Digital Darwinism and the Post-Digital Era of Branding

Digital Darwinism is when technology and the expectations of the consumer outpace the ability of the business to respond. It’s survival of the fittest; where the fittest are those most able to respond to their stakeholders wants and needs on the platforms and channels they are most comfortable with!

We live in a digital world; a world where digital has become the norm and expected platform. It is the default go-to for many stakeholders both inside and outside the organisation. This is the start of the post-digital era. The era where digital is no longer a differentiator; no longer an anomaly.

Although there are many arguments that we have not reached post-digital yet stating that we are still too near to the birth of digital for us as a society to have evolved to post-digital yet. Brands are still wrangling with the idea digital and post-digital eras.

So how do brands cope in this digital world? How are brands built in a world that has shifted the locus of control from that of the brand to that of the consumer?

In short: a digitally lead brand is one that understands that it is not just about having a consistent presence on digital platforms; but rather about how they are integrating their brand experience across those platforms.

The key phrase in that sentence is “integrating their brand experience”.

Customer Engagement Engine

The model has changed. It is no longer about a linear flow such as in the AIDA model – which has been the standard for over 120 odd years. Where potential consumers are pushed down a funnel and exposed to advertising and marketing messages which they have no choice but to see and believe.

Coined by Google as ZMOT; the Zero Moment of Truth; the new brand engagement model is more of an engine than it is a funnel. Today brands need to be acutely aware of the external forces that affect their brand message and moreover; that they are not 100% in control of their brand.

A brand is far more than just a logo or a set of images. A brand is a living breathing and ever changing entity. It is continually shaped and morphed over time to remain relevant to its audience.

In this post-digital world; we are still grappling with how we position brands as being “digitally lead”. A strange term and an even stranger concept. The concept at its core says that the way the brand is currently being managed is fundamentally analogue. Have we ever referred to a brand as being “analogue lead”? How then can a brand be “digitally lead”? (that’s a discussion for another blog)

Let’s assume that the terms is relevant. What does it mean to be a digitally lead brand?Being a digitally lead brand is about a lot more than just the ability of your brand to be consistent from a billboard through to a smart watch.

That speaks to the scalability of the brand  (more accurately the logo) – which is the first part of it definitely. I agree.

Across these real world and digital platforms – the brand needs to scale and be seen as constant. But that is just scalability between a multitude of platforms and channels – a factor of branding which has been around since the dawn of time.

When we look at the deeper meaning behind being a digitally lead brand; the conversation becomes a lot more operational and less about optics.

Here we need to start talking about digital trends; things like:

  • mobile first or even mobile only
  • Harnessing big data
  • Social media maturation (brand listening)
  • Customer-centric apps
  • a stream-lined app strategy
  • a smarter on-boarding process (new clients and staff)
  • hyper-personalisation

Being digitally lead means constant innovation and tapping in to areas that have traditionally been the territory of the less risk averse organisation:

  • location-based marketing
  • wearables
  • virtual reality
  • the shared economy
  • marketing automation

Ultimately a digitally lead brand is one that embraces and drives integration across the board:

  • platform
  • channel
  • experience
  • operations

There’s a strong and misaligned perception among many executives that business strategy is strategic, and brand strategy is just a marketing tool.

This could not be further from the truth! Your brand is a strategic asset.

As a result, organisations set lofty and ambitious goals, but forget to consider how investing in and developing a brand strategy could help get them there in a consistent and refined way.

To build a meaningful, emotive brand that will transform business, drive revenue, enable the hiring of top talent, and power the company’s future success; organisations need to align their business strategy – their goals and objectives, pitch decks, revenue reports, exit strategy – to their brand strategy. By mapping the two together, we can create a strong, impactful brand that is geared towards specific growth goals and worthy of investment.

About Jonno

I am passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan fulfills the role as Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. My work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital objectives. I am also the author of Internet Marketing for Entrepreneurs, a 50 000 word body of work which touches on the subtleties of digital marketing which are often overlooked.