Updated 8 months ago by Oskar Duberg
With marketing messages flooding the internet, it's harder than ever to reach customers. But the solution isn't more marketing, it's digital branding.
The battle for consumers’ attention has moved online. Now, instead of filling shopping centers with posters and crowding magazines and mailboxes with ads, we shout over each other on our customers’ computers, tablets, and mobile devices.
We send email campaigns on a monthly or weekly basis. We run regular advertising campaigns on websites, social media channels, and search engines. And we market our products through Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok influencers.
The problem is, with all the digital noise, consumers have started tuning out our marketing messages – labeling many as insincere, pushy, or irrelevant. This can leave your marketers and salespeople in a tough spot, as they still need to capture new leads and turn those leads into customers.
Fortunately, the solution to this is really simple. All you need to do is incorporate digital branding into your strategy.
Digital branding is the process of using digital assets to create an online brand identity that can be expressed on virtually any digital channel, like your website, social media profiles, digital ads, and content marketing. Done right, digital branding enables you to create richer digital marketing campaigns and build a powerful presence in the digital sphere.
For many, it can be difficult to identify the difference between digital marketing and digital branding, since there are similarities between the two. So, here it is:
Digital marketing is designed to capture leads and sell products. Digital branding exists to build relationships and engage customers.
In both cases, the end goal is to grow the customer base and maintain a healthy level of sales. But digital branding does it differently. Instead of simply highlighting the product’s benefits, it showcases the impact of the brand, as a whole. It reveals the brand’s values and culture – and makes an implicit connection between those core brand elements and the products it’s in business to sell.
There is a point where digital branding and digital marketing overlap and influence each other, though.
Digital marketing largely functions as the vehicle for creating and maintaining your digital brand. It enables you to share your brand identity and values in online spaces, like Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube.
However, for digital marketing to be as impactful as it could be, you need to create your digital brand first. The reason being: digital branding gives your organization a face and an identity. It allows your customers to see more than “just an ad” when they come across one of your social media campaigns or Google advertisements.
And as a result, it sparks a deeper connection between your brand and your customers, making them more inclined to pause and hear what you have to say, instead of frantically clicking the “skip ad” button, when one of your ads interrupts their YouTube video. (Their patience may still only last a few seconds, but for those few seconds, you actually have their attention.)
Even with this framework in mind, it can be difficult to visualize exactly how this might look in action. So, we’ve put together a few examples to showcase how digital branding impacts, and actually uplevels, digital marketing in the real world.
Known across the globe for their top of the line athletic gear, Adidas has been a staple for athletes in every sports category for decades. However, its number of loyal customers is rising exponentially. And the reason for that is really simple: in the last five years, it’s undergone a drastic digital transformation to provide customers with a more unified brand experience.
Now, instead of just cranking out product ads like some of their smaller competitors, Adidas delivers thoughtful, engaging, “on-brand” campaigns that are designed to resonate deeply with their customers.
For example, in early 2020, Adidas launched their #hometeam marketing campaign to build relationships with customers, while they were working from home.
Deeply embedded in the campaign was the company’s belief that working as a team can be game changing. As a result, they opened up their training apps, providing free access to anyone looking for workouts. They posted powerful success stories from athletes all over the globe. They even got their employees to act as brand advocates, by sharing Adidas’ “Ready for Sport” video on their personal social channels and tagging the initiative in their own Twitter and Instagram posts (while wearing Adidas gear, of course!).
Not surprisingly, this new brand-centric approach has delivered massive results for Adidas. In fact, their #hometown campaign has become one of Adidas’ biggest and most successful ever.
While Amazon has always been a digital company – promoting their brand through digital channels and selling their products ecommerce style – they haven’t gotten sloppy or lazy over the years.
If anything, Amazon has grown in its ability to engage with customers, by building out its digital brand. For instance, during global crises, Amazon posts videos highlighting the charitable work they do. These videos showcase Amazon’s brand – through logo placement, product placement and Amazon’s brand voice – while also making implicit connections between the initiative and Amazon's values. This is represented in the language used, visuals included, and music played in the background.
Not everything Amazon related is serious and professional, though. Staying true to their customers’ perception of Alexa (Amazon’s AI), Amazon created designated accounts for people to read hilarious posts and engage in lighthearted conversations with “Alexa” herself.
This has not only created a large and loyal following for all Amazon related social media accounts, but it’s also enabled Amazon to maintain a loyal customer base for their marketplace and products.
Apple has consistently been a frontrunner in the tech space. Between their iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, and smart devices, people love virtually everything they roll out. But Apple has never been content with just providing cutting-edge tech. They also embrace and imbue their brand into everything they do.
Their ads perfectly balance a clean, modern style with colorful splashes of color. And they leverage popular trends in unique ways – embodying their "Think Different" slogan.
They also work hard to build strong relationships with their customers, by validating their pain points and providing targeted solutions to their problems in their advertisements.
A classic example of this is the privacy ad that Apple launched on YouTube in response to consumers' concerns over data privacy. In the ad, the Apple's narrator talks about privacy in ways that the average person might: by highlighting specific, personal pieces of data that people want to keep away from prying eyes and acknowledging that those things should be private. Then, in less than five words, the ad points out that Apple not only respects customers' privacy, but also works hard to protect it – which is exactly what people want to hear.
By directly acknowledging their fears, concerns, and pain points in compassionate ways and differentiating themselves via branding, Apple is able to retain quite a large and loyal fan base for their products, even as the market is flooded with competitor products.
To reach customers, you have to meet them where they already are: digital spaces. But to connect and engage with customers through digital marketing (and avoid being blocked or tuned out), you need a digital brand. Luckily, there are hundreds of companies out there that you can learn from. You just need to look for them.