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Brand Strategies for a Digital World

For many years branding and corporate design agencies understood themselves as the “preservers of the brand.” After stripping down the brand’s content and identity to clear visual codes, it was up to the corporate design experts to preserve these codes consistently across all touchpoints and evolve the brand gradually over time. “360-degree marketing” became the mantra of tortured advertisers for decades. One relict of this era: the typical PowerPoint chart illustrating a brand that looks the same across all media touch points.

With digitalization now in full swing, these efforts seem meaningless. And the 360-degree chart today only gets a raised eyebrow. New questions arise:

  • How to bring “one message” across when you have an array of channels with completely different needs?

  • How to communicate consistently if you are no longer the only sender?

  • And how will we be able to follow design principles in a branded space that doesn’t consist of much more than a few pixels?

Likewise, new buzzwords and phrases appear. Everyone demands user-centric instead of brand-centric and trans-medial instead of cross-medial.

One thing is for sure: change is here, and it’s here to stay. But does it mean that a brand with all its content, visual codes, and design principles is no longer needed? Or wouldn’t it be the exact opposite: change making brands more important than ever?

Obviously, the industry has to reinvent itself by reducing complexity to gain speed, opening up for a new media reality, and being flexible and agile when it comes to design solutions.

The debate is no longer new, but solutions unfortunately still remain few. That is why I recommend the following book as a must-read for all brand experts who want to stay ahead in the digital era: Brand Design: Strategien für die digitale Welt edited by Andreas Baetzgen.

Baetzgen’s anthology (the subtitle of which translates to “Strategies for a Digital World”) clearly illustrates how agile brand systems as well as digital tools and methods enrich brand work. In one of the book’s essays, Arne Brekenfeld, CEO of MetaDesign, and myself give a practical glimpse into the field of internal brand engagement by explaining how we use digital tool sets to transform employees into brand ambassadors. If you’re interested in the read but don’t trust your German language skills, here’s a short summary:

Brand Engagement: Internal Implementation of Brand Design Processes

A brand can only be implemented credibly if it is lived within the organization. Hence the success of a new brand design is inseparably connected with the acceptance of employees. In our article, we outline five learnings about success factors in brand implementation processes:

1. Branding is teamwork.

For successful implementation, organization and agency must trust one another and work together on eye level.

2. Involve. Involve. Involve.

Employee participation and involvement from scratch is key to achieving true commitment.

3. Respect of structures.

Implementation processes need to adapt to internal decision-making and predominant managing styles.

4. Clear understanding of roles.

Gaining a deeper understanding of internal target groups and their individual information needs is fundamental for effective content distribution.

5. Reducing complexity.

Each internal target group should only be exposed to target-specific information.

Especially when it comes to understanding (internal) target groups, the user-centric approach of digital work methods can be priceless (don’t blame me for using the buzzword myself). Methods like empathy mapping or open-source development within MOOCs (massive open online courses) can provide a deeper understanding and foster a collaborative, participative process from scratch.

Therefore, we try to give practical advice how to use a digital tool set for a successful implementation — with teamwork in real time.

_Lisa Krick is Executive Director of Brand Innovation at MetaDesign Berlin.