In the ever-changing landscape of the digital world, it is crucial that your brand is able to keep up and utilize new trends and technologies to their fullest potential. That is why digital branding has become a field in its own right, with as many — if not more — subcategories, unique elements and specializations as traditional branding.
According to the Global Marketing Trends 2021 report, 68% of brands across eight different countries said that the most critical function for continuing growth is the integration of digital technology into their existing business models. Clearly, the impact of digital technology has had an immense impact on businesses around the world, to a point where it is virtually impossible to have a successful business without the integration of digital technology.
Here, we will explore the definition of branding and what makes it different from marketing; an overview of digital branding and why it’s important; and an in-depth look into the crucial elements for successful digital branding.
What is Branding?
In the most basic terms, branding is the message and promise you make to your clients and customers. It consists of not only your name, logo and aesthetic but also your messaging, identity and voice. Branding is not only the overall look of your business but also the intangible feeling that you provide to your customers.
How is Branding Different from Marketing?
You may occasionally hear branding and marketing used interchangeably, but they actually have very different functions and elements. You can think of marketing as the actions you are taking to bring customers to your business and convert those actions into a sale. Branding, on the other hand, involves the internal processes that your business conducts to define who exactly your business is and what it stands for — what it will mean to the customer. A good way to think about this difference is that marketing is what drives customers to make a purchase, but branding is what keeps them coming back. When done effectively, your branding will create awareness, recognition and lasting loyalty between you and your customers.
What is Digital Branding?
Digital branding is exactly what it sounds like — the definition of branding that we just discussed, integrated into a digital world. Digital branding works to engage an online audience, not just drive sales online (which is the purpose of digital marketing). You can think of digital branding as a way to interact and connect with your audience without ever even meeting them in person or at a storefront.
Digital branding involves many different components, some of which are closely linked to your digital marketing strategy, and others of which are more focused on building your brand’s intangible identity. Some elements of digital branding include your online brand messaging, a digitized logo, SEO, social media engagement, and so much more.
History of Digital Branding
Obviously, digital branding has only become relevant in the recent technological age. Prior to that, branding was more tied to print advertising and especially word of mouth. Before the age of the Internet, the ways that companies could develop their branding was far more limited than it was today. Now, the Internet, social media, and other digital technologies allow for many more channels for potential branding opportunities.
Why is Digital Branding Important?
Digital branding is incredibly important to your business for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it helps to create relationships with customers that you might not otherwise be able to reach. For example, a brick-and-mortar clothing store in Denver is not able to get the attention of and sell to a customer in New York City without an online presence. Not only will your digital branding, paired with your digital marketing, help to increase sales; it will also create lasting relationships with customers that the employees of your business may not ever meet face-to-face.
Digital branding allows us to do the same things that traditional branding allows, just on a much greater scale. By using digital channels, you can build loyalty among customers from across the globe. Those relationships, and that loyalty, begin when you successfully and effectively communicate your brand’s missions and values online.
7 Elements of Successful Digital Branding
In the ever-changing digital landscape, new opportunities for digital branding are constantly emerging. Your brand should always stay current and utilize those new opportunities as they pertain to your messaging. However, there are some tried-and-true elements of digital branding that you’ll want to make sure your business does not miss out on.
Whether you are building a new brand from the ground up, going through the process of a rebrand, or simply adapting your brand for digital spaces, your messaging is key. Your brand messaging will involve a mission statement, as well as a value proposition. Your mission statement defines what and who your company is, while a value proposition explains — from the customer or client point of view — what value your company brings to consumers. Even if these are not explicitly stated on your website (although it’s certainly something to consider), it is essential that you have these statements written out in your internal material. Your mission statement and value proposition will help to inform everyone across your company in their decision-making, in their writing, and in their relationships with clients and customers.
Brand Messaging Essentials
Additional crucial components of your brand messaging are the intangibles: the subtext, the overall feel, the values that are written between the lines. Sure, you can tell your customers what you can offer them, but how will you prove that to them? Show; don’t just tell. These intangible aspects of your brand messaging don’t just come about overnight; they are developed over time as you build your brand and your relationships with clients and customers.
Your brand voice is critical to the effectiveness of your brand messaging. A good way to flesh out the details of your brand voice is to build a brand persona. In other words, if your brand were a person, who would they be? How would they communicate with others? What are their interests, their values, their goals and dreams?
In the early 20th century, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung proposed that as humans, we all contain within ourselves and also recognize in others certain archetypes — categorized symbols and roles that we play in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. From Jung’s proposal, modern marketers have put forth a set of 12 different brand archetypes that can be used to describe a brand’s persona and voice. Figuring out where your brand falls among these 12 archetypes can help you establish, develop and execute your brand’s voice within its messaging.
The Twelve Brand Archetypes Are:
Order: Provide Structure
- Ruler – The goal of “Ruler” brands is to foster a sense of order and prestige. Amid all the chaos, this brand stands above. Some examples of “ruler” brands are Mercedes-Benz and Rolex.
- Caregiver – The aim of “Caregiver” brands is pretty self-explanatory. These brands want to care for their customers and make their lives better and easier. They foster a sense of comfort and protection. Some examples of “caregiver” brands are Campbell’s Soup and Johnson & Johnson.
- Creator – “Creator” brands attempt to foster a sense of creativity and imagination. They want their customers to feel as though they can make and do anything. Companies like Crayola and 3M.
Freedom: Explore Spirituality
- Innocent – The “Innocent” brand archetype has a simple goal: to be happy, and to spread that positivity to customers. These brands’ messages are often simple and soft. Some such brands include Dove and Coca-Cola.
- Sage – “Sage” brands aim to portray and share knowledge and insight. These brands are masters in their industry, and they want their customers to become that, too. Some “Sage” brands are Google and PBS.
- Explorer – The goal of “Explorer” brands is to discover new things and foster a sense of adventure. When using their products or services, you will undoubtedly feel that feeling, too. Some “Explorer” examples are Jeep and The North Face.
Ego: Leave a Legacy
- Hero – “Hero” brands want to help the betterment of the world and aim to portray themselves as courageous, bold, and at the forefront of their industry. Some “Hero” examples include Nike and the American Red Cross.
- Magician – Brands in the “Magician” category aim to do exactly what it sounds like — bring magic to the lives of their customers. These brands are charismatic and imaginative, and some examples include Disney and Dyson.
- Rebel – The “Rebel” archetype aims to break the rules and fight preconceived notions or authority. They are wild and unruly, paving the way for new perspectives. Some examples of “Rebel” brands are Harley-Davidson and MTV.
Social: Create Connections
- Citizen – “Citizen” brands represent the everyman, the average Joe. These brands aim to relate with customers on a personal level and essentially meet them where they are. Some “Citizen” brands include Home Depot and Budweiser.
- Jester – Unsurprisingly, “Jester” brands aim to make consumers laugh and bring joy to their lives. These brands are goofy, lighthearted, and maybe a bit mischievous. Some examples of “Jester” brands are Ben & Jerry’s and Old Spice.
- Lover – The “Lover” archetype aims to foster feelings of intimacy and passion. These brands portray themselves as warm, loving and even romantic. Some “Lover” brands are Godiva Chocolate and Victoria’s Secret.
If you’ve already launched your business, chances are you already have a logo. However, it’s important to note that not every logo used for print, storefronts or traditional advertising may not translate well to a digital space. In fact, many major brands have changed their logo and the overall feel of their branding altogether so that it is optimized for digital platforms.
In 2020, German car manufacturer BMW changed its logo for the first time in 23 years, citing the need for a more digital- and mobile-friendly look. BMW opted for a simpler, flatter design — a departure from its 1997 design that includes the appearance of three-dimensional elements. While some criticized BMW for simplifying their logo, others applauded them for modernizing the logo for a digital world. BMW’s 2020 flat design, fitted with simple colors, is optimal for web and mobile platforms.
Developing a new logo, on the other hand, can give you an opportunity to play into current design trends and really make an impact. Be sure to research what is working for other brands while sticking to your own brand identity. It is also crucial to note that while you can design a logo that utilizes current design trends, you also want to ensure that your logo will outlast the trends.
“Websites promote you 24/7: No employee will do that.” – Paul Cookson
As you probably already know, your website is possibly the most important part of your digital marketing strategy. Your website is where people go to shop for your products, book services, read about your business, get contact information — essentially to find out everything they might need to know about your business. That is why it is crucial that your website is designed with the customer in mind.
The layout of your website can be completely customized to your brand and the type of business that it is, but there are a few important things that every website needs to have. The most effective websites maintain your brand’s color scheme, fonts, and overall design and feel. It’s also vital that your website is easily “crawlable,” meaning that visitors to your website — as well as search engines — have easy access to everything on your site. This is where the user experience comes into play; your website design needs to be simple, but complete, and of course, working perfectly. Otherwise, visitors to your website may get frustrated and move on to another option.
Some sections that you should have on your website are an attractive homepage; an “About” page that tells customers what your business does and who you are as a brand; services that your business provides or a place to shop your products; and a “Contact” page that lets customers know how they can get in touch with your business.
Another section that your website can have, which is becoming more and more popular on brand websites across all industries, is a blog page. You can write and post blogs on topics related to your brand that your customers will want to read. A successful blog post will also have gone through an effective SEO plan to help drive traffic to your site and optimize your placement on search results.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a crucial component of any brand’s digital strategy. SEO refers to the process of increasing visibility of your site to general web traffic from search engines. The SEO process targets organic, unpaid search traffic. Essentially, the goal of SEOing is to land your brand site as high as possible among the results from Google, Bing and Yahoo searches. SEO is vital to digital branding because it allows your company to reach a much larger audience and leads to increased conversions (a.k.a. more sales for your brand).
There are many different ways that you can improve your website’s SEO. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines explains that you can optimize your placement among Google search results by following some simple steps, including:
- Ensure that all the pages on your website can be reached by a link from another easily findable page on your site
- Have no more than a few thousand links on a site page
- Make your website rich with relevant information, with pages that clearly and accurately describe your content
- Make sure your website includes any keywords that users might type into search to find your page
- Ensure that your site is designed with every consumer in mind, including those with visual impairments
- Ensure that your site appears correctly across different Internet browsers
How to Improve SEO
One great way to improve your brand’s SEO is to create and share meaningful content on your website. Many brands’ sites — even if they are not necessarily in the business of writing or sharing ideas — have a blog or news section. These sections are often home to articles and thought pieces, written from the perspective of the brand, on current trends and information in the brand’s industry.
Throughout these pieces of content, you should link to other sites that are considered credible authorities on the topic. This will improve your brand’s own credibility on your website. Additionally, you should have internal links, or links back to pages on your own site. Both linking methods help improve your credibility and authority on the topic and therefore can help to boost your site within organic search results.
Speaking of content, there is so much more to say about the importance of content marketing for your brand. Examples of content marketing include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Blog posts
In addition to simply having more branded content, producing content helps to establish your brand’s authority in your industry.
For example, let’s pretend you own a craft beer brand. You’ve developed a website, you have a couple social media pages, but what do you do next?
On your website, you should craft a “blog” or “news” section where your team — or independently hired writers — create articles about the latest and greatest in the craft beer world. Is there an emerging packaging trend that you’ve noticed with new craft beer brands? Write about it! Are your customers wondering what’s the best type of beer to drink in the summer? Let them know! As long as you are connecting the topic back to your own brand, you can write about virtually anything connected to your industry.
Next, you’ll want to create some informative content that other brands and even aficionados in the industry will want to share. Infographics are a great way to let others know that you are knowledgeable and can be seen as an authority in your field. Your brand could create an infographic about the rise in popularity of IPAs over the past decade. Ensure that your logo or brand name is visible on the infographic! Every time your infographic is shared helps to support your branding.
Your brand could even start a podcast where you interview your brewers, talk about the latest trends in the craft beer world, review your favorite beers… the possibilities are endless! Consumers with a vested interest in the craft beer industry will be the most likely to consume this kind of content, so you can get as in-depth as you would like.
Branded video content has boomed in importance lately. Sure, you can create video advertisements for your brand, but something that you can do to set your brand apart is brand storytelling. This is branded video content that tells the stories of people within your company, people in your community, or people in the industry. Brand storytelling positions your brand not only as a provider of a product or service but also as a thought leader in the industry.
Another important aspect of your content marketing is what you post on your social media pages, which is an entire discussion of its own.
“It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, and some people don’t understand that. Social media is more like a telephone than a television.” – Amy Jo Martin
As you already know, social media is a relatively new but increasingly important part of any company’s branding. Having a strong presence on social media will help communicate your mission and values to everyone else on the platform — especially to existing and potential customers.
We have already discussed the importance of establishing a brand voice and identity, and social media is a perfect place to practice and explore this concept. You will communicate this identity not only through the content that you create and share but also through captions, the timing and frequency of your posts, as well as how you communicate directly with consumers.
As of January 2021, some of the most popular social media platforms worldwide were:
- Facebook (Facebook Messenger was also on the list separately)
Keep in mind that the popularity of different social media platforms varies across the globe, so be mindful of your markets when choosing which platforms you prioritize.
Creating Original Content
Creating original content for your brand’s social media pages is a vital step in solidifying your brand’s strong social presence. Keep in mind that what you are saying through captions and posts is just as important as what you are showing.
The most popular social media platforms rely heavily on visual content. You can post things like original infographics (as mentioned before), new product or service photos, culturally relevant and topical memes, news… you name it! As long as it’s visually appealing and actively working to amplify your brand’s voice, you can really have full creative license of what you create and share.
Engaging with Consumers
Social media is becoming an increasingly popular place for customers to communicate directly with brands. Not only will they share positive comments and product reviews, but they may also share negative thoughts on your products, services, or overall brand.
Listening to and engaging with consumers is crucial. If you were to hear a complaint about one of your products in the outside world, you would be quick to intervene and try to improve that person’s view of your brand. Social media is no different. Additionally, the anonymity that social media and the Internet provide has allowed consumers to be more honest and vocal than ever, for better or for worse.
That is why it is important that your brand engages in social listening. Social listening involves the practice of monitoring mentions of your brand and your products or services on social media, as well as analyzing this information to figure out what your next steps will be.
You should manually monitor your owned social media accounts and respond via comments or direct messages in a timely and respectful manner. When a customer compliments your brand, make sure to thank them and encourage them to keep coming back. If a customer complains, thank them for bringing the issue to your attention, and communicate with them directly about what your company can do to make it up to them.
Having to constantly come up with original content and then manually posting that content to your social media accounts can be exhausting and time-consuming. Consider creating a social media calendar where you can create, plan, and organize content all at once for the upcoming week or month. There are many online tools that can help you do this.
Additionally, you should consider investing in an automatic social media posting tool like Hootsuite, Loomly or Planoly. Many of these tools come with built-in social media calendars and allow you to schedule posts to be auto-posted at the date and time that you designate. These tools allow you to be away from your phone or computer and still have the right content posted at the right time.
Now that we’ve discussed some different aspects of social media marketing in relation to branding, we will discuss a related topic: influencer marketing.
Closely tied to social media marketing, influencer marketing is a digital marketing strategy that is growing rapidly in popularity. Sprout Social defines influencer marketing as “a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers – individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche.” Some people with large followings have even been able to turn influencer marketing into a full-time and quite lucrative career.
Influencer marketing can greatly benefit your brand — both in terms of generating sales as well as emphasizing your brand’s identity. When an influencer endorses your products or services, they are communicating that their values align with that brand and vice versa. That’s why it is important to select influencers whose values line up with your brand’s goals. If you’re not careful about who you select, influencer marketing can actually end up hurting your brand.
Getting influencers to work with your brand can be time-consuming and costly, so managing your expectations is key. Start by reaching out to influencers who are already considered to be knowledgeable about your industry, and those that don’t have millions of followers (it will be more difficult to get noticed by larger influencers). If paying influencers for a promoted post isn’t realistic for your brand, consider offering free or discounted products.
Just as the digital world is vast and ever-changing, the scope of digital branding is, too. Thus, partnering with the right digital branding agency is paramount to your brand’s success.
That’s where The Brandsmen comes in. The Brandsmen are experts in providing clients with top-notch services across every facet of digital marketing and branding. Some of our services include:
- Website & Logo Design
- Brand storytelling through content & SEO
- Analyzing competitors
- Establishing clear client or customer personas
- Branding Strategy & Execution
- Reputation Management
- Social Media management
Strong branding is key for establishing your company within your industry and generating business. At The Brandsmen, we execute proven strategies to drive maximum ROI. To learn more about how we can help establish, develop and grow your brand, contact The Brandsmen today.