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Branding for Digital Media

By: Aniko Hill
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Branding is simply the public’s perception of a product, service, company or even an individual. Before social media, only celebrities had a public image that was carefully controlled through publicists. Now, everyday people are responsible for branding themselves online with the way they portray themselves on social media. It is no surprise that Twitter is highly successful with celebrities—it gives them a forum for communicating to their fans directly, with the ability to debunk rumors started by tabloids. With the help of social media, everyday people are becoming brands online. Employers are also using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to vet potential employees.

For small- to mid-sized companies, social media can be a cost-effective way to reach their market directly, and can be an incredibly efficient alternative to expensive TV or print advertising. In fact, the trend toward digital marketing has picked up speed with the economic downturn—when less overall advertising dollars are being spent. Social media has affected consumers’ interaction with the brand—not just on the purchasing side, but with feedback to the brand direction in general. For a brand or company, digital media can be more important for public perception than traditional media because the Web is viral in nature and messaging can spread very quickly. If the wrong message is put out there, it may be too late to correct.

A recent example of this principle is the Tropicana packaging debacle that happened in early 2009. Tropicana’s rebrand, spearheaded by ad giant Arnell Group (which also did Pepsi’s recent face-lift), had all the pieces in place for success. Most projects that come out of reputable agencies for large clients have comprehensive strategy, a long design process and thorough focus group testing before the product hits the shelf. But in the case of Tropicana, once the new packaging was launched, the audience revolted—online. Consumers thought the new brand was shallow and generic, and missed the iconic orange in straw graphic that has been a staple of Tropicana’s packaging for so many years. They showed their distaste through launching Facebook pages and writing blog stories dedicated to slamming the new packaging, and PepsiCo took note by promptly pulling the new cartons from the shelves.

Tips for Successful Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is still a very new discipline, and navigating this world can be overwhelming for brand owners. Not only does it entail staying current on trends on the product development and consumer side, but it also requires awareness of new technologies and platforms. However, there are some safeguards that can be put in place that can minimize the risk for brands in this new frontier.

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