*Please note: this post has been updated to include new and relevant information. First published in 2015.
As someone who never started out as a traditional marketer, but approached the industry from the digital side with SEO, I can definitely say that my biggest learning curve has been understanding the true concept and value of the brand, as well as the importance of brand building through digital marketing.
The industry we operate in moves at lightning speed – constantly evolving technologies, emerging social media platforms, viral videos, streams of memes, algorithm updates, increased mobile adoption and so on, making it easy to forget about one of the few things that stays constant through it all…the brand.
As we strive to push the boundaries with our marketing activities in this fast digital environment, we need to ensure that we maintain the fundamentals of brand building for long term success.
What is Branding?
There’s a difference between a brand name, and a brand. Your brand name is tangible and people can see it, while your brand, however, only exists in the mind of your customers – it’s what they think of when they hear your name.
What’s the Difference between Branding and Marketing?
The most helpful definition I found for distinguishing branding and marketing is this:
“Marketing is what you do, branding is what you are”.
Tronvigroup go further to explain that while marketing is more of a push tactic, branding is more of a pull tactic. Marketing promotes a product or service, while branding gives meaning to why a business exists and communicates its core values. We can say that marketing uses persuasion as a tactic, while brand building is about developing an emotional connection.
Branding in the Digital Age
Building a strong brand in the digital age is vital. Of course branding has always been vital, but when we consider the online environment and changing user behaviours, we can see the clear benefits of branding:
- Branding is a tool for developing and maintaining a competitive advantage. In the noisy world of digital media, staying competitive is even more of a daily challenge.
- Online users are more autonomous than they ever were. With information at their fingertips, users are spoiled for choice in terms of products and services. A well-defined brand is essential for distinguishing your product or service from the rest.
- Brands have less control over what is said about them online. Users have access to the opinions of other users, which heavily influence their purchase decisions.
- The online customer relationship rarely ends with a sale. Brand building in the digital environment should leverage this and convert one time customers into coveted brand loyalists.
- Say goodbye to the funnel model; today there are various touch points where users engage with brands, however branding ensures a consolidated message.
- In addition to paid and owned media, strong digital branding has the advantage of earned media – such as communities and brand advocates.
- Remember branding is not only about your product or service – it’s about your social engagement, customer services, sales process, your employees and everything in between – think about how digital has changed the above.
- Branding has always been about connectedness. Digital heightens the connectedness of brands, people and things.
We Speak About Integrated Marketing – This Includes Branding
We know that integrated marketing is the key to success in the digital environment. There’s simply no use in delivering your marketing strategy in silos. A strong brand supports all channels both directly and indirectly and so both time and resources need to be invested in brand building through digital marketing.
As being first and foremost an SEO myself, I can immediately see how a strong brand can influence the success of SEO. For example, we know click through rate is a powerful ranking factor – if a brand is more recognisable, it’s likely to get more clicks. Social engagement in the form of likes, shares and comments is an increasingly important ranking factor. Because branding is about developing an emotional connection, a strong brand has fans, followers, advocates and influencers that actively promote a brand. Ask any PR and they will tell you that it’s far easier to sell in news or content from a well-known brand, as opposed to a product with a logo slapped on it.
So, in order to get the most out of your integrated digital marketing, make sure that you don;t overlook the importance of brand building. Define your brand and what it stands for, think about what drives it and focus on how customers perceive your brand for every aspect of your business.