Despite the ubiquity of internet as a marketing platform, digital brand management has yet to take off in the same way as its offline counterpart. Marketers do not obsessively pore over every PPC ad copy or tweet that is published from the company’s handle in the same way as they obsess over brochures, flyers or other offline marketing materials. This can be risky for your brand – customers are exposed to your brand consistently across multiple channels; both online and offline. The failure to establish a homogeneous identity across your online and offline channels could confuse customers and also risk alienating them.
What is digital brand management?
In essence, digital brand management is an amalgamation of policies that directly or indirectly influence the way your customer interacts with your brand online. This includes your landing pages, apps, social media engagement, blog marketing, PPC and anything that is executed over the digital medium.
Brand management is pretty straightforward in the offline segment where the approval for brochures, flyers, and print ads are all conducted by one centralised authority who is mostly the brand manager. In the case of digital brand management, a number of key components of business like web design, PPC advertising, and social media marketing are outsourced to third party agencies. Ensuring that you communicate your branding mission to these third-party service providers is absolutely critical.
Digital brand management policy
It is important for a brand to have one unique brand management policy that applies to all channels of marketing – both offline and online. In other words, your brand management policy for offline channels should be the same document you should be using for online branding as well. There are two main categories of brand management that one must look into – design and positioning. The design factors essentially include all the marketing materials that originate from the company’s digital accounts. This includes the look and experience on the landing pages, ad copies and even the cover photo on your social media accounts. Positioning is the actual communication being delivered through digital media. Apart from the ad copy text, images and taglines used in the digital media, positioning can also include the tone and tenor of the tweets and email messages sent from the company’s account.
The next step is to identify unique elements in each of your marketing channels and identify a way to appropriate the universal document to fit this specific marketing channel. Take social media marketing as an example. There have been thousands of cases in the past decade where inadvertent tweets have led to a social media boycott or negative publicity for a brand. In other cases, legitimate social media campaigns have been hijacked by critics and that has led to the brand losing control over its campaigns.
For instance, when McDonald’s launched their #McDStories hashtag campaign, it was quickly hijacked by posters who tweeted stories about food poisoning and hygiene at restaurant locations. In another instance, a staff of the Vodafone UK social media team published an obscene tweet from the company’s official account that threw the company into a crisis. A holistic digital brand management policy should take care of both the internal and external factors that affect the brand on social media and create a policy that fits the brand’s social media strategy.
Communicating the digital brand management strategy
Perhaps the most important component of digital brand management is communication with the stakeholders. As we noted earlier in this article, digital campaigns are often decentralised in any organisation and are typically handled by external media agencies that specialise in specific channels.
It is recommended that brands set up a one-on-one meeting with your account manager to debrief them on your brand management policy. This includes a complete knowledge transfer on the universal brand philosophy as well as explaining the brand strategy specific to the marketing channel being handled by the agency.
The limitations of digital brand management
One of the crucial differentiators between offline and digital brand management strategies is the limited wriggle-room that the latter comes with. In the offline world, brands have complete control over the materials they publish, the channels they distribute their materials from, and the language used in the communication. This may not always be the case with digital brand management. While brands can completely control what goes on their landing page, they do not have the ability to influence what the consumer sees. For instance, the brand colour can vary quite noticeably across different monitors and graphics cards. A brand like Starbucks that relies so heavily on its trademark green colour for brand recall may not be in a position to know what shade of green the website visitor sees.
Also, a major chunk of digital brand management is executed over third-party platforms that have proprietary branding and policies. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have uniquely themed interfaces and a brand may only have limited control to influence how their post appears on these social media channels. Google has stringent policies on ad text and this may impact branding.
Take Dollar Shave Club, for example. This is a razor company that rode to popularity solely through its viral social media content. The tagline for the company, ‘Our blades are f—ing great’ is profanity ridden and has been effectively used to appeal to the company’s niche audience. However, an Adwords or Facebook advertising campaign with such taglines may not get approved and this would mean that the company will need to tone down its messaging. If done incorrectly, this can affect the branding of the company.
Digital brand management is evolving to become a much-required component of a company’s overall brand strategy. Given the multiple stakeholders associated here, businesses need to create a well-studied, holistic strategy that can address all their digital branding goals without compromising on their overall branding strategies.