Developing and Sustaining a Digital Branding Strategy
Written by Nxtbook Media
If you think about it, everybody is a brand. Even you, whether you’re a marketer, teacher or gardener, have a personality, appearance, voice, values, something to say and people around you as listeners. The same goes for companies. No matter if you’re a startup company, small business, large corporation or a single entity, you want to establish a digital branding strategy to reach your audience better and increase sales.
There are 4.57 billion active internet users as of 2020. That is 59% of the planet’s population. While it’s a stretch to reach all those people, the possibility is far greater online than with any traditional strategy. To be successful in today’s technological world, you want to develop and sustain an effective brand online.
What Is a Digital Branding Strategy?
In a generalized sense, a digital branding strategy is how you communicate your brand’s identity to consumers online with the overarching goal of increasing customer loyalty and sales. Imagine your brand as a person. As we mentioned, a person has a name, appearance, personality, values, something to say and someone to say it to. A digital branding strategy takes this brand personality and strategically positions it to perform competitively within a given market.
Why Is Digital Brand Strategy Important?
A company without a brand is like a person with no personality — boring. And people tend to avoid any association with boring people and companies. But if your company is anything like the personality of a friendly superhero saving lives or a kind neighbor helping others, people will trust your brand and continue a long relationship.
In fact, 81% of consumers say that trust is the leading factor in their purchasing decisions. With brand consistency, they’re 33% more likely than other consumers to stay loyal, and 27% more likely to advocate for a brand. Aside from gaining consumer trust, developing an effective brand-building plan can:
- Increase company value
- Boost sales
- Heighten the perceived brand quality
- Lower employee turnover
Digital branding is centered around relationship building and requires the right strategies to maximize the potential of these benefits.
Digital Branding vs. Digital Marketing
Just as digital branding relies on a brand’s personality, mission, vision and voice, it equally relies on visual elements like color schemes, logos and fonts. Essentially, these digital branding tools tell your consumers who you are and what you’re trying to do.
Nested within a digital marketing plan, digital branding enhances digital marketing. Marketing takes a company’s brand and does something with it, acting as a backbone to marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO), lead generation, partnerships and digital content creation. Without strong digital strategy development, digital marketing strategies may not reach their full potential.
How Do You Create a Digital Branding Strategy?
Creating a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent work, long-term goals, digital strategy research, creativity and the right platforms. To create a digital branding strategy, you should:
- Determine your brand’s mission and vision
- Understand your audience
- Know your sales funnel
- Leverage market opportunities and competitive positioning
- Create a cohesive design for your brand
- Publish quality content
- Choose the right digital publishing platform
- Perform brand audits
Keep in mind that brand building is a continual process. Just like a person doesn’t stop learning and growing, your brand should change over time, especially as market trends change and technology advances.
1. Determine Your Brand’s Mission and Vision
What is your brand’s purpose, where will it grow and how is it different than your competitors? Your brand’s mission and vision tell your target audience exactly what you stand for and gives them something to connect with. It’s the window into your brand, acting as a captivating introduction into a long relationship.
Use clear, concise statements to communicate your brand’s:
- Mission: Who your company is and what you do.
- Vision: Why you do it, what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them.
Expand upon your mission and vision statements and connect with your target audience through storytelling. Personalize your company, share where its journey began and outline its path to get where it is now. These messages are often found digitally on a company’s “about” page.
Communicate Your Brand’s Position Statement
A brand’s position statement distinguishes its mission and vision from what competitors are already doing. Take stock of your brand — including employee contribution, target audience, competitor positioning, and performance — and mesh it together to communicate your brand’s value.
A valuable brand position statement is:
- Authentic: Don’t promise the world, because you simply can’t offer it and people won’t believe it. Deliver something realistic and true to your brand.
- Concentrated: Avoid covering too much. Find common ground between your goals and condense your position statement to fixate on that idea.
- Personable: Communicate to your customers how your mission and vision benefit them individually, specifying how you can deliver those benefits better than your competitors.
- Actionable: Outline how you will consistently act towards your goals.
- Memorable: Deliver a strong message powerful enough to stick with your target audience, even after their initial interaction.
- Understandable: Most importantly, communicate your position clearly and effectively.
Your mission, vision, and position statements tell your target audience who you are, but is your perceived audience actually the people your brand is attracting?
2. Understand Your Audience
Who are you trying to connect with, how do they think and is there a customer profile you’re possibly overlooking? Your audience guides your strategies and gives your digital brand meaning. Without an audience, you basically don’t have a brand. Thus, understanding your audience ties directly into your brand success and acceptance.
Segment Your Audience
Avoid the misconception of “everybody” being your audience. Even if your company offers the most generalized products, like groceries, people will respond differently to your brand. As an example, people may perceive farmer’s market vendors differently than discounted supermarkets. Some consumers are willing to spend more at a farmer’s market for the perceived higher quality of produce, even if both markets receive their produce from the same sources. Comparatively, others may prefer discounted supermarkets because it corresponds with their lifestyles.
By segmenting your audience, you can paint a general idea of who your audience is, leading to more informed digital branding strategies. Segment your audience into categories of:
- Demographics: Characteristics like age, gender, income, education level and occupation.
- Geography: Locational aspects like country, city, language, climate and population.
- Psychographics: Personalized qualities like lifestyle, interests, opinions, personalities, and values.
It’s worth noting that your brand will likely tailor to multiple segments. What matters most is your consistency when reaching these audiences, and that you’re valuing their unique needs.
Create Buyer Personas
Just as you imagined your brand as a person, think of your customer segments as a semi-fictional persona your brand talks to. Translate the segments into a description, almost like you’re an author brainstorming a character for their novel. Give them a name, and imagine their:
- Personal background
- Business background
- Problems that need solving
- Motivations and goals
By creating these detailed buyer personas, your brand strategies have the guidelines for consistent, accurate and effective branding.
3. Know Your Brand Funnel
How does your brand attract and nurture buyer personas towards sales? A brand funnel is a representation of how many people are aware of your brand compared to the number of those who actually engage with it. Funnels also highlight the people who reach the steps in between or go the extra mile.
A brand funnel consists of the following levels, starting at the top:
- Awareness: The number of people who know about your brand.
- Consideration: How many people heard of your brand and would consider using it.
- Preference: Of those people, the number that would pick your brand over another.
- Usage: The number of people currently using your brand.
- Advocacy: Of the people that use your brand, how many would recommend it to others.
By continually tracking the health of a brand funnel, strategists can make more informed decisions about where in the funnel people are leaving, and what is needed to prevent them from doing so.
Determine the Health of Your Brand Funnel
You can determine the health of your brand funnel by its shape. Your strategies may differ if your funnel is:
- Skinny: A skinny funnel signals you’re either early in brand development, or there are some areas for improvement in your strategy. Strategize ways to increase brand awareness and better communicate your mission, vision, and position statements.
- An upside-down triangle: If you’re generating a substantial amount of awareness but experiencing a dramatic difference in usage or advocacy, you’ll want to find where you’re losing customers and strategize ways to fill that hole.
- Wide: A healthy brand funnel is wide at each stage. Don’t expect every audience member who’s aware of your brand to use or advocate it, but aim for a healthy majority.
No matter your brand, your goal is to guide as many people as you can down the funnel through your researched branding strategies.
4. Leverage Market Opportunities and Competitive Positioning
Who are your competitors, what are they doing and how can you take advantage of market opportunities? You’ll want to rely on your preferred search engine for this step. Most brands operate within established industries with existing trends and competitors, all of which are accessible through online research.
Now isn’t the time to reinvent the wheel. Instead, take advantage of what’s already available and learn from what marketing opportunities your competitors are or aren’t using, and listen to what your target audience wants.
Perform a Competitive Analysis
Your competitors will fall into one of three categories:
- Direct: Brands that sell the same products as you are to the same geographical audience.
- Indirect: Instead of selling the same products, indirect competitors sell substitutional products, like pens versus pencils.
- Tertiary: These brands don’t sell the same or substitutional products, but have the possibility of becoming a direct or indirect competitor in the future.
Odds are, you’re already keeping an eye on a few competitors. Complete your list by loading up your search engine and searching your company’s name, noting any competitors the engine also recommends on the search engine results page (SERP). When looking at your competitors, you’ll want to note their:
- Audience reach
- Social media usage
- Visual identity
- Content marketing
- Call to actions (CTAs)
More broadly, you want to look for their branding strengths and weaknesses to identify any gaps in your own digital branding. For example, you might find another customer segment worth targeting or that your competitor is fulfilling a customer need you haven’t already identified.
5. Create a Cohesive Design for Your Brand
How will your audience remember your brand? Consumers make a subconscious judgment on a brand within 90 seconds of first interacting with their product, largely influenced by design factors such as color. A cohesive, well-designed brand offers benefits like:
- Less money spent on advertising
- Stronger brand recognition
- Positive brand perception
- More sales revenue
Your design extends across any platform where your brand presents itself, including websites, social media, apps, presentations, videos, blog posts, magazines, advertisements and so on.
Establish a Visual Identity
Your brand is a single identity, but it takes company-wide teamwork to maintain it. Create a branding guide for your brand, specifying visual brand identity elements like a distinctive:
- Color palette: Color increases brand recognition by 80%, making it one of the most influential visual factors in creating and sustaining a strong digital brand. At a minimum, choose a primary color, secondary color and an accent color that best reflects your brand’s nature. When picking your color palette, keep in mind that colors influence different emotions. Try to choose a color palette that corresponds with your buyer persona’s psychographic.
- Logo: Strategically develop a symbol to represent your company. Think of easily recognizable companies, like McDonald’s. Designed to reflect their signature brand colors of red and yellow, their logo is straightforward, an M that characteristically resembles their food staple of french fries. Your goal is for people to look at your logo and immediately get a sense of your brand’s persona, so keep it simple and transparent.
- Font: Choosing the right font is about more than picking an option that’s legible. It’s how the reader reads your brand’s voice. So, if you choose a capitalized bold font, you’ll come across as assertive, and if you choose a smaller dainty style, you’ll come across as soft and gentle. Pick a memorable font, but stay mindful of those with reading difficulties.
- Photography style: Your photographs should be brand-focused. Decide what content to focus on and what aesthetic to maintain, keeping your color palette and brand personality in mind. Use photographs to continue a story about your brand, avoiding dull or one-dimensional imagery as your audience won’t want to connect with it.
More visual identity elements exist beyond these four pillars, like textures, backgrounds and icons, but they’re not always necessary. Above all, create a visual identity that is unique and true to your brand. Think outside of the box, but don’t create something too far-fetched.
6. Publish Quality Content
What message are you trying to communicate, and how will your audience understand? Your brand’s content is tied into your brand voice and includes the media used to communicate a message to your audience. Content encompasses written forms, like blogs and e-books, but also things like:
Avoid restricting yourself to one media, as your audience will likely struggle to stay engaged. The key to creating brand-friendly, quality content is to share something valuable to your audience. What problems need addressing, and how does your audience want to engage with those answers? By consistently predicting and answering your audience’s questions in an engaging way, they’ll want to seek your brand out for reliable information in the future.
Clarify Style and Tone
To effectively communicate your brand’s message while differentiating yourself from the competition, you want to establish a unique:
- Tone: Tone is the emotion behind your content, and it is largely dependent on the reader. For example, if you’re a luxury rooftop martini bar in New York City, you want to exude high class and superiority. But if not done carefully, a reader might read your tone as snobbish, even though that’s the exact opposite tone you intended.
- Style: Style is the way you communicate your message. You use style to control how the reader perceives your tone through methods like brand-specific verbiage or sentence structure.
Together, tone and style make up your brand’s voice. Because your voice is unique, choose media and platforms where you can easily customize and develop content to reflect your brand accurately.
7. Choose the Right Digital Publishing Platform
Where and how will you publish your content? Not every digital publishing platform is equal. Some offer structured support, while others tailor towards self-publishing. Whatever your needs are, choose a digital publishing platform that matches them.
Choose a platform that is:
As technology advances, your needs will naturally change and goals will shift. Find a growth-oriented platform so you don’t have to worry about switching to a new one in the future.
Find a Platform That Meets Your Audience’s Expectations
Consider how you’re going to reach your audience through the content on your digital channels. Put yourself in their shoes and think about their lifestyle. Do they have busy lives? Or are they often finding information while sitting in front of a desktop?
A majority of Americans are active online, with 81% owning a smartphone, nearly 75% owning a desktop or laptop and roughly 50% owning a tablet or e-reader. That’s a lot of people online, and a lot of different screen sizes and capabilities. You want a platform that can stay flexible and available to every member of your audience.
Remember that some of your target audience members may have a disability, such as vision impairment or difficulty understanding things. Because of this, play around with the platform’s features, making sure you can zoom in and out of visuals and text, and that you can include audio or video elements within the content page.
Analytics to Understand Your Customer
Get to know the way your customers interact with your platform on an analytical level, too. Analytics show you exactly what your customers prefer to engage with. You can use this insight to produce related content, or pinpoint content they don’t engage with as much and strengthen it or restrategize those areas.
Your data should be:
Curating strategies based on analytics also boosts your return on investment (ROI). On average, insight-driven businesses grow 30% more annually than businesses not tracking analytics. These companies are projected to earn a collective $1.8 trillion by 2021.
Based on your digital branding goals, set key performance indicators (KPIs) — which may include views, impressions, watch time, clicks, calls, sales, signups, brand interest lift and more. Choose a digital publishing platform with built-in analytics to track the most accurate, goal-driven data.
8. Perform Brand Audits
How well are you achieving your goals? if you’re staying on top of KPIs, you shouldn’t be going into branding blindly without any goals. Where do you hope to guide your brand with these strategies? How are you going to get there? Setting KPIs helps keep your strategies on track to achieve those clear, quantitative objectives.
Take a Candid Step Back
Setting goals and the strategies to achieve them is great, but you also need to take the time to step back and see how well they’re performing within the context of your:
- Mission, vision, and position statement
- Target audience
- Competitor analysis
- Market trends
- Competitive positioning
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Branding strategies
First, take a look at your analytics. Are you matching, exceeding or falling short on any of your KPIs? Do you notice any trends that you didn’t expect, or any areas to reallocate your branding budget? From there, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Talk to your customers directly and ask them straightforward questions about how they perceive and interact with your brand. For example:
- Would you recommend us to a friend?
- What problems do you often find yourself facing?
- How can we help solve those problems?
- Why do you use our products or services?
- Who else do you consider when looking for solutions to your problems?
Be cautious about who, how, and what you ask, because data may skew one way or another based on user bias. Do your best to stay objective and eliminate any statistical fallacies.
Regroup and Brainstorm Solutions
Using the information gathered through your brand audit, revisit your KPIs and developed digital branding strategies. Compare your predictions with your results and make changes where you deem the best fit. Remember, branding is a process. Things change, markets shift, new competitors enter the industry, technology advances and economies crash and rise. To stay relevant, perform a brand audit when your team notices these influential shifts or feels your brand is losing its stamina.
Digital Branding Strategy Examples and Case Studies
Largely recognizable brands like Netflix, IKEA, and Apple can attribute some of their success to their innovative branding strategies.
Netflix is a popular streaming service for movie and TV show enthusiasts. Since its debut in the late 1990s, Netflix gained major popularity, with users now streaming on mobile devices, gaming consoles, tablets, smart TVs and more. In light of the changes in consumer behavior thanks to over 20 years of technological advances, Netflix rebranded their logo to continually stand out against competitors and remain easily recognizable to consumers.
Another company growing with their customer base is IKEA. This brand is a fun, quirky and affordably priced furniture store, popular among younger demographics. IKEA’s branding strategists knew they had to brainstorm ways to stay connected with their buyer personas.
Using digital content channels such as social media, YouTube and art installations, IKEA created and published personalized campaigns, like Oddly IKEA. Thinking outside of the box, researchers recognized a trend of ASMR videos with younger demographics, namely college students. They produced a 25-minute ASMR video using IKEA merchandise like comforters, pillows and sheets.
Apple excels in the art of storytelling. Using digital content like videos, podcasts and social media, Apple’s branding experts communicate passion, creativity and relationship-building through storytelling. One example is their popular video, “Share Your Gifts,” which has over 25 million views on YouTube.
The video follows an energetic four-person family traveling to their grandfather’s house for the holidays. Throughout the video, a deeply emotional tone sets as the family misses their respective grandmother, mom and wife. Using Apple technology, the two young children bring the family together with a heartfelt digital presentation using memorabilia found around the house.
This commercial is well-received because Apple doesn’t wave their product in front of their audience. Instead, they put themselves in their shoes and delivered an engaging video prioritizing storytelling.
Revolutionize Your Brand With Nxtbook Media
Since 2003, Nxtbook Media has been working hands-on with brands, helping to develop digital strategies to revolutionize your digital program. Using our progressive PageRaft and nxtbook4 digital publishing platforms, we hope to transform your traditional page-flipping technology into a customizable brand experience that your audience wants to engage with.
Above all, we believe in personalized strategies and dedicated partnerships. If you’re ready to get started, contact our Partnership Development Team today.