What makes a Digital Brand “Digital”?

Many companies want to create, develop, enhance, or redefine their “Digital Brand”. This is a sensible exercise, as brands require constant care to ensure that they stay resonant and relevant with that company’s customers, but why is a digital brand considered separate from a clients existing “Classic” brand presence?

The short answer is that it isn’t different. Ford are still Ford whether they are on Twitter or a billboard. Coca-cola is still the world’s most popular soft drink regardless of whether it’s plastered across Facebook, or plastered across the jersey of a Major League Ultimate player. Brands represent the same products, and more importantly the same values, regardless of whether they are in a digital or physical medium.

The longer answer is that it is different, and should be handled differently because a customers interact with digital brands in a completely different manner. In traditional media, brands have control of their own image, message, and perceived values and the transfer of information is one-to-many, and only in one direction; from company to customer. A digital brand has to manage a more intimate, complex, and potentially volatile relationship with customers, and the transfer of information is now three way; company to customer, customer to company, and customer to customer. This provides an opportunity to present a more tailored, effective message, but customers are also now part of the brand itself.

The evolution of the brand engagement model over time

For example, Southwest Trains traditional branding can tell me all about their innovative new on-train WiFi and more regular services, but a quick check of their Twitter reveals that people take issue with delays and a lack of information being provided; hardly inspiring brand confidence. (not to mention parody accounts, such as @SouthWestPains)

Brands represent the same values, regardless of whether they are in a digital or physical medium

When considering your, or your clients’, digital brands, remember that, while it must be complementary to the traditional brand, it requires a very different management approach to ensure success. For good examples, see Audi, Barclays, and Microsoft.

In the future, as the channels through which brands are interacted with become increasingly digital, we may also see brands themselves needing to adapt their image to suit a more digital audience.