Industry Insights

Will the age of digital communication destroy traditional brands?

Posted by Sam Zalcman on Jul 24, 2014, 6:00:00 AM

It is obvious that many brands will be completely or partially destroyed by the progress of digital technologies, and one of the early victims was the prestigious Encyclopedia Britannica. But we should distinguish between pure-digital brands such as Google, Twitter, Amazon, Skype, or Facebook, and non-digital brands which represent the great majority of the economy. In the USA, pure-digital brands together with technology brands today account for about one quarter of the top 100 brands but one third of their value.

Brands that are attacked by pure-digital brands in their core business such as publishing, media, or telephony, have no options than creating their own digital brands. The threats are clear: the weaknesses of fragile brands are likely to be more exposed in the digital era; brands can be exposed if they do not react fast enough to a crisis situation that can build much faster with digital technologies; weaker brands can often be attacked by competitors that have a superior digital strategy.

In this context, the first key point of digital strategies is to have a truly strong brand and a responsive organization. This is fundamental as digital technologies can amplify the weaknesses of a brand and of the organization, and an independent digital strategy cannot replace a strong brand strategy.

The second key point is that a successful digital strategy is dynamic. This is really the essence of digital at any level and with any technology, from websites to blogs, social media, or mobile apps. Consumers that are proficient with digital technologies are searching for recency, change and novelty – they want to be part of a new successful wave of progress. The most common way to destroy value is to decide on a one-time budget for the implementation of a digital tool without committing for the maintenance, nurturing, and development of this tool in the long term. Outdated news, obsolete graphics in a website, old blogs, mobile apps with uncorrected bugs, are all signatures of a brand that is weakened by its own digital presence. The mistake is to succumb to the desire of adopting digital tactics without having a true digital strategy that reinforces the brand. A successful digital strategy has to integrate the brand values with evolving news, sports, cultural events, communities, or new product features. A recent example of a successful social media campaign was KFC’s #iatethebones campaigns matching their TV ads for their boneless offer. 

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