The Return of Digital Branding

The Return of Digital Branding

I was reading an article over at Econsultancy written by their CEO, Ashley Friedlein. It outlined 17 trends that he thinks we’ll see this year in the digital space. There’s lots of great points in the post, but I wanted to focus on one in particular.  Ashley talks about the renewed importance that will be placed on digital branding that’s less about analytics and measurement and more about engagement and customer service. I think he’s dead on.

Don’t get me wrong, as marketers we have to be able to justify the work we do. Sure, it’s great to be on the bleeding edge with unique strategies and tactics , but the “cool factor” only goes so far. At the end of the day your boss (and your boss’s boss) want to see results. I think the recent economic woes forced us to tighten our belts and only embark on marketing programs that we could tie to hard numbers. Again, while I think that measurement is a necessary step in the marketing process, I think it’s time to start using some common sense again.

One of things that Ashley predicts is the renewed focus on brand marketing from a variety company sizes and sectors:

“I believe the spend will come under headings such as ‘engagement’, ‘experiential marketing’, even ‘customer service’. The spend will be focused increasingly on content, apps, social media and service rather than on bought media like display advertising or paid search. And it will come from small companies as well as large ones, across all sectors, notably B2B. But essentially it will be about building a brand presence online that people can engage with, relate to, and, ultimately, trust.”

How much of the marketing that you do is geared towards building trust and customer loyalty? As marketers and CFO’s we tend to focus on sales goals and revenue increases – important to be sure – but what’s the value of gaining a lifelong customer? How important is it for your brand to be seen as the gold standard in your industry?

One of the reasons that television advertising is so successful is because it plays on our most human element: emotion. Whether an ad makes us laugh or cry or just makes us feel good about a brand, successful television campaigns capitalize on human emotion and impulse. Sure, the metrics are incredibly fuzzy and the costs are astronomical, but it’s time-tested. TV works.

What sort of lessons can we learn from television advertising that apply to the work we do online? Digital video is a growing medium and an easy leap from TV to the web, but what about things like mobile apps and social media? I believe there is a way to capture the emotional  feel-good power of television and bring it to some of these online platforms with a layer of added engagement that traditional media just isn’t capable of. In the online space we’re able to utilize emotional effectiveness and marry it with the ability for a consumer to take action immediately. Whether it’s to make a purchase online right then and there or spread the message to their social circles via Twitter , Facebook or YouTube. That is some pretty powerful stuff.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and head down this road, I think you need to ask yourself what your company’s goals are for 2011. Is it about a straight lift in sales or are you trying to build a stronger brand? Is it about the sheer volume of customers or is it about building goodwill and loyalty throughout  your customer base? If you are ready to build a stronger brand with more loyal customers you then have to decide if you’re willing to take a leap of faith around some of your initiatives. Are you willing to put something out in the world and see what comes back – even if you may not be able to track it to sales and clicks?

I’d love to get your thoughts on this. is digital branding a priority for your organization this year? Why or why not? How should businesses be allocating their marketing spend and resources?