Boris Ziegler

May 6, 2018

5 min read

Brand ON or THROUGH Digital?

Is there a difference between these two terms and does it go beyond semantics? So far, brand translation to digital is prevalently (just) visual — ON devices we use. While THROUGH — addresses the human senses beyond (just) visual and in a way it conveys your unique brand value. Brand through digital aspect I believe has a more significant potential in leveraging not the sensory aspect of the brand story, but cognitive (and emotional) processing aspect of the branding.

Following up on previous Digital Brand Discussions, I’ve discussed topics of “Why should your Brand be a Digital Brand” , reasons why I thought Digital Brand Discussions were well needed, I’m going to tackle a question of Brand on Digital or Brand through Digital. Is there a difference between these two terms and does it go beyond semantics?

A Digital Brand Experience?

The reason that I’ve asked myself about semantics is the fact that I have noticed that there wasn’t a clear line or a definition of what constitutes a Digital Brand Experience and which one rightfully is and which one isn’t. For that I guess we need to go back to basics.

Brand Experience

Brand Experience is our experience of a certain brand and his/hers/its personality. We engage with the brand (digital means) or brand engages with us (traditional means) to shape our experience of the brand. Following up on that one would come down to a human sensory capacities, emotional and cognitive resources. Basically we experience the brand through our senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. We process the information cognitively and emotionally while emotional being the preferred method of brand information processing. So there we have it. How does this relate then to a Digital Brand Experience?

Well, basically it comes down to juxta-positioning these two perhaps even three concepts and elements

a) sensory capacities

b) cognitive and emotional processing

c) digital tools and means (technology)

So, one could argue that ability feed human sensory impulses through digital means at the moment is prevalently being done through the sense of sight and touch as we view the brands and brand content (on digital touch points) and some we touch (click, tap, swipe) on the devices we use. Hearing and sound has been somewhat underused (until Alexa), while taste and smell hasn’t been yet digitalized thus hasn’t been used.

But I would argue most of the brands are addressing just human sense of sight using digital to communicate their brand (values) and content. By that I mean that brand translation to digital has been prevalently visual so far. We create a mobile page and we call it a brand mobile page. Thought we fail to analyse how did we translate brand values and which ones exactly and communicate those to consumer’s senses and which throughthat digital touchpoint. More over was the communication (a two way process) has been sucessfull? Do we bother to think, attempt to measure or we’re just “spraying” brand visuals

To me having a brand.com or .com/brand page or whatever hardly falls under the category of a digital brand expression if

a) one fails to effectively and consistently engage human senses that are addressable through digital means and receives feedback

b) digital engagement is brand unique and non-generic — ie. style and process of digital engagement has your brand signature

Why has the visual Brand on Digital has been prevalent. I think it is the interplay of offline legacy issue both on the client and agency side which fails to tackle this topic from a new point of view perspective. The one that has been rooted in digital and not adapted to digital and overwhelming pressure to move or jump without tackling the topic of digital brand strategically — (com)motion set by a Corporate Digital Anxiety.

Brand through digital

What would then be a Brand through digital experience. I use the word through to convey the need to think about using the digital means — tools and devices to address the human senses beyond (just) visual and in a way it conveys your unique brand value. So if you say you have a mobile device is your brand value communicated to a human consumer by simply having a mobile website with your brand image? What sensory capacities you’re using and which ones you’re ignoring? Is there a feedback loop (two way interaction) that is meaningful? Is that interaction through digital means brand unique and how? Is the touch feeling eg ‘tap’ a unique feeling of your brand? If it is the device your focusing as your tool — for example mobile — how is that ‘mobility’ aspect conveyed as a part of your brand value and whether it is part of your brand value? If your brand value is stability — maybe mobile device and mobility isn’t for you? Brand values need to clearly defined and then attempted to be codified as a starting point to think and asses which ones can and which ones can’t be translated through digital. Many brand managers will fail just to outline clear brand values. And digital is very exact and clear (0 or 1) style.

Brand through digital aspect I believe has a more significant potential in leveraging not the sensory aspect of the brand story, but cognitive (and emotional) processing aspect of the branding. I believe large leverage of digital brand lies in the HOW aspect of communication where brands can and could address, aid and stimulate favorable processing of information on a cognitive and even emotional level of their customers. What I mean by this is that one leverages tools and devices, data the world produces to assists consumers in decision making.

Imagine an example where data driven decision making is made possible eg. in retail environment. If I’m looking at a product that I can explore digitally the way it has been produced, sustainability in place, how that purchase helps economy etc. Of course, again, same arguments wouldn’t appeal to different customers. Then digital means aren’t appealing to my senses but my processing and that is still an underused potential of digital for brands.

Starbucks just used Brand through digital concept by integrating Starbucks brand into a decision making journey for business professionals on their meeting routines. How? Through creating a digital add-on for Outlook. Helping (guiding) the decision-making process.

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