What Does Brand Look Like in a Digital World?

The folks over at MPlanet have been reaching out to bloggers this week, asking us to post on one of the following four topics:

– Brand building in a digital world (my topic!)

– Connecting with empowered consumers

– Marketing mix in a fragmented world

– Global marketing on a borderless planet

Here’s my take on brands in this digital world we are working with.

Brand Ownership

There has been quite a bit of discussion of late about social media and brands. Who “owns” the brand in a digital world?  This reminds me of conversations about CRM and “managing” customer relationships. Can we really manage our customers’ relationships with us? Who is in control of the relationship? The customer. Likewise, as much as a brand may cater to their customers, it is ultimately the customer who is in charge of whether they purchase again (and whether they recommend you).

So, what does a brand look like in a digital world?  Whatever its customers say it looks like.

Online brand “impressions” come not only from interactions with a company’s official website, they come from every part of the customer experience.  Customer service, search results (yes, they are part of the customer experience), banner ads, and, of course, reviews, ratings, and blog posts about the company’s products or services all influence perception of the brand. There is general agreement that the brand is a summation of all these small touchpoints of a customer with a company.

Customers may agree or disagree with the branding that a company is doing, but in a digital world, they now have a very fast and easy way to share their thoughts. Thousands or millions of others can see, hear, and experience multiple customer perceptions of most brands, regardless of whether that brand has a strong online presence. In the digital world, other customers may be a stronger influence on the company’s brand than the company itself.

The community defines the brand in a digital world.

More Than a Conversation

Earlier this week I spoke with Jonathan Baskin, author of the book Branding Only Works on Cattle (podcast of the discussion coming soon!). We talked about the opportunities for a different take on branding. What should really be the goal? Jonathan suggested we create more than a two-way online conversation with customers; we need to drive them to action. Talking is great; buying is even better!  Jonathan posed the idea of doing this by creating a branding game plan where the brand comes alive through all the customer touchpoints (such as customer service). And he means games here, using games as models for how to do business with customers. This helps create experiences where customers are moved towards action (purchase, repurchase, or recommendation to others are good ones to start with!) in a way that they not only enjoy but where they can also feed back into the process.

Playing in a Digital World

Brands in a digital world have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of this type of game play. I don’t mean that brands should create online games for customers to play! I mean there is a challenge to make each customer interaction unique, exciting, and relevant to that customer at that moment in time. What your brand is to me is likely very different than what it is to my colleague, sister, or friend. Additionally, my perception of your brand may change depending on what I am intent on doing at the moment or even where I am in my customer lifecycle. Digital media allows companies to be extremely flexible in how they create customer experiences that are differentiated based on customer need (and value). And it also allows brands to make these experiences fun and engaging!

It All Adds Up

As Jonathan’s book states, “Branding is experience in time, and the brand becomes a series of interrelated behaviors.” Brands that will be successful in a Digital World are those that can not only tailor those experiences to their customers as needed, they are able to interact with and engage with customers online in a meaningful way – both for the company as well as for the customer.

(Photo credit: Will Lion http://www.flickr.com/photos/will-lion/2782049563/)

You may also like

McDonald’s Connects with Employees and Customers

25 Responses

  1. Becky, it sounds like your conversation with Jonathan was extremely thought-provoking! I love the points you make and how relevant they are to creating unforgettable customer experiences. Thank you!

  2. Pingback : Jon Burg's Future Visions

  3. Nice post, Becky. I love the point about digital media providing us with a really wide range of choices on how to really wow customers with a great experience. Is the podcast up?


  4. Fannous

    Great post Becky.. especially the part that talks about engagement of customers to improve the experience. I have a question though for yourself and the blog readers. How can business people create an engaging customer experience online. Is it important that websites allow for customer involvement by providing sociality options, customer reviews, etc? Is it also important for sites to be playful and worthy of exploration, or perhaps it is better if sites are kept simple to provide information only?

  5. Wonderful points. Its’s obvious that social media is starting to play in the role of branding and customer experience. Look at the brands that use Twitter. Even with all this great “free” conversation going on, no one is telling brands how to measure it? Yes, social media makes word of mouth marketing even more viral than before, but how is a brand suppose to know whether or not their marketing strategy is being successful without measurement? We all know that social media is about being connected with consumers and a larger conversations – but how are the brands and companies suppose to use this tool to make them better at serving customer needs?

  6. Rocking post B!!

    I agree, engagement of customers does improve (or in some cases worsens) the experience especially if it turns into spam. Engagement means dialogue and discussion, a 2-way relationship.

    If you improve the quality of the engagement, you inherently increase the level of trust in you and the brand. You can do this by responding positively to customer feedback and giving more value, in terms of helpful information, to your client.

    One of the best things about the digital world, you can personalise your relationship by addressing people by their name. People who feel respected and feel like they’ve been listened to will likely increase their custom.

    All the best!!

  7. Great post. I have to wonder how much of this is really not new, we’re just catching onto it now. Your brand was never really completely yours, even direct word of mouth was a factor before the digital age. Its just enhanced.

  8. Building a successful brand on the Internet is usually even harder than in the ‘real life’. People have learnt that before making a purchase they should visit a number of customer review sites, maybe digg a bit in search for any opinions about the tradesmen. So those companies who do not care so much about customer experience nor monitor other sites, may be really dissapointed to see that even one unhappy customer made them loose hundreds.
    On the other hand, developing an online brand is easier because thanks to social networks it is not only you who work on it, but other web users (not necessarily your customers).

  9. Pingback : A few of my favorite blogs, Part I – Customer Experience - the customer experience for profit blog

  10. the brands in the digital world are very important, people would be able to impart constantly, the way is having a site with more blogs and social networking tools as offered by the Internet, I really liked your article, I hope to publish more articles like this.

  11. I enjoyed reading your informative article and considering the points you made. You make a lot of sense. This is an excellent piece of writing. Thanks for sharing this so we can all read it….

  12. The backend part of your company supports these profit centers.
    A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a third-party server,
    and all your Internet traffic is routed through
    that server. A internet marketing business, in a nutshell, a
    business that’s designed to run on the internet via a website.

  13. The backend part of your company supports these profit
    centers. A VPN creates an encrypted connection to
    a third-party server, and all your Internet traffic is routed through that server.

    It’s probably some mix of the two, so I have to give him props
    for not going too far in either direction.

  14. The backend part of your company supports these profit centers.
    A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a third-party server,
    and all your Internet traffic is routed through that server.
    By ranking your website on the very first page of search engine results, you are tapping into a huge number of people looking for what exactly you offer.

  15. What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively helpful
    and it has helped me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & aid different customers like its aided me.
    Great job.