Opinion: Why use brand thinking in a digital world?
The branding industry has long been talking about brand ‘being a two-way communication.’ This is completely true, but the essence of brand remains the same – it’s about connection. It doesn’t mean you’re higher quality, cheaper or faster. It means that you’ve decided what you stand for, who you’re speaking to and what you want to offer them.
With millions of brands competing to exist alongside one another, there’s only one thing that has fundamentally changed: where they are seen. Traditionally, brand consultancies give their clients a market position (mission, vision and values), communicated through visual identity and tone of voice. These are usually conceptualised with print and offline applications in mind. But, the vast majority of a brand’s first impressions now happen digitally, whether through a tap, a click or a swipe.
However, when it comes to defining brand and the way it’s communicated, often companies end up translating an offline brand rather than creating a brand that works everywhere. It seems like common sense to use the right tools for the job, but tech firms are often building products and experiences with only print guidelines to work from. Eventually, a brand created in this way gets more and more diluted as it translates into digital, when it’s arguably home to the most important customer touchpoints.
This problem is compounded by projects such as Google Material Design, which has created a modern-day digital design standard and is applied to millions of sites, apps and experiences. Incentives like this have allowed more companies to apply good digital design, but they also go some way to removing a brand’s personality – which is ultimately what differentiates that brand from its competitors.
Brands that are successful in the digital space are not successful because they ‘use design.’ They’re not even successful because of ‘design thinking.’ They’ve got where they are because they consider, from day one, when, where and why their audience interacts with them, and how they want to reflect their brand’s mission, vision and values in these interactions. In the case of Airbnb, whose mission is to ‘connect people to unique travel experiences,’ innovative technological solutions allow the brand to deliver on its purpose. It’s less about design thinking – it’s brand thinking.
Brand personality and a unique experience are the things that make you memorable and generate loyalty from your consumers. Don’t disregard the importance of your brand and the journey someone goes on when they engage with a brand’s touchpoints in the digital world. If we use brand thinking from day one, there’s no reason we can’t have all the positive connections we expect from physical experiences online as well.
Vicki Young is a director at Nalla