Branding in the Digital Age: Why it matters

Home » Branding in the Digital Age: Why it matters

Posted by Faye Martinez | December 18, 2022 | Filed under: eCommerce

Most companies waste a lot of money on marketing and it’s incredibly frustrating when this doesn’t lead to the results that you want. You put your brand out there in the market to compete with hundreds of other brands and when this happens the last thing that you want is to be reduced to a commodity.

When we think about a commodity it’s the same no matter who produces it so there’s nothing special at all about it. Unlike a brand, that’s uniquely different from any other goods or services.

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Why does anyone need a brand in the digital age when anything can be found online?

*The digital age is also the age of commoditization. This being said, the challenge of going digital is that everything is reduced to a commodity. You need to set yourself apart from the competition because consumers will compare everything next to each other and then reduce it down to price, features, and benefits. 

Having a brand allows you to stand out more than just your initial product or service offering. A brand is a reason why people choose you. It’s how you remove yourself from the threat of commoditization.

Every great brand has people who love it because it has people who hate it. For example, vanilla ice cream is a classic favorite of everyone but no one will walk across the street for it.

On the other hand, there’s a new flavor of ice cream that you’ll be willing to walk ten blocks for, and somebody will walk ten blocks next to you to tell you how terrible that flavor is. That’s a great brand because attaching a brand to a niche is how it should be done.

In digital branding, you can go after these very small, finite communities and deliver something of value to them. In this example, the new ice cream flavor is valuable enough to spark action from the community (walking ten blocks). That’s the point of branding. It’s like saying “these are people that I care about and this is why they care about me.”

When brands attach to a niche they focus on acquisition. Getting more customers to see and love their offerings that is supported by the product quality and everything else that you need along the line to promote customer retention.

Brands get people’s attention and the product or service offering along with their customer experience is what gets them to stay loyal to you.

The way to get consumers to stay loyal to you is when you say “I have kept my promise. I told you that we exist to help you in these ways.”

Consumers want to be part of that experience because they want to have that benefit. So if a brand keeps its promise then consumers will stay. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how strong the brand is because they don’t have the trust of the consumer to support them.

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The concept of having a digital brand goes beyond having a direct response to the consumer’s problem

Having a direct response to a pain point experienced by consumers is easy. For example, you can say “Are there cockroaches in your kitchen? We’ll get them out tomorrow.”

But having a digital brand goes beyond just that because when we talk about branding it’s not just a pain release-its about helping consumers and not selling.

Marketing is about selling while branding is about providing value to consumers. It’s negative for brands to frame themselves in terms of providing pain relief to consumers because brands should inspire people.

Brands are aspirational because people want things to be better and not just to have a quick solution to their pain. When talking about a brand it needs to adhere to these larger principles. It needs to be evaluated, it needs to raise you, it needs to inspire, and it needs to show you a path forward. Within this context, once consumers see that your brand is fulfilling the promise to raise them up, only then are they going to invest literally and figuratively in your products, services, and what you do.

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Do you have to worry about brand retention if you do your product well enough?

In terms of brand retention, a good example would be when Sony introduced the switchover from tubes to flat-screen HD. Sony had a problem because the core product (their original TVs) never broke. So husbands couldn’t get their wives to approve a purchase of a new flat-screen high-definition TV when the one they already had was working fine. 

Sony had an entire campaign about accidentally breaking your TV with the underlying promise that a Sony TV will never break. So the only time you’ll encounter a problem is when you want a new one. That’s called retention, and that is why Sony owned the market on those TVs.

Their brand promise was a TV that would never break so when consumers decide to buy their next TV, they’re going to look at the brand and say “They have proven their promise. I bought a TV from them and it won’t break.”

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What could businesses do to quickly elevate their messaging and brand promise?

To start would be to avoid making a distinction between the size of the business, industry, or whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Every business needs to first get these settled:

  1. Do the owner and sales team agree on what the sales team is selling?

There is often a disconnect between two parties. Owners will say, “I’m listening to my sales guys. I don’t know what they’re talking about.” However, when you look at it, the sales guys are the ones who are down there every day having these conversations.

So be sure to keep an eye out for disconnects. A really easy one to stop is a disconnect between an owner’s vision and a sales team’s execution.

  1. Making changes for the present situation

This often happens to startup owners. Say you look at your website for the first time in 18 months, or maybe in five years, then you realize that you need to make changes. When you wrote the content on the website it was correct at the time.

You have these mile markers during these points in time where you can say “I meant this when I wrote this. This was the right thing. This was our solution. This was our story. This is our statement then, but it’s not anymore. We have changed.”

Brand values are an interesting way of tracking that. When talking to a brand, one of the things that you would always want to work with them to understand is their brand pillars and values.

They are the beliefs you were built on and they will be no matter what. Being able to track how your values change over time provides huge insight into not just the brand, but the business and the culture.

  1. Having one of the core values be a variation of “the customer’s always right.”

This is a huge disservice to us in our current state of business because we’re not customer-centric. The customer is not always right. We need to grow and evolve our business because you are now at a level where you don’t have to chase every customer.

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Now if you know who you want to be as a brand, where your heart is, and what your promises are, how does that competitive positioning change when the market changes?

It all goes back to the distinction between branding and marketing. There’s no point in marketing what users don’t look for and it’s the same as selling what people don’t look for, or don’t know they’re looking for but the brand needs to transcend that with the idea of the positioning where you let the market decide.

Brands should be consistent and transcend any given campaign whether social or traditional.

And take note of the brand promise and what it is, how you will execute it becomes what you’re going to do all day long. So if you don’t have that flag planted, you’ll have a hard time identifying why you exist and why people should care about you. In short, you’ll be reduced to a commodity because consumers have no emotional investment in you.

What if your brand promise is wrong?

There are people out there who are good at that but one of the challenges there is that there are a lot of people who have a specific execution niche-they build websites, do socials, etc. This is essentially a dangerous thing for reasons such as:

  1. That is not what they’re meant to do.

They are using what is the most important part of the conversion- your brand- as a loss leader to sell your website.

  1. Living in a world with predefined choices.

If they are the ones creating your brand for you then that is a story that is not authentically yours. Think of it like having the plumber design your house, the pipes may be excellent but who can say the same for the rest of the house?

To conclude, the people who fail at bringing their brand to the digital age are those who don’t know their brand. They only chase the traffic, money, and clicks that they shouldn’t go after. When they do this there is no purpose in their messaging because they go after an audience-targeted campaign.

When that happens the customers that do come are not the right ones. So remember, when you start any marketing, if you don’t have a brand, then you’re going to spend a lot of money.

Is there a basic formula that a company can use to evaluate how much energy and financial effort they should put into a brand?

Brands shouldn’t be a function because it implies that a brand that sells to earn millions of dollars should have a product that costs 100 times as much as a brand that sells $2 million in products. That shouldn’t be the case because the cost of brand work should be relatively fixed. After all,  the process is the same.


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