Often the most important lessons in business will be understanding the core essence and real world value of ‘the brand’, especially the importance of brand building through digital exposure.
The sectors we tend to operate in move at lightning speed - ever evolving technologies, trending social media platforms, viral videos, streams of memes, algorithmic program updates, enhanced mobile adoption and on, and on. This all makes it far too easy to overlook one of the few things that stays constant through it all… the brand.
As we attempt to push the boundaries with our marketing activities in this fast-paced digital arena, we need to make sure that we're able to maintain the basics of brand building for future success.
What is branding?
There’s a distinction between a brand identity, and a brand. Your brand identity is tangible and the world will see it, whereas your brand, however, uniquely exists within the mind of your customers – it’s what they consider once they hear your name.
What’s the difference between branding and marketing?
The simplest definition for the difference between branding and marketing is this:
“Marketing is what you do, branding is what you are”
Marketing develops and promotes a product or service, while branding offers meaning as to why a business exists and communicates its core values. We can say that marketing uses differentiation and persuasion as tactics, while brand building is about developing an emotional connection - why a business exists - and communicates its core values.
The importance of brand identity in the digital age
Building a powerful brand in the digital age is vital. After all branding has always been important, but when we think about the digital environment and dynamic user behaviours, we are able to see the clear advantages of branding:
- Branding is a tool for developing and maintaining a competitive advantage: in the clamorous world of digital media, staying competitive is even more of a daily challenge.
- Online users are now more autonomous than they ever were. With vast information at their fingertips, users are mostly spoiled for choice in terms of products and services. A well-defined brand is crucial for separating your product or service from the competition.
- Brands have less dominion over what is shared concerning them online. Users have access to the opinions of other users, who in turn can heavily influence their purchase considerations.
- The online customer relationship seldom ends with a purchase; brand building within the digital realm ought to leverage this and convert prospective customers into sought after brand loyalists.
- Say adios to the funnel model; nowadays there are numerous touch points wherever users interact with brands, but branding ensures a consolidated message.
- In addition to paid and owned media, powerful digital branding has the advantage of earned media – similar to communities and brand advocates
Remember branding isn't solely concerned with your product or service – it’s about your social engagement, customer services, sales approach, your staff and everything in between – consider how digital has affected these areas.
At its core, branding has always been about communications. Digital multiplies the communications of brands, individuals and things.
The importance of building a brand online
We talk about ‘integrated marketing’ – this revolves around the brand. We know that integrated marketing is key to success within the digital world. There’s simply no use in delivering your selling strategy in silos. A powerful brand works in all channels directly and indirectly – likewise, both time and resources must be invested in brand building through digital marketing.
Branding in the digital age
A powerful brand will influence the success of SEO:
- As an example, we should all know by now that click-through rate is a powerful ranking factor – if a brand is more identifiable, it’s likely to result in more backlinks and clicks.
- Also social engagement in the form of likes, shares and comments is a progressively vital ranking factor - because branding is concerned with developing an emotional association, a powerful brand has fans, followers, advocates and influencers that actively promote it.
- Any PR professional can tell you that it’s much easier to sell in news or content from a widely known brand, as opposed to a product with an obscure logo imposed on it.
To achieve the most out of your integrated digital marketing, don’t overlook the importance of brand building; clearly define your brand and what it stands for, consider what drives it and target how customers connect with your brand for all aspects of your business.