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How is digital changing the rules of branding?

What has NOT changed? The principle. Brands are still built on a single-minded promise that needs to be relevant, credible and unique.

What has changed? The environment. Brands now live in a digital landscape that is open, connected, and works in real time.

A different environment requires different rules. Below are three ways the digital environment is changing the rule of branding:

1. Creating open brands

In the digital world, there is no gap between the say and the do. If a brand doesn’t deliver on its promise, it is going to be called out. People are more likely to talk about negative experiences than positive ones. Digital provides the perfect platform to create and distribute content across an inter-connected network. A transparent environment not only puts more checks and balances on brands, but it also requires brands to be open and honest with their customers.

Think about an open kitchen restaurant where customers have a full view of how their dishes get made. A good example of a brand that adopted an open policy is Domino's Pizza, though it took a lot of pain to get there. Their path to openness started with a video prank in YouTube that forced a response by their U.S. president, Patrick Doyle. From there on, the company adapted an open policy in which they presented their products and services in a totally open and accessible manner. 

This means having customers sharing their positive and negative views on their products and bringing their employees to the front and center of the discussion through open social media policies. Domino's only screens for profanity and pornography. Plus, creating applications that track the delivery of your pizza from the time you order to the moment the delivery guy knocks on your door. 

2. Engaging with customer in real-time

Since conversations happen in real-time in the digital space, brands need to engage in real-time. For most brands, this requires a significant shift in the way they communicate with their customers. They need to start migrating from a “campaign” to an “always-on” communication model. In other words, brands cannot longer dictate the cadence of the conversation. They need to function more as a newsroom to follow and act on consumer trends.

Nestle, Coca-Cola and Red Bull are just a few of the brands that have adopted an “always on” marketing approach. They have created digital newsrooms to track and respond to cultural trends and news through developing stories and videos. Below is a view of the Nestle Digital Acceleration Team with a direct link to an insight article by Reuters.

Nestle Digital Acceleration Team

3. Sharing meaningful experiences

We live in a digital communal society in which people are sharing common interests, property, and possessions. To be accepted in the community, brands need to add value. This normally comes from creating relevant content or helping customers through utilities.

In terms of content, today more customers are getting their news through shared links or content aggregators. According to the Pew report, 29 percent of consumers get their news from a “news organizing website or app” compared with the 36 percent who go directly to a media company’s website or app.  Plus, about 9 percent are now getting their content through social media sites. There is a clear movement toward people caring more about the content they are interested in than the traditional news authority or digital property that delivers it. 

Utilities are another way for brands to add value. A great example is Nike +, which helps runners track, train, socialize and get rewards for their run. Nike+ has extended the experience to Nike+ Fuelband, a smart watch that works in concert with your sneakers to track your fitness and running improvements. 

In summary, digital is changing the rules of branding by changing the environment where brands live. An open, real-time and connected environment requires brands that are transparent, up to the moment, and provide meaningful social experience.


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