Branding in the Digital Age: The New Reality of Business

The digital age has brought so many changes to how we create and do business, that it’s no longer safe to assume that once you design a beautiful site, you’ll have thousands of visitors flocking to it. Branding has always been at the core of a business strategy, but now it seems things are changing. A plethora of powerful digital tools and innovative marketing methods create an impression that branding is no longer needed. Take content marketing, for example. Content marketing emphasizes value delivered to the user through knowledgeable and informative content. Branding is the last thing on the content marketer’s mind. In content marketing, it is assumed that people are so tired of branding that they prefer to dig deeper and probe the company first by evaluating how much free value it can provide. So does that mean that branding is dead? No, but branding is different.

Let’s see how branding has changed:

Different sales funnel

In the past, many marketers relied on branding to increase awareness about the product and then drive people closer to the purchase. Nowadays, awareness can be gained at an instant via different communication channels, but the attention spans are so short and competition is so high that rarely people have the capacity to develop enough awareness to make a subsequent purchase.

Today customers go through quite a different sales funnel before they are ready to make a purchase. McKinsey & Company has defined this model as consider, evaluate, buy, and enjoy, advocate, bond. 

Consider stage refers to the process of consideration that customers go through when they encounter the product in media, ads, in-store and through friends’ recommendations. Consider stage is crucial and yet the hardest to move the customers through, as, overwhelmed by the number of choices, the customers often deliberately reduce their exposure to those choices.

Evaluate stage refers to the stage when the customer seeks reviews and feedback about the product from others. At this stage, the pool of brands considered initially may expand or shrink further.

At the buy stage, the customer is ready to buy but they will often delay the purchase until they are actually in the store.

Finally, at the enjoy, advocate and bond stages customers form a deep connection with the product if they like using the product. If the experience of using the product is negative the customers will instead make sure others are warned about their bad experience.

Different target audience

Consumer behavior affects branding more than ever. The modern consumer is extremely fickle but also very flexible and open to new experiences. Consumers today buy more online than in the store. They also use digital channels more than real connections to follow their friends and brands they like. Additionally, consumers today are exposed to new technology and innovation in all the spheres of life, so they expect the brands to innovate as well no matter which industry the brand operates in. Lastly, consumers aren’t opposed to sharing brands and products they like with their peers.

There are many ways to utilize this knowledge about the modern consumer. As consumers largely prefer new experiences you might consider integrating innovative interactive elements on your site. Also, you need to explore all the different communication channels and chose the ones where your target audience spends most of their time.

Different brands

As consumer behavior changes, so do brands behave differently. Brands become platforms rather than simple collections of emotionally charged design elements. Brands connect with consumers on a deeper level and become a beacon of change and social justice. We have all seen the overwhelming success of socially conscious brands, and consumers see it too. So existing brands constantly place the bar of consumer expectations higher for the next batch of brands entering the market. Consumers simply see whatever current brands are doing as the norm and expect new brands to meet and exceed their already high expectations.

The word of mouth is stronger than ever

Since consumers are overloaded with information, they no longer rely on digital channels only to deliver the truthful assessments of brands. Consumers often turn to their friends and family for recommendations. As a result, post-purchase work with consumers has become more important than ever. Creating advocates of your product is as crucial as gaining new customers. Therefore, even if you have great branding and marketing strategies, having a not so great product will undermine your efforts.

How do you use the word of mouth to promote your product? Social media sharing is a great tool that helps expand your network of advocates. For B2B businesses asking for recommendations and going to networking events is a must. Despite the proliferation of the digital tools and strategies, the amount of information these days is overwhelming so consumers increasingly turn to the real people and the real world to find the products they might like.

Marketing vs branding in the digital age

Even though branding remains the pillar of business, marketing is no less important. Again, having so much information around them, consumers need help accessing and finding the right information, and marketing is intended to do just that. Marketing performs the distributor function in the digital world delivering the value right to the consumer. There are many great brands these days, but only a few who were able to reach their consumer.

As you plan your branding and marketing strategy, don’t get stuck on design and branding elements – these are important, but at the end of the day, if you can’t deliver your branding to consumers, branding loses its value. Take the time to plan your distribution strategy and then execute on it. Often times, businesses get hung up on branding elements, and when it comes to marketing they quickly give up. Whilst branding is creative and exciting, marketing is systematic and data-driven. Marketing might not be the most engaging area of business, but without good marketing consumers simply can’t find your product.

Final Word

Branding in the digital age has been turned upside down. We all once believed that creating an impactful brand and website will bring you success in the market. But in the digital age, it’s not enough to simply create branding assets. Digital age demands innovative experiences and focuses on distribution rather than creation. Even though creating valuable branded content is still preferential for both large and small businesses, it’s paramount that businesses pay as much, if not more, attention to marketing as they do to branding. The digital age is the age of abundance and if you want consumers to notice your product, you need to put your product right in front of their eyes and make them believe your offer is worth sharing.