Digital and Brand Strategy Are Interchangeable

Those who do digital strategy well earn the right to be part of brand strategy conversations. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about my job. When you peel away all of the noise generated by connectivity and technology, the brand’s left in the middle. Peeling away all of the noise is difficult, though. There’s always something else to do on the Interwebs and another Mashable post to distract your client’s attention. Knowing the noise will only get noisier; we’ve got to make the most of it. No, that doesn’t mean we oblige to shiny object syndrome. It means we should be using the digital insights available at our fingertips to clarify and strengthen brand strategies. 

The challenge we face when doing this is that most clients and agencies think digital is tactical. A tactic of part of a bigger strategy, idea or campaign. This was exemplified in a meeting I recently attended with other agencies where their creative lead referred to digital as “a supporting element to TV” after reading the script from his iPad. It’s not that digital is tactical, it’s that people who don’t get digital think it’s tactical. You’re not fooling anyone by reading TV scripts from your iPad.

Assessing whether or not “the latest” in digital makes sense for a brand isn’t easy. Figuring out how to extend a campaign idea into digital is. Display ad here and proverbial social post there. Oh, and a mobile application of whatever on the side. This kind of thinking is easy because it’s lazy. And it takes advantage of the traditional mindset of most marketers. There’s a time and place for traditional advertising, but digital doesn’t “support” or “extend” it. In fact, I’d argue TV is a supporting element to digital, not the other way around. People want experiences where they can interact with your brand at their convenience. Focus on this first and then create a TV spot to let people know about it.

Digital becomes strategic when we’re able to find the signal in the noise. When you find consumer feedback in social media conversation you had yet to uncover in focus groups. When you look back historically at keyword volume to help map out your content strategy for the upcoming quarter. When user experience design for a website influences how a company merchandises their products in store. When deciding not to create one-off Facebook and Twitter feeds for a campaign because it’s short-lived. When you come to the realization that the number of websites isn’t the Internet’s fault, but rather a lack of properly mapping out your brand’s architecture. When data analysis gets you to the ah-ha moment that it’s not a mobile website or an application – it’s both. When key stakeholder interviews you’re doing for a website redesign leads you to additional research that gets you in the door to work on a brand identify refresh.

Digital strategy and brand strategy are interchangeable. It’s not one or the other. One’s not more important, or that different, than the other. Digital strategy can influence brand strategy and vice versa. They’re blurring together and may eventually become one. In the meantime, make sure you’re intimately dialed in to what’s going on in digital. Otherwise, you run the risk of reading TV scripts from an iPad in the future.