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Branding and Reputation Management in the Digital Age

01 Feb
Concept of branded technology in business in the digital age.

Whether you’re a small business or tech giant, a celebrity, or an aspiring influencer, you need a digital branding plan in place before developing your social media presence. Digital branding is “the way your company presents itself to your market and includes your online image, voice, tone, language, and customer perception.”1

In the digital age, it’s imperative for businesses to understand the impact of digital and social media on brand perception and to proactively manage their online presence. Companies that understand social power can leverage it to reinvent their brand and draw in new customers.2

In contrast, if a business’ online reputation is poorly managed, then misinformation about its brand can spread quickly during a crisis.

Consider one of the largest environmental disasters involving BP—the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.2 Some missteps during the company’s cleanup campaign after the oil spill ended up causing more harm than good to its online reputation.2

If your company is associated with corporate responsibility, that could strengthen connections with your brand, and loyal customers are more likely to defend your reputation during a crisis. 3 Last year, REI claimed the top spot on Forbes’ Best Brands for Social Impact list, a partnership with Hundred X, a mission-based data company.4 This example underscores just how much good citizenship and ethics count with audiences in today’s modern digital landscape. 4

Read on to learn how to create a strong brand identity, as well as explore online reputation management tips and future trends in digital marketing.

Building a Strong Brand Identity

In today’s noisy digital landscape, creating a unique brand identity is worth the brainpower and team bandwidth. That identity distinguishes you from the competition. Invest time in developing elements such as a unique slogan, business name, logo, and colors. Then, maintain consistent storytelling across channels to ensure a cohesive brand image, fostering recognition online and off.1

Be sure to clearly define what your brand stands for—values, mission, and unique selling propositions. As you work to develop a branding campaign, you and your team should think about who your audience is and what matters to them, what your business represents to customers, and how your products or services make them feel.

For example, Apple’s famous ad slogan ’Think Different’ celebrated revolutionary thinkers and inventors, ranging from Albert Einstein to John Lennon, as geniuses.5 That message resonated with creatives and forged a strong emotional connection to the brand.5

Not only do you need to get the messaging right, but you also should choose the right channels—including websites, email marketing, and social media—to reach your target audiences. By intentionally pairing engaging and memorable content with the right platform, you can create an experience that creates and sustains trust.

Social Media Branding and Engagement: Rewards and Risks

In today's expansive digital landscape, the influence of social media and its campaigns is crucial for branding and engagement, and should not be underestimated.

While these campaigns can effectively elevate brand awareness, convey a company's personality, foster loyalty, and contribute to achieving branding and marketing goals, they demand diligent effort to navigate potential risks and handle them adeptly for rewards.

In this vast expanse of heightened digital interconnectedness, the growing reach of social media exposes companies to escalated risks. Negative messages, in particular, have the potential to reverberate through these online realms and into the offline world, presenting significant threats to a company's reputation, especially when seized upon by the media.

The unmistakable lesson here is clear—a single inappropriate Tweet can exact a considerable toll, resulting in financial repercussions that may inflict significant costs on an organization, potentially amounting from thousands to millions.

In this era where consumers spend an average of 13 minutes and 45 seconds before making a purchasing decision, the importance of building and maintaining a positive online presence cannot be overstated.6

The landscape, however, is fraught with challenges. Social media platforms, review sites, and live video options empower consumers to share their opinions with millions of people with just a few clicks.

While a positive viral post can cast your brand in a favorable light, the online community can equally swiftly spotlight your brand at its worst.

How to Keep a Positive Online Brand Reputation

Yet, in the face of this shifting power of consumer opinion, brands and marketers need not feel helpless. New digital touchpoints and media present opportunities to bolster a brand's online reputation. Through social media platforms, businesses can embrace transparency, share positive stories, engage in meaningful conversations with customers, leverage advocates in times of need, outsource marketing and advertising to their fan-base, and obtain instant feedback on products and services.

In the realm of online reputation management, the significance of a well-constructed crisis management plan becomes evident. Responding to negative comments professionally not only showcases that your brand takes customer concerns seriously but also communicates a commitment to providing excellent customer service. Even if an issue cannot be immediately resolved, this approach can help mitigate the damage to your brand's reputation.

Staying active on social media is not just a necessary evil; it is a vital tool in building a positive online presence. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and X play a crucial role in fostering interactions with customers, addressing their concerns, and encouraging positive reviews. Although it may feel exhausting at times, the benefits of maintaining a brand's online presence on these platforms outweigh the challenges.

In navigating the digital landscape, consider the importance of online reviews. They can sway the opinions of potential customers and significantly impact a brand's reputation. An effective strategy involves not only responding to negative feedback but also actively encouraging positive reviews from satisfied customers.

In conclusion, while the digital world introduces challenges, it also offers avenues for building and maintaining a positive brand reputation. Strategic use of social media platforms, active engagement with customers, and a proactive approach to online reputation management can help your brand not only survive but thrive in this dynamic environment.

You and your team will need to plan an editorial calendar, identify metrics for measuring success, and appropriate tactics and tools for your social media campaigns. Prior to launching any campaign, industry experts say one of the most important questions to consider is, “Will this inspire brand loyalty or result in backlash or a loss of customers?7

Data Analytics and Brand Performance

To accurately capture and analyze brand performance, there are some key steps to follow. First, identify the metrics you want to use and why. If your goal is to increase brand awareness among a specific customer segment, your benchmarks for success could include impressions, shares and mentions. It’s important to collect data from different platforms and sources, including competitors, to get an accurate picture of how your brand is performing online.

Then, take advantage of tactics and tools to optimize branding campaigns. A/B testing (also called split testing) can help your team identify which version of an ad, landing page, or other element is likely to perform best.8 Once you start to launch your branding campaign and have collected reliable data, it’s time for data analysis. Enlist experts on your team to help you glean valuable insights to inform your brand strategy. Finally, be sure to present key findings to stakeholders through stories, charts, or infographics.8

Crisis Management and Damage Control

Even if you diligently monitor your company’s social media accounts, conversations are happening so quickly in real time that you might not be able to avert a crisis. Instead, focus on creating a solid crisis communication plan so that your organization is prepared when a brand reputation crisis does happen.

Then, you will have a clear roadmap for addressing rumors, misinformation, and negative publicity during the crisis and for building trust once the dust settles. It’s critical for you and your team to be familiar with the latest strategies and trusted tools for online reputation management.

In addition, seize opportunities to expand your knowledge of crisis management by attending events with industry experts or taking courses that explore reputation recovery cases and lessons learned.

Future Trends in Digital Branding

Looking ahead, Gen Z and Gen Alpha will become key target audiences for many consumer brands. That means genuine messaging and social responsibility will be integral to successful digital branding campaigns.9 One way to court these audiences is by developing branded content in harmony with your values. You can highlight what’s unique or quirky about your brand by taking fans behind the scenes and sharing engaging short-form videos or tutorials.9,10

A company’s social impact and sustainability will continue to be important for consumers. Dove believes beauty is more than skin deep and has continued advocating for women and girls through its successful #DetoxYourFeed campaign.11 Expect to see more brands championing causes that align with their mission and values.

Other trends are poised to transform customer-brand relationships as we know them. Here are some key developments to watch for:9,10

  • Augmented reality: Used in gaming, AR has started expanding to retail, product demos, virtual events, and immersive branded experiences. For example, AR pioneer IKEA, has an app enabling customers to see how their furniture products will look in their own personal space
  • Metaverse and AI: Within the Metaverse, AI-powered tools can enhance customer engagement by tailoring content and advertisements based on real-time user data. Brands are likely to explore how to leverage these tools to create interactive and dynamic virtual campaigns
  • Voice search: Experts predict that 50% of internet purchases will be made using your voice, a development that will continue to open new avenues for digital marketers. Be sure your company’s website is equipped with this capability

From building a brand identity to online reputation management, businesses and individuals must keep up with the latest developments. And they must also be equipped with the knowledge to adapt, lead, and innovate in the ever-changing digital landscape.

Succeed as a Marketing Leader

Santa Clara University’s Online Master of Science in Marketing (MSM) program will help you sharpen sought-after business skills, build a powerful Silicon Valley network, and advance professionally. Delve into digital marketing strategies and other hot-button topics in the industry.

SCU’s marketing curriculum will hone your expertise in branding and reputation management, data analytics, ethics for managers, and more. With this rigorous preparation, you will be well-prepared to join the next generation of visionary marketing leaders.

Don’t wait to start moving up. Schedule a call with an SCU admissions outreach advisor today.