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Seven Promises of the Digital Brand By @TheEbizWizard | @CloudExpo #Cloud

What do digital brands promise – and how do those promises differ from traditional, non-digital brands?

Brands are more than the sum of their brand elements - logos, colors, shapes, and the like. Brands are promises. Promises from a company to its customers that its products will deliver the value and experience customers expect.

Today, digital is transforming enterprises across numerous industries. As companies become software-driven organizations, their brands transform into digital brands. But if brands are promises, then what do digital brands promise - and how do those promises differ from traditional, non-digital brands?

Digital Extends Branding
Before I get into the list of digital brand promises, it's important to point out that digital vs. traditional branding isn't an either-or situation. Rather, digital technologies themselves, as well as the broader context of digital as recognizing that customer preferences and behavior drive enterprise technology decisions, extend and transform tried-and-true branding principles.

Such extension and transformation, therefore, isn't a one way street. You can't simply say that you'll take some existing brand and turn it into a digital brand. In reality, digital is transforming branding itself - so even your traditional brands will undergo a digital transformation, whether you like it or not.

With those points in mind, then, here are the seven promises of digital brands.

Promise of authenticity. Digital - social media in particular - transforms the brand interaction into a conversation. But the only way a person wants to have a conversation with a company is if the conversation is truly authentic. Technology can easily get in the way of such authentic interactions.

My last Cortex newsletter, Bring the Omnichannel Purchase to the Digital Customer, went more in depth in how easily brand interactions can be disingenuous. Don't make this mistake.

Promise of respectfulness. Misuse of marketing technology can disappoint, shock, or anger customers. The more you know about a customer, the easier it is to stalk them and spy on them. Avoid the digital marketing creepiness factor and respect your audience.

Promise of coherence. Multichannel marketing recognizes that customers may favor one channel over another - for example, they may want to shop in a store one day or online another.

Omnichannel marketing extends the notion of multichannel by recognizing that from the customer perspective, all interaction touchpoints should be a single, coherent channel. If I want to use my phone to shop while I'm in a store, or if I want to interact with a brand via Twitter while I'm watching their commercial on TV, then so be it.

To keep the promise of coherence, brands should recognize customers across all touchpoints. If I get an email newsletter from a brand, I want their sales associates to know I get the newsletter and what it said when I go into the store. If I call an airline, I want the customer service rep to know I'm a premium flyer.

Promise of individualization. Traditional marketing offers personalization and segmentation. Neither one goes far enough in the digital world.

When I go to the Amazon or Netflix web sites, I see personalized recommendations based upon my past purchase history and what other people with tastes similar to mine liked. But - if I ordered a kids' movie for my grandson last week, they're likely to recommend other kids' movies today, even though my grandson isn't visiting at the moment.

Other brands focus on segmentation. I'm a professional in my fifties, so AARP mails me stuff with annoying regularity. But - they have no way of knowing if I'd be interested in joining, and among all the perks of being an AARP member, they have no idea which ones I'd like. So directly into the trash it goes.

Individualization takes personalization and segmentation one huge step further. With individualization you essentially segment your target market so finely that each segment has a single person in it. As long as you remain authentic and respectful, you can now analyze digital's copious quantities of data to offer each individual customer precisely what they want, how they want, when they want it.

Promise to stay current. Some brands promise consistency and stability. When I buy a bar of Ivory Soap or rent a room at the Hampton Inn, I expect it to be exactly like every other bar of Ivory Soap I've ever purchased or Hampton Inn room I've ever rented, respectively. Surprises with such products are almost always bad.

Digital brands, in contrast, have to keep up with the times. Customers always want the latest and greatest, whether it be current pricing on the web site or current merchandise in a store.

It's important to note that a brand can promise to be consistent as well as current. When I go to the Hampton Inn web site, it had better be current. A hotel web site with out-of-date pricing or availability data is worse than useless. But the last thing I want from the room is a surprise.

Promise of performance. Performance overlaps the final promise, quality - but digital brands have a particular promise of performance that warrants calling out. With digital branding, speed is the name of the game. Every interaction must be in real-time, or as close to real-time as is practical for the type of interaction.

Customers don't care that mobile networks are slower than their cable TV Internet at home - they want mobile apps and web sites to respond blisteringly fast regardless. When a customer emails a company, they want a personal response right away. And it goes without saying I should be able to get a real human on the line when I call the call center at 3:00 AM on a Sunday morning.

Promise of quality. Quality, of course, has always been one of the most important brand promises since, well, the invention of commerce itself. I repeat it here because digital raises the bar on quality - because of the other six promises. As a brand strives to keep its other promises, the promise of quality cannot be allowed to suffer.

In fact, the quality promise overrides each of the others. You could have the most authentic brand in the world, but if your quality sucks, it doesn't matter. You could have the most coherent brand in the world, but if your quality sucks, well, you get the point.

The Intellyx Take: The Promise of Delight
Few digital brands are able to keep all seven of the promises above, and truth be told, they are all somewhat negotiable, except for the promise of quality. Coherence and individualization, for example, are extraordinarily difficult to get right - but as a result, it's unlikely your competition is going to get them right, either.

So the reality of digital branding is that it doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to be better than the other guy's.

On the other hand, today's world is full of brands who suck at digital in one way or another, with some industries worse than others. Sure, cable companies, telcos, and auto dealerships have mostly gone digital. But everybody hates their cable company, mobile phone provider, and the dealership where they bought their car nevertheless (with only rare exceptions). There's clearly room for improvement.

As brands figure this stuff out, in contrast, something magical happens. Customers actually end up liking the brands they interact with. Customer delight, in fact, is the overarching brand promise that all the other promises roll up into.

Sure, you can point to the fact that none of your competition is doing this any better than you are, but that's just an excuse. Instead, focus on what it will take to get this digital branding thing right. Not only will you run circles around your competition, but you'll delight your customers - and you can take delighted customers all the way to the bank.

Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. At the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: wackystuff.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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