Branding and marketing have changed in recent years. Gone are the days when they merely revolved around flashy logos and catchy jingles. In the digital age, building a successful brand requires a strategic and holistic approach.
We’ve consulted top experts in the industry to uncover the crucial factors that can either make or break a company’s brand in today’s fast-paced digital landscape.
Understanding the hearts of customers
Empathy forms the bedrock of a powerful brand. In today’s digitally connected world, consumers seek genuine connections and personalized experiences. By understanding the needs, desires and pain points of their target audience, brands can forge emotional bonds.
Empathizing with customers allows companies to tailor their products, services and communications to resonate deeply, creating a loyal following that champions the brand.
“Empathy catalyzes the innovation needed for companies to remain relevant,” says Jenna Isken, Group Director of Experience at Siegel+Gale, a global brand experience firm.
“Empathizing with customers allows companies to tailor their products, services and communications to resonate deeply, creating a loyal following that champions the brand.” – Jenna Isken
“By deeply understanding the experiences and challenges of a target audience, businesses can identify unmet needs and gaps in the market, address pain points and set themselves apart from competitors.”
Isken stresses that empathetic decision-making needs to be integrated into every step in the branding process, from strategy development to product design and customer support.
“Amazon’s Customer Service is a great example of that,” Isken says. “At a time when brand loyalty could be tested, they leverage empathy to make it a great expression of their commitment to customers.
“Whether sending a replacement without having to return an item or being compensated for the inconvenience of having to contact them, the actions of their customer support staff are built on an understanding of what’s right in the moment.”
Mapping the path to brand loyalty
Understanding the customer journey is crucial for brand success. From initial brand awareness to purchase and beyond, each touchpoint influences the customer’s perception. Brands that strategically map the customer journey can identify pain points and opportunities for engagement.
“The way consumers engage with you must be considered across the entire spectrum from awareness, to consideration, to purchase, and most importantly, loyalty,” says Jodie de Vries, Managing Director and Founder of the Sydney-based firm Tiny Hunter.
“Break down the journey and map out the activity each step of the way.” – Jodie de Vries
“Too many brands have gaps in this journey that are a real opportunity in acquiring, but more often retaining and upselling customers.”
By providing seamless and delightful experiences at each stage, companies can nurture long-lasting relationships, turning customers into brand advocates.
“Break down the journey and map out the activity each step of the way – then look for ways to add value from a truly customer-centric lens,” de Vries adds.
Crafting a seamless brand experience
In the digital age, brand consistency is paramount. Coordination across all channels and touchpoints ensures a seamless brand experience. From website design to social media presence, every interaction should reflect the brand’s essence and values.
“The digital age has both increased access and eroded trust, putting the ability to deliver on a promise at an all-time high,” Isken says. “Customers expect every interaction to be seamlessly connected.”
Establishing clear guidelines and ensuring that all team members are aligned fosters brand cohesion. A well-coordinated brand presence builds trust and recognition, enhancing the overall customer experience.
“The digital age has both increased access and eroded trust, putting the ability to deliver on a promise at an all-time high.” – Jenna Isken
For instance, Isken explains how Under Armour set itself apart by getting its employees aligned in delivering on performance.
“The product team developed innovative fabrics that kept athletes going in all environments. Leadership looked at growth through the acquisition of fitness apps that were focused on training support,” Isken says.
“And marketing focused on selecting celebrity spokespeople like Misty Copeland and Steph Curry, who embodied ‘work ethic’. Under Armour’s promise is authentic because it’s infused in everything they do.”
Embracing change and innovation
To thrive in the digital age, brands must be adaptable and embrace dynamism. Stagnation can be detrimental. Successful brands stay agile, anticipating trends, and leveraging emerging technologies to create unique brand experiences.
By constantly evolving and reinventing themselves, companies can captivate their audience and maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly changing marketplace.
“What you do today is as important as what you might need to do tomorrow,” Isken says. “The digital age has increased the rate of response to the point where brands can no longer rest on their laurels. Maintaining consistency to build equity but being flexible enough to respond to key audiences and business demands is essential.”
“What you do today is as important as what you might need to do tomorrow.” – Jenna Isken
Isken adds that this is not only relevant to B2C brands. For example, she highlights the international technical professional services firm Jacobs, which, during the COVID-19 pandemic, found ways to bring its team’s humanity and personality across in the digital space.
“One way they did this was to bring its values online by reimagining its website to be a collaborative space,” Isken says. “Things like the ability to customize your experience without logging in, or leveraging platform intelligence were designed to deliver on the brand’s overarching promise, allowing them to both stand out and deliver.”
Fostering connection and engagement
In the digital age, brands can no longer operate in isolation. Building a community around the brand is essential. By cultivating an engaged audience through social media, online forums, or exclusive events, brands create a sense of belonging and loyalty.
“The more digital our world becomes, the more consumers need to feel the humanity of the brands they engage with,” de Vries notes. “Brands can fall into the trap of the facelessness of digital, but the opportunity is to use the richness of storytelling that humans are hard-wired for, at scale.”
“How will you differentiate your business and create genuine engagement in this tsunami of digital clutter?” – Jodie de Vries
Actively listening to feedback and involving customers in shaping the brand’s direction enhances trust and strengthens the community. A vibrant brand community not only fuels growth but also amplifies the brand’s message.
“Both the beauty and the curse of the digital age is the lower barrier to entry with both launching a business, and also the many ways to connect with consumers,” de Vries says. “Consumers have never had more choices and now the onus is on brands – how will you differentiate your business and create genuine engagement in this tsunami of digital clutter?”
“The most important factors in strong branding correspond to the three dimensions of brand equity, which include being differentiated, to own one or more customer ‘must haves’ so that your brand is the most relevant (visible and credible) brand; creating an affinity with the target audience so that you are liked, admired and even an inspiration (brand personality, organization values, personal touch); and, most importantly, creating brand engagement (brand community, self-expressive benefits),” says David Aaker, Vice Chair of Prophet.
“Examples of brands that do this well are Harley Davidson, Apple, Dove and Feeding America.”