What is a digitally-led brand really?!

This notion of a digitally-led brand still gives me pause for thought. Mostly because of the million different definitions and versions about what it means to be digitally-led. This disruption of branding, if you will, is not something unexpected. This is not a new problem.

Branding has been disrupted with every great change in communication. As radio adverts became 30 second tv commercials. As Newspapers became electronic newsletters. At every turn; the way the brand has been forced to communicate has changed!

Today is no different. We are just that much more attune to the change and can see its impact on a daily basis. It is rapid evolution at scale. It’s Digital Darwinism in action.

To truly get a grasp of the nature of disruption; we need to look closer at Gartner’s Nexus for Forces.

nexus of forces

The nexus for Forces puts into perspective the disruption that any industry is feeling at the moment. Where these forces meet is where the disruption is at its strongest.

Arguably, branding sits at the nexus of these forces.

Brands needs to take into account the wave of social media and social influence that affects their consumers on a real-time basis.

Brands need to get to grips with the “big data” that social as well as other sources are delivering every second.

Brands need to be able to deliver an experience on a multitude of devices. Whether those devices are desktops; laptops; mobiles or watches. The experience needs to be consistent.

Brands need to embrace that people want their information to be constantly available, context rich and relevant when and where they want it. That means that embracing a cloud economy or an API economy to achieve this is crucial.

note: Deloitte take this concept one step further with their Technology Forces model in saying that these previously mentioned forces all need to be wrapped in another layer of cyber security to insure maximum safety and protection of data at all times.

A digitally-led brand is one who understands these forces and harnesses them for the betterment of their stakeholders; both internal and external.

Yes – as we have said; a brand needs to stay consistent across multiple platforms and deliver a similar experience no matter whether it is communicating with you on a billboard or a smart watch. This is critical; but when you get right down to it; this is just optics.

Optics are important; don’t get me wrong. The way a brand looks is vital in ensuring recall and brand equity; but this is merely one of the forces in action (mobile).

Even the mobile force has been developed and disrupted over the last few years. First developers were developing mobile solutions as an after thought. Their audience was not looking at their website on a mobile device as a primary port-of-call; so the mobile development was pushed back as a post-release action.

From there it became a mobile-first development. Audiences were now spending a great deal more time on their mobile devices and were demanding a similar experience from their mobile phones as they were used to on their desktop computers.

Today we hear about mobile-only where developers are thinking about mobile as the only way to deliver a solution and are now viewing desktop development as an after thought to the solution.

Branding is about real integration and repeatedly delivering a consistent experience. The nexus of forces has created a perfect storm for the brands who are willing to invest in the future and fundamentally change their business or operating models to place their brand experience (and ultimately their clients) at the nexus of the forces.

This is a digitally-led brand.

Originally published at jonathanhouston.co.za on July 19, 2016.

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.