Sep 20, 2018

Brand Awareness: Why a Digital-First Approach Is Essential

by Digital Marketing Institute

Everybody has heard that first impressions last a lifetime, and the simple fact is that in the modern age, a brand’s opportunity to make a good first impression is happening in the digital sphere. 

This is because Americans spend more than 12 hours each day interacting with media devices, including television, radio, internet, desktop and laptop computers, and connected devices. Put another way, people today spend more than half their waking lives on digital channels and immersed in technology. 

As a result, a brand that doesn’t have a digital presence has a near-zero chance of locating new prospects and engaging audiences because they aren't looking in the right place.

Imagine, for example, that you called a friend and left a voice message without realizing you had dialed the wrong number. Your friend would never get the message because it’s not his or her voicemail. Trying to connect with modern consumers without having a digital presence and strong digital brand is similar because you're not going to where your prospects are. 

They Want to Connect with Brands in that Environment

Beyond the fact that consumers spend an extraordinary amount of time with digital devices, they're also using them at an unprecedented rate to engage with brands they support. In the days before digital, a brand that wanted to connect with prospects would put an ad in the paper or invest in a billboard advertisement. But these days, customers use digital media to actively seek out brands, and this has shifted the control from the brand to the consumer.

This is one of the major changes that’s taken place in the world of consumer behavior since the advent of the internet and the explosion of digital technology. Thanks to websites, blogs, reviews, testimonials, and other forms of online content, consumers now have the power to research everything they want to know about a product, service, or brand—enough even to make a purchasing decision—long before a brand is even aware the prospects exist.

As such, today’s consumers expect brands to have a digital presence, and nearly 30% prefer to communicate with brands via digital channels. Therefore, by cultivating a digital brand through a digital-first approach, you ensure your brand will be visible when prospects go looking and guarantee you don’t miss opportunities to engage and delight your audience.

Digital Brands Enhance the Customer Experience

Another reason it’s essential to have a digital-first approach to branding is that consumers expect brands to be responsive on digital platforms. In fact, 60% consider it a bad customer experience if they don’t get a response after reaching out to a brand on a social network, and 84% expect a response within 24 hours. Furthermore, if customers are using social platforms like Facebook to reach out to you for satisfaction or resolution with a problem and you don’t respond quickly, half will never do business with you again.

But social media and other digital channels offer more than an opportunity to perform necessary customer service functions, and a chance to communicate with your audience on a more human and dynamic level. 

The brand interactions of the traditional age were static and one-way: a prospect might see your ad in a paper, but wouldn’t be able to engage with you via that channel. Today, however, brand interactions happen in real time, affording brands and their audiences with opportunities for two-way dialogues and meaningful exchanges. 

In order to present a consistent image that’s in line with your goals, it’s important to have a digital-first approach that focuses on crystallizing your brand and taking advantage of digital openings to enhance the customer experience. 

What Does It Mean to Build a Digital Identity?

Having a digital brand involves cultivating a multichannel presence on all your audience’s preferred platforms, which can include:

- Email

- Social media

- Website

- Blogs

- Mobile apps

- Instant message platforms

- Television

If your audience spends time in any of these digital spaces, then it’s crucial to have a presence there. Otherwise, your just making way for the competition. 

One of the most crucial tools for building a digital brand is content, which includes things like webpages, blogs, emails, social posts, videos, and more. It’s not possible to have a digital presence without content, and the type of content you create and curate will tell your audience everything they need to know about your brand, including who you are, what you stand for, and how you can solve their problems.

For instance, let’s look at an example of a company who has done a great job of creating a digital brand - Airbnb. For one thing, they're everywhere their potential customers are: they have Facebook, Twitter, and other social profiles, a great website, a YouTube channel with nearly 100,000 subscribers, they developed an app, and the list goes on. Beyond that, however, they’ve also successfully created a brand image of themselves as a company that puts complete emphasis on the customer. 

To feed into a storytelling element their website has an entire section dedicated to Community Stories, where hosts from around the world share their tales, photos, and videos about how they got involved with Airbnb. Not only does this convey the brand image of them caring about their customers, but it also helps to allay fears of wary prospects who might not feel comfortable renting a room in a stranger’s home, and this creates trust and builds relationships.

Digital Allows for Targeted Campaigns

Aside from being present where your prospects are, another reason it’s important to focus on digital-first is because digital prioritizes targeted marketing in a way that traditional marketing doesn’t. 

For example, before digital was the primary channel for communication between brands and their audiences, some businesses used to send out physical newsletters to their clients and prospects. One problem, however, was that all the newsletters were the same, regardless of whether they were sent to a 90-year-old grandmother or a 19-year-old college student.

By contrast, a company today can segment their email list and create 100 different versions of the same marketing email in order to personalize content, offers, wording, images, and more based on factors like demographics, buyer’s journey stage, purchasing history, etc. 

Targeted emails are far more effective because today’s consumers expect brands to personalize marketing messages. When you approach your marketing and brand from a digital perspective, it puts the focus on targeted messages.

Digital Means Flexible

Another benefit of adopting a digital-first approach to branding is that it makes you more flexible, which is integral in a world where technology and consumer behavior change at a dizzying pace. 

Take a look at how mobile search impacted digital marketing, for example. There was a time not long ago when digital marketers didn’t have to worry about how websites looked on mobile devices, because people simply didn’t use these devices for search. 

Today, however, nearly 60% of web searches are done from smartphones and tablets, and brands have had to change the way they design and develop their online real estate as a result. If you don’t have a website that’s responsive, then your customers will bounce as soon as they land there from a mobile device, and your website plays a huge role in your brand identity. When you approach your brand’s presence from a digital-first strategy, you get used to the rate of change, and this makes you more adaptable, flexible, and able to change as new technologies and patterns emerge.


Branding has been a crucial part of marketing since at least the 1950s, but the art has changed a great deal since those early Mad Men days. Today’s consumers spend their time with different media and on different channels than in the past, and companies must respond by following their audiences to these new platforms.

In order to remain visible and relevant in a connected world where people spend more than half their days interacting with digital devices, brands must adopt a digital-first approach to building and managing their modern identities. 

Along with helping you connect with customers on their level, digital-first branding will also help you provide a better customer experience, facilitate meaningful interactions, ensure your marketing messages are highly targeted and help you stay flexible in an ever-changing digital world.

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