Digital branding


Published on

Published in: Marketing, Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Digital branding

  1. 1. Digital Branding A perspective for building & leveraging online brands By the author of Leveraging the Corporate Brand James R. Gregory, CEO Corporate Branding, LLC Published for
  2. 2. Digital Branding The digital revolution meets the real world For the past few years, the more seasoned financial community observers have examined the explosive development of the Internet in the US—and the seemingly limitless profusion of dot-com enterprises—and counseled caution. Despite claims that a new technology and global medium were rewriting stock valuation fundamentals, many observers knew that a shakeout was coming. The only question was how long it would take to arrive. The lesson to investors was clear enough: Even a revolutionary be different but the fundamentals still apply. technology shift can’t alter the fundamental relationship of price The medium may to value. Not, at least, in the long run. The fundamentals still apply. What can brand-builders learn from this shakeout? Simply that the medium may be different, but the fundamentals still apply: Strong brands are not bought overnight—they’re built one experience at a time. A strategic branding framework for senior management. As with any other core business function, online brand-building activities must proceed from a clear, well-defined strategic perspective. They must serve clear objectives. They must promise and deliver value. Above all, they must support and reinforce the brand images and messages delivered to customers in print, broadcast, and other media. The goal of this brochure is to provide management with a sensible, realistic framework, based on proven methodologies, for successful branding online. 1
  3. 3. Digital Branding The Internet: What it is and what it can mean for your company and your brand Brand—or else. It’s precisely in this highly competitive environment, employing a relatively new medium of extraordinary promise, that thoughtful branding decisions become critically important. Such decisions lay the foundation for more effective Defying definition. An elusive and often misunderstood concept, communications, behavior, and operations—which collectively the Internet is the biggest thing to hit the business community have direct bearing on a company’s bottom line. since the PC. The amazing thing about the Internet is not what it is, but rather what it does. A new medium as well as an interrelated community, the Internet democratizes access, promotes communication, opens new channels for marketing and distribution, Get used to it: On the Internet, the customer calls the shots makes available new sources of knowledge, levels the business playing field, and provides a pulpit as well as a sounding board— Digital democratization. There may have been a time—when among other countless benefits. communications and distribution channels were limited and The Web was made for branding. The speed, breadth, depth, relatively few in number—that large companies could dominate a and efficiency of the Internet clearly represent the present and the geographic region or control the communications environment by future of business, both in consumer and business-to-business flooding it with dollars and messages. If those halcyon days ever markets. Because the Internet enables companies to manage existed, the democratizing technology of the Internet has audience experiences in a more controlled and meaningful way, it banished them for good. has the potential to make brands more relevant and more impactful A challenging online environment for businesses. Today’s to customers—resulting in stronger one-to-one relationships and Internet customers have access to more information, making enhanced customer loyalty. them more aware of and more sophisticated about many things— Differentiation: The key to a successful business. Pulling away not least, business issues. A range of choices—one that no real- from the pack is more important than ever. In many industries, world shopping mall can match—is available instantly, any day, at digital technology and the Internet have spurred the development any hour. And with minimal costs of entry, companies large and of new business models and new operating structures. But the small are providing these customers with an ever-expanding new medium has also brought about a great deal of confusion— number of alternatives, making competition increasingly intense, precisely at a time when global competition has intensified and and only a click away. financial markets are becoming more discriminating. As a result, companies are finding it more important than ever to distinguish themselves from their competitors to enhance customer loyalty and build shareholder value. 2 3
  4. 4. Digital Branding In this environment—one of unprecedented freedom, choice, and more important over the short term to fledgling companies than opportunity—strategic branding decisions play a critical role in strategy development. a company’s ability to build strong relationships with customers, It’s the experience, stupid. When people hear the word ‘brand,’ relationships that create, develop, and enhance loyalty. they think ‘logo,’ ‘tagline,’ even ‘advertising.’ But a brand is much more than that. A brand is not a logo or a tagline—it’s the collective Connectedness centricity? perception of a product or company based on experience. Numerous alternatives Why customer Every brand is based on individual experience. Customers experience a brand by reading an ad, by using a product or service, Zero distance by visiting a Web site, or in countless other ways. The aggregate of those experiences, accumulated across all audiences over time, Freedom to choose creates a collective perception. This perception generates a set of expectations which the brand must live up to each and every time. Attitude and deep pockets alone can’t build strong brands Needless to say, a brand can become a tremendously valuable asset which a company can leverage in order to deliver truly substantial business results. The brand is the need, and the need is the brand. The key Companies such as America Online, Yahoo!, Amazon, and Netscape have built strong, well-defined online brands in a relatively short to managing each experience is simple: First, project a clear, period of time. These companies realized long ago that building a identifiable, and accurate representation of your company. Second, brand is about continually and consistently managing the customer focus on resolving customer need. The most successful online experience. But for every AOL or Yahoo!, there are scores of brands enjoy outstanding resonance in the marketplace because companies convinced that they can successfully build brands with they are able to accomplish both of these things seamlessly. deep pockets and mass media exposure alone. Most dot-coms have a way to go. Whatever the virtues of their In-your-face has had its day. Preference for the in-your-face products or services, most dot-com companies simply haven’t approach is understandable. After all, in addition to selling products existed long enough, conducted enough business, or built sufficient and services, many dot-com companies must also sell potential favorability to be considered strong brands. In short, they haven’t customers on Internet commerce itself. Not only that: Being first to continually and consistently met customer expectations. The fact market and generating customer trial—often through offline advertising that most of these enterprises lack a fundamental strategic that’s long on attitude and short on hard facts or benefits—can seem underpinning—which might address head-on the challenges of being a start-up enterprise—only compounds the problem. 4 5
  5. 5. Digital Branding Your Web site is an absolute reflection of your brand Developing a CoreBrand™ platform A Web site isn’t just a marketing tool or a distribution channel. A brand needs a core focus and set of strategic underpinnings to It’s an absolute reflection of everything the brand and company grow and succeed. A CoreBrand platform provides just that. represent. It’s where everything—including products and services, An indispensible management tool. A brand platform provides customer support, overall attitude, and voice—comes together. a succinct definition of who and what a company is, what it does, Design, text, navigation, and functionality should support and and how it behaves. It is a snapshot of what the brand represents reinforce a distinctive brand experience. and why it is important in the marketplace. With an agreed-upon Every aspect of a company’s Web site should flow logically from a platform in place, decision-making can proceed in a logical, sound brand strategy. If the Web site is already up and functioning, disciplined, and—above all—efficient fashion. The platform defines that strategy can serve as a filter or standard against which to the brand in a way that employees can understand and use as a measure existing work—one that also can guide the development guide to action. of the site. A must for every online brand. Brands must be clearly communicated to a company’s various audiences. As key There are two basic steps to building distinctiveness on a Web site: constituents, these individuals must be able to grasp the company’s essence and purpose. As a central point of communication, a company Web site must speak to and resonate with a diverse array Step 2: Execute the strategy. representing the brand in every other online environment. Once the strategy is articulated and understood, it’s possible to execute it in communicative, navigational, and functional terms: How the site looks and feels to the user, the messages it conveys, the ease of movement from one part of the site to another, the types of e-commerce solutions the site offers, and the built-in banners and links it contains. approach: Step 1: Define the strategic underpinnings of the brand. These underpinnings constitute the strategic backbone of the brand—what we call a CoreBrand™ strategy. The strategy articulates, among other things, the brand’s reason for being, what it delivers, what its core focus is, and the voice it uses to communicate. A sensible, two-step Building holistic brands. The brand platform guides more than of audiences. The brand platform becomes the basis for every element of the Web site, including design, copy, navigation, and functionality. It also becomes a central point of guidance for just the company’s Web site. It is a strategy that draws from and permeates every facet of the company’s existence—the way it communicates and conducts business. One company, one business, one brand, one strategy, one voice. 6 7
  6. 6. Digital Branding Leveraging the CoreBrand Brand strategy is business strategy. The two strategies feed Reflect and influence. A corporate brand strategy isn’t hot air. off of one another. In the end, brands succeed not because of It isn’t a set of platitudes designed to represent a company as what companies say about themselves, but because of what they something other than what it is. Properly conceived and developed, do, how they function, and how successfully they meet customers’ a brand strategy both reflects a company’s essence and influences needs and expectations. every aspect of its behavior—in its operations, in the way its people relate to others both within and outside the company, and There are three things to keep in mind when defining your brand: Defining the brand— three musts: in the way it communicates to all audiences. Make it differentiating. Consistent representation is key. While a brand strategy may Why should a customer choose your company, your brand, your product or service, rather than another? If your strategy doesn’t answer this question in a clear, unique, and compelling way, your brand is unlikely to succeed in a crowded and very competitive marketplace. be communicated in different ways to different audiences—internal versus external; international versus national—the core elements that underlie it are unchanging and consistently presented. And that consistency doesn’t apply only to a company’s advertising; it Make it relevant. also must be reflected in the company’s nomenclature, in its Remember, you’re competing for a very fickle commodity—your customers’ attention. If your brand doesn’t matter—if it doesn’t seem important or necessary to a customer’s way of life or way of doing business—it’s just another distraction. Make your brand relevant and you make it matter to the people and/or companies who need what your brand offers. product and service offerings, and in its co-branding activities and Make it credible. and settings. Here is where the CoreBrand strategy is especially sponsorships. Remember that audiences don’t just buy brands—they experience them—and those experiences may take place in myriad formats useful, providing guidance in managing these experiences in a way Your brand promise may be compelling, but if it does not reflect what the company can deliver, you risk the development of distrust among your customers. that promotes consistency—and consistently positive experiences with the brand. CoreBrand strategy and the Web. First, because a company Web site represents everything a brand is and does, it has a logical role as a company’s central communications resource. On the Web, a company can convey not only its brand voice, but its identity and its reason for being. 8 9
  7. 7. The branding experience Second, aside from its marketing, promotion, and public relations value, a Web site enables the development of efficient, relevant business processes, from e-commerce to information-sharing. It can also have a profound effect on internal operations such as distribution, human resources, and inventory management. Third, Web sites and Intranet sites allow a company to create and/or enhance a distinctive internal culture, one that instills or reinforces a shared sense of purpose and a common set of Customers Employees C M OM U N I C AT I O BEH retaining valuable employees. NS Prospects AV IORS S PROC ES Local Communities E Establishing and reinforcing the brand experience online A haven from digital noise. Though you may think of it in more SE S BU N people closer together—a critical component of recruiting and S SI Shareholders Partners behaviors. Perhaps most importantly, it draws a company and its Financial Community ™ CoreBrand complex terms, to your customers your Web site is like a trusted, Media protected space—a haven from the relentless onslaught of digital noise bombarding them every day. When customers log on to your company’s Web site, they should feel a part of this trusted, protected space—by the look and feel of the site, its voice, and its ability to provide them with what they’re looking for. This experience should be distinctive and differentiating, yet absolutely relevant to your customers’ needs. Properly conceived and developed, a brand strategy both reflects a company’s essence and influences every aspect of its business—its operations, the way its people relate to others both within and outside the company, and the way it communicates to all audiences, especially employees. 10 11
  8. 8. Digital Branding The goal is to keep them coming back. Customer loyalty If customer loyalty doesn’t develop overnight. Nor is it won through “attitude” or were the topic extravagant promises, flashy images or gimmicky design. Loyalty develops through a succession of positive experiences customers have with the brand. To your customers, each experience should be satisfying and reassuring. But even more important, each Trust. “ I know this brand and this Web site. They have performed for me consistently.” of a focus group, ideal respondent comments would probably resemble these: experience should build momentum in customers’ minds, reinforcing Convenience. “ This site simplifies my life/work; it’s quick and easy to use.” Service. your brand as their preferred choice. “ This site supports my way of life/way of doing business. It has never failed to respond to my needs in the way I expect.” Experiences make promises. As experiences accumulate and expectations develop in customers’ minds, your brand makes an implicit promise: That it will perform against those expectations. Seeing the site through your customer’s eyes. Maintaining And the more the brand meets and perhaps even surpasses these positive brand momentum means understanding the customer’s expectations, the stronger it becomes and the more able it is to perspective. It means managing the customers’ experience so that defend against competitive alternatives. they never feel alienated—so that they never feel they’ve made the wrong choice and must seek alternatives. This loyalty, at base, is an emotional bond between the customer and the brand. Once it’s established, an isolated failure to deliver While loyal customers may tolerate an occasional lapse or on customers’ expectations will not disrupt brand momentum. inconvenience, they must never be allowed to doubt the wisdom of having chosen your brand. That won’t happen if you make a consistent attempt to see the brand and the site through your customer’s eyes. 12 13
  9. 9. Digital Branding Developing tactics for online brand expression Architecture Key branding considerations: A graphic representation, electronically conveyed, of brand hierarchies—how brands represent themselves to their audiences and how they relate to each other Critical as it is to the success of your brand, a brand platform is only a theoretical snapshot of your company and brand at a specific point in time—a statement indicating how the brand’s essence will Nomenclature be conveyed to various audiences through experience. What remains The names used to describe corporate, product, or service brands is to translate that strategy into tactics—to bring the brand to life. Advertising Promotional messages for the brand placed in print, broadcast, or electronic media Navigation & functionality Web-specific considerations: The structure of the site, its human logic and user-friendliness, and what it enables the user to do Co-branding The graphic expression of a relationship between two brands— a joint venture, for example Design, look & feel The site’s overall appearance—its color palette and vocabulary of images; its typography, graphics, and use of symbols and icons Meeting the needs of multiple audiences. It may seem impossible to satisfy every member of every audience you hope Imagery to attract to your site. But the most successful sites are those The photos and graphic devices used to elicit a variety of emotional responses about the company, the brand, the product or service, or the site itself that, within reason, make every attempt to do just that. Whether it’s a dispenser of information or the enabler of a E-commerce solutions transaction—or, perhaps, both—a company’s Web site must Functions that support online transactions address diverse needs, interests, and issues. Content Literally, the stuff of the site—information, messages, and tonality that inform, influence, and persuade—adding specificity and depth to the more abstract messages conveyed through imagery Information source Trusted partner Professional tool Reliable provider Industry enthusiast Customer advocate Socially conscious corporate citizen Here are only some of the roles your site must be prepared to fill: Links Digital bridges to other Web sites 14 15
  10. 10. Digital Branding Measuring ROI Every interaction provides an opportunity. Make every online Investment for business impact. When Andy Grove, former CEO interaction meaningful. However trivial or complicated the inquiry, of Intel, was asked about his company’s ROI on its e-commerce your company’s Web site must satisfy the user’s needs. Satisfaction investment, he replied, “This is Columbus in the New World. What may mean providing a very specific piece of information—or was his ROI?” Grove makes an important point. Despite the conveying a more complex framework within which a particular lightning-fast adoption of Web technology worldwide, despite the event, situation, or process can be understood. value the Internet already provides companies and individuals, despite its obvious promise, there are few if any precedents to Whatever the purpose of their visit, users of your company’s site go on in assessing its bottom-line impact. Few if any traditional should feel a sense of completion and resolution. They can’t be business measures apply in each and every case. However, allowed to feel that their time invested was time wasted. That can corporate management can’t be expected to pour endless dollars bring brand momentum to an abrupt halt. Following are the types into the void. There must be a way to measure how an Internet of responses your site should elicit from visitors: “I left the site with investment pays off. exactly the infor mation I was looking for — and it didn’t take me forever to find it, either.” easy to find it was just as easy — and fast.” “Not only was it 16 17 what I was looking for; buying
  11. 11. Digital Branding The four-step approach to measure value and return. The Understand your Internet investment’s effect on: following four-step approach not only helps to pinpoint return on Brand power—How familiar the marketplace is with your brand and the favorability attached to your brand name investment, it also measures the not-strictly-bottom-line value an Web site hits Revenues Stock price Specific indicators relevant to your businesses Internet investment returns. The four steps are: Step 1: Understand which expenditures you can control in the short term. How, in other words, can your Internet investment be leveraged to support your investment in other media? Step 3: Identify the basis on which you measure your company’s Advertising, online and offline success and determine the effect of the variables listed in Step 2 on that success. What, in other words, are your goals for your company? What is your idea of the ideal business situation? Co-branding, online and offline Other promotion and sponsorship activities Step 4: Compare the cost of the variables listed in Step 2 to the Partnerships and ventures benefit associated with reaching your goals for your company. The key is to optimize the relationships between variables. When these variables are optimized, a company can begin to understand the impact of an Internet investment on the bottom line. Web site development—Front-end interface design/functionality and back-end technical enablement and support Step 2: Determine how these expenditures affect key performance Benchmarking and tracking for the long term. Ongoing indicators. Every company has a set of performance indicators— variables whose ups and downs reveal its current situation, point to specific problems or opportunities, and indicate trends to be watched. measures of ROI can help a company to modulate the level and focus of their Internet investments to fit business realities and needs, consumer or business-to-business. Some of the performance indicators listed at the top of the next page may provide a wealth of useful information; others may be fairly static, and still others too erratic to provide consistently reliable information. Once you select which of these indicators is most revealing, most reliably, you can then begin to track the impact and the value of your Internet investment. 18 19
  12. 12. Digital Branding BusinessWeek helps to build e-brands Advertising for the future. While advertising can be a critical component of any brand-building effort, it is often approached with carelessness. Instead of wasting precious dollars on advertising in just any information source, the most forward-looking companies have always advertised with BusinessWeek—because they know that doing so is an excellent way to build their brands. Placement makes all the difference. Advertising spending means little without the right placement. To generate real brand momentum, ads must target potential consumers and those who might influence corporate reputation. Who are those people, and where are they likely to see the ads that you carefully create and support with hard-earned, and sometimes scarce, marketing dollars? Communicate with your target audience. Obviously, corporate advertisers need to communicate with corporate decision-makers— those individuals in top management who make the buying decisions. These are the people who turn to BusinessWeek. Simply put, BusinessWeek is trusted by more business professionals than any other business publication in the world. That makes it an excellent place to start building a digital brand through corporate advertising. For further information about advertising in BusinessWeek, please contact Connie Bennett, SVP/Associate Publisher, at (212) 512-6945 or 20
  13. 13. Jim Gregory Based in Stamford, Connecticut, Corporate Branding, LLC, is a highly specialized global communications consultancy that works with advertisers and agencies to measure and leverage companies’ corporate brands with key audiences. Their breakthrough work in analyzing the return-on-investment (ROI) for corporate advertising is changing the perception of advertising by senior management of companies around the world. Once thought of as an expense, corporate advertising is now considered an investment that can have predictable returns. Jim Gregory, founder and CEO of Corporate Branding, has authored two books on the subject of corporate advertising, Marketing Corporate Image and Leveraging the Corporate Brand. He is currently working on a third book on the subject, Branding Across Borders. He has also authored numerous published studies on corporate branding, including The Impact of Advertising on Stock Performance, published by the Association of American Advertising Agencies (AAAA), Trends in Corporate Advertising, published by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and his company’s publication, Q&A on Corporate Branding: Answers to the CEO’s Toughest Questions. Digital Branding is the fifth in a series of brochures by Business Week and Jim Gregory. The other brochures in the series are entitled The Impact of Advertising on Brand Momentum, The Impact of Advertising on Brand Power, The Impact of Advertising to the Financial Community, and Branding the Merger, Merging the Brands. If you need additional information on this series, or would like extra copies of any of the brochures, please contact Connie Bennett, SVP/Associate Publisher, at (212) 512 - 6945 or connie_bennett @ © 2000 Corporate Branding, LLC, Stamford, CT 06902