We don’t need to psychoanalyze each individual to see what makes him tick. We just have to figure out what behavior patterns they have in common with other individuals thus creating the clusters mentioned above. From here we can build our buyer types.

And here are some examples:

EXPLORER

They kinda know what their need is, but they don’t know not exactly. They’re constantly looking for inspiration to see what their options are. Usually, they are the ones who browse inside the category back and forth, visit a lot of product pages and read a lot. They are curious and like to explore, but they are some of the most disloyal buyer types.

Explorers get frustrated fast if they don’t find enough information about what they are looking for or if the pictures are small and blurry. When they find something they like, they want it THEN. Not next week, not tomorrow. They want it right there and then.

The best strategies to communicate with them is to establish your presence across all social media, have big, colorful pictures and include storytelling in your blog posts.

One of the most powerful tactic is to send them event-based triggers, or promos that are perceived as very personal.

PLANNER

The planners know exactly what they need, what specs it should have, what budget it should fit in, when and where.

These buyer types are the ones most likely to use the search bar or go directly to the category page, filter, sort, scroll-scroll-scroll, click, read a bit and decide fast if they will search in other places (maybe to find a better price or some added value like free shipping or overnight shipping).

They get frustrated if the relevant information is hidden between piles of fluff and irrelevant things. Moreover, they get frustrated if they don’t find the product in stock or in the exact color they want.

The best strategy to use with is to be accessible and have an incredibly good user experience and customer experience. If you can make them love your brand, they become some of your most loyal buyer types.

And the best tactics are to understand his needs, send him relevant newsletters and generate content that is very specific and easy to access.

CONNECTOR

They are well informed, all over the place, always on top buyer types. They already know almost everything, and most definitely everybody.

Connectors buy a lot, this being viewed as a way of establishing status. Sharing is a critical component to their buying experience. They ask questions before purchasing. And after they buy they share their acquisition a lot. According to them, their shares helped at least one person take a better decision when they were struggling.

They get frustrated if they don’t find matching products or the pictures, content and the products are outdated. What gets them even more frustrated is when the brand doesn’t acknowledge their status.

In conclusion, the best strategy in this case is to be very personal and close to the community. Be personal, vulnerable and involved in their lives. Organize events and call them over.

FOLLOWER

They tend to put everybody’s interest ahead of their own. As a first choice, they will always go for familiar products, things that somebody has already bought or used. They tend to decide based on recommendations from people whom they see as authorities in their field.

Followers read a lot of blogs, forums, FB pages, groups, watch vlogs. They are always searching for opinions.

They get frustrated when the information is too ambiguous, when there are too many options and when they come across what they see as irrelevant product recommendations. Irrelevant is information that basically increase the complexity of product discovery.

The best strategy is to connect them to micro-brand ambassadors, KOLs and give them best product reviews and testimonials you can.

OPPORTUNIST

They very rarely pay full price for products and unfortunately they are very easy to get and even easier to lose. They have little to no brand loyalty and mostly search for products based on best price or discount available.

Unsurprisingly, they get frustrated very fast if the product they want is not on sale, if the prize or discount is expired or if the delivery is too expensive. And by delivery too expensive I mean is not free.

In addition, the opportunists shop both online and offline in order to find the best deal.

The best strategy for them is to create loyalty programs in which is easy for them to see profit or beneits.

Key tactics are to highlight the discount figures and use past data to recommend them products within their budget.

Check out our EXPERTISE PAGE, if you want to learn more about how we can help you in your digital marketing journey.

May the discipline be with you ❤

PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Planning Framework

SOSTAC® comes from:

  • Situation analysis — defines the status quo and where the client is in the moment in time, market, competition, etc.
  • Objectives — defining where the client wants to be.
  • Strategy — the strategy step has to answer the HOW question. How do we achieve those objectives?
  • Tactics — describing exactly how we’re going to achieve our objectives.
  • Actions — clear steps and things that we will do, in order to get where we want to go
  • Control — how we measure our success

If you want an analogy, you can think about this: We are on one side of a river and the client wants to get to the other side.

First we asses the situation. How deep the water is, how fast the water flows, how wide the river is and what kind of resources and soil we have. Then we set our objectives. We want to get there in a defined time frame, with this budget, using this kind of materials and the solution must work for this number of people and amount of materials.

After having these two steps in mind, we design the strategy. We choose if we’re going to build a bridge (if yes, what kind of bridge), if we’re going to use a temporary solution, like a inflatable bridge, a boat bridge or if we start building a specific type of boat that could possibly help us further navigate the river after crossing it.

Next on the list is choosing the tactics. That means that we already have a strategy (we have already chosen the solution) — let’s say we will build a temporary wooden bridge. Now we have to define the tactics: where we put the entrance, how wide we make it, what kind of pillars we will use, etc. And for the actions phase we will start describing every step we have to take, like: we will use that much wood, this type of wood and we will get it from here, we will keep the wooden parts together with rope and so on and so forth.

Finally, before even starting to build the wooden bridge, we have to be able to know how we will be successful in our project. Because if we build a wooden bridge that will be completed in 12 months and will cost more than a concrete bridge, then yes, we got to the other part of the river, but the costs were not sustainable for the business.

Business Model Canvas

I’ve heard a lot of opinions regarding this tool. Personally I think is one of the best digital strategy frameworks and I love it for its simplicity, but for the exact same reason I don’t want to use it exclusively. It shows you the relationship between value proposition — customer segment — partners and budget (revenue streams and cost base) through customer relationships, channels, activity and resources.

It is a simple way to have a one page overview of the business. But please do not take it lightly. As simple as it looks, it is not that easy to get it right.

DE Toolbox

As they describe it on their website:

The Disciplined Entrepreneurship Toolbox is a set of tools and checklists that will help you build a healthy and successful startup.

I first recommend you to read the book.

DE Toolbox has a paid version which is fantastic, but for starters the free version will do.

Quickly going through the steps described in the book and then developed into the online tool at DEtoolbox.com: Market segmentation, choose your beachhead market, define end user profile, calculate TAM for beachhead market, define customer persona (a step that I totally love as opposed to using customer target), create life-cycle use case, and so on and so forth, until testing key assumptions, defining the minimum viable business product, showing that dogs will eat the dog food and developing the product plan.

RACE

This one comes from:

Reach — refers to the exploration phase of the purchase funnel of an user

Act — the moment when the user makes a decision

Convert — the moment when the user becomes a client and actually buys your product

Engage — when you do as much as possible to transform your clients in micro-brand ambassadors.

This planning system is one of the best digital strategy frameworks for marketing and communication campaigns. And it is particularly effective for eCommerce marketing activities, but I’ve seen it work for services or events.

Google Micro-moments

The Google Micro-moments describe “an intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need” and it goes as follows:

“I want to know”: exploring, researching or learning. There is an intent, but the user is not necessarily in the buy mode

“I want to do”: when the person is looking for a physical location to go buy, somewhere nearby him.

“I want to go”: when the person has a very specific need and he wants and need help.

“I want to buy”: when the person is in the buy mode and he wants to purchase. He wants help to decide what is the best buy, how to buy or where to buy at the best price/value ratio.

McKinsey’s strategic horizons

This is one of the digital strategy frameworks that keeps your client focused on growing healthy. If your client wants to grow fast regardless the risks, maybe this one is not for him.

The 3 horizons are:

  • Core business — The activities you and your client have to do today and are directly related to the current business and business situation. The revenue that will make the business exist, grow and innovate will come from the activities done in this horizon.
  • Emerging opportunities — this one is about taking what your clients already have (as defined and already in place in the first horizon, the core business) and extend it in new areas of revenue. This has an initial cost low to mid, but the forecasted return is fairly fast and safe.
  • Blue sky — this horizon refers to R&D activities, taking the business to a new business direction, unproven yet, in a high-risk-high-reward direction.

You can think of these 3 horizons as (thanks to one of the best communication strategists I know, who gave me this comparison, Alina Buzatu) a TV series where you have dedicated writers working on the subject of the whole story (the whole series), then you have writers and scripts for the season and then there are the writers that develop each individual episode. Pretty much the same applies here.

The Honeycomb

Although already a veteran, The Social Media Honeycomb still is a very powerful tool and it goes like this:

  • Identity
  • Presence
  • Relationship
  • Reputation
  • Groups
  • Conversation
  • Sharing

I use a slightly modified version, where Identity is replaced by micro-clusters by habits, behaviour, needs, micro-moments, expectations etc. and I build everything around the micro-clusters, not around individuals.

This one is especially good for mass products, with different approaches around the client and purchase decision.

There are a lot of other frameworks, methods, systems and approaches. These are the frameworks that I most often use and I’ve already seen that they work. They are effective and efficient.

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