5 Steps for Building your Digital Brand
How do you create and build a digital brand that sticks to people's mind? Start with these five steps.
What makes a brand last?
That’s a question that branding and public relations (PR) professionals have tried to answer for years with varying results. One thing’s for sure: The secret sauce behind a strong brand is what separates successful companies from those that fade into obscurity.
How many popular local brands na nabaon sa limot can you name? Here’s one: Serg’s.
This is particularly true in the saturated world of Philippine ecommerce, where DTI estimates show the number of registered online sellers grew from 1,700 in March 2020 to 93,318 in January 2021 — a staggering increase of over 5,300%.
And if that’s not enough, the DTI is setting its sights on increasing the number of ecommerce enterprises to 1 million by 2022.
All this means that your digital enterprise’s branding has to be on point if you want any chance of standing out from the competition.
What makes digital branding so important?
In the Philippines, the right slogan, logo or business name can determine whether a brand is patok with its target audience. In a country where consumers have a penchant for genericizing brand names (much to the “chagrin” of companies like Xerox), branding is powerful stuff.
For new online businesses, a clear brand sets the tone for your company and sets expectations with potential customers. For example, if you sell organic coffee beans online, it makes sense to have a coffee-related name and logo to clue your buyers in.
But before we dive into the anatomy of a successful digital brand, it helps to first zero in on what digital branding means.
What exactly is digital branding?
Digital branding seeks to develop a brand and communicate its value proposition on digital platforms, such as its website and social media. Another way to define digital branding is to think of it as a concerted effort to use digital assets — your website, social media channels, and digital ads — to connect and make an impression with people.
Digital branding is a curious term because it implies that there’s a specific type of branding for different media channels, whether it’s “radio branding,” “print branding” or “TV branding.” But in today, all branding is also digital — so the distinction no longer matters.
If anything, digital branding is often used interchangeably with digital marketing. While they’re closely related, they’re two different concepts.
How is digital branding different from digital marketing?
There is no single way of differentiating digital marketing from digital branding.
Digital marketing covers all marketing efforts that occur on the internet — in this sense, you can think of it as a set of activities for engaging and attracting customers. In contrast, digital branding relates more to your online identity — the things that make your business what it is, including your image, mission and values.
Essential steps for building a digital-only brand
1. Decide on your name
First things first, pick a memorable name for your online business.
There are no hard and fast rules here. You can be as punny as you want — we all know Pinoys love a good laugh — or take a more serious tone.
Ultimately, the name you choose depends on the kind of image you want your business to convey. If you’re not sure where to start, it helps to understand the four types of brand names:
Literal Names – These names describe the company with words associated with its niche or industry. For example, brands like Soak Swimwear (image below) are fairly self-explanatory.
Synthesized Names – Synthesized names are coined names (i.e., made up) or a combination of words. Filipino jewelry brand Amami takes its name from a portmanteau of Ama Namin, or “Our Father” in Tagalog.
Metaphorical Names – This type of brand name creates an association with a company or a product. The name itself is used to position the brand or product in the market. Classic examples include Amazon, Nike, Safari and Oracle.
Hybrid Names – Hybrid names combine some or all of the above.
2. Build a buyer persona
To develop your brand, you need to understand who exactly it is you’re trying to reach and attract. This is where buyer personas come in.
According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” Your persona can cover information such as customer demographics, purchasing habits, motivations, pain points, goals and challenges.
This information will help you craft your brand name, brand story, mission, goals and even your values.
3. Design your logo and website
A logo is a symbol that represents your online business, helping customers remember and identify it quickly. When done right, a good logo can instantly reflect your brand’s goals and values.
For example, when you see the “swish” logo below, you’d instantly know it’s Nike, even without identifying the brand name in the image.
Another thing online businesses can consider is a website. But while it’s necessary for digital marketing, you can’t base your whole branding effort on a website alone. You need a strong social media presence to work alongside your website, driving awareness and touching customers that a website alone couldn’t hope to reach!
By now you probably already know the Philippines stands out for having the highest number of social media users in the world — 89 million as of January 2021. Add in the fact that Filipinos are mobile-first Internet users, this means that the average consumer is more likely to visit a brand’s Facebook or Instagram profile before its website.
4. Hone your value proposition
Every brand has a value proposition — the promise of value it delivers to customers. Think of it as a statement summarizing why someone should pay for your online business’s products or services.
A value proposition can also encapsulate your brand’s story. For example, Red Horse Beer’s Lakas-Tama channel, which won the YouTube Works Best Brand Channel award in 2021, is home to a series of videos that people can share a beer over online, from concerts to variety show sketches.
The videos were part of a successful rebranding campaign during the pandemic, growing its subscriber base by over 100% from 2019 to 2020.
5. Describe your mission and values
Finally, your digital brand should also communicate your mission and values — a particularly important factor for Filipino consumers. According to a YouGov Omnibus survey in 2018, 97% of Filipinos think businesses have a responsibility to do social good.
As the country recovers from the pandemic, brands that wear their values on their sleeves have an opportunity to resonate with socially conscious consumers. This is an observation echoed by Ipsos Philippines Country Manager, Vicky Abad.
“When you look at brands, there are dimensions — who you are, what you stand for and what you do on a daily basis. All the brands are essentially ‘something’ to consumers,” she explains in an interview with the Inquirer.
More specifically, brands need to be a force for good, with such actions being “tangible to consumers and [brands] can actually do something that affects the lives of people.”
Bringing it all together
The combination of brand and image helps tell a story for your digital business, just as it has for some of the country’s most recognizable companies.
For example, consumers link Jollibee to time spent with family; National Bookstore is the go-to for everything school supplies; Happy Skin is value for money without scrimping on quality; and RC Cola is, well … the brand with the strange commercials.
By following the basic steps of digital brand-building, you too can position your online business as a brand that can be trusted to provide great products and services. From there, it’s just a matter of living up to those expectations.