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BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World

BrandDigital: Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World

4.0 1
by Allen P. Adamson
In the quickly evolving digital marketplace, the basic principles of branding have not changed, but rather are more important than ever. In BrandDigital, Allen Adamson discusses the impact of rapid globalization on the digital brand, as well as the importance of social initiatives and the opinions of newly web-based preteens and teens. He explains how to


In the quickly evolving digital marketplace, the basic principles of branding have not changed, but rather are more important than ever. In BrandDigital, Allen Adamson discusses the impact of rapid globalization on the digital brand, as well as the importance of social initiatives and the opinions of newly web-based preteens and teens. He explains how to harness the multiple functions of social networking, digital word-of-mouth, consumer-generated ideas, "green" branding, and new technologies such as the Blackberry and iPhone, while sticking to a simple, compelling, and credible brand promise. The book includes over 100 interviews with top branding professionals at Ameriprise, Burger King, General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, and others, providing numerous case studies of successful branding strategies in our age of global technological acceleration.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Bringing the tried and true successful branding practices into the 21st century in business language - not high tech jargon.” —Clive Chajet, Chairman of Chajet Consultancy LLC

“As the digital world rapidly advances, so must our branding practices. Allen's latest book provides profound and practical advice to help set a clear through this branding quagmire. A must for any brand practitioner.” —Ed Faruolo, VP Brand Development, Lincoln Financial

“Informative and engagingly written, this book will guide marketers and executives through the rapidly changing digital landscape and help them make informed decisions regarding the most effective branding opportunities available for their companies.” —Publishers Weekly

BrandDigital is an excellent handbook for the 21st Century brand manager. It is a modern worldview still true to time honored, immutable brand management concepts.” —Russ Klein, President of Global Marketing, Strategy, Innovation, Burger King

“This is one of most enjoyable behind the scene discussions of the best lessons in digital marketing. Readers can immediately take advantage of what is revealed here. Some of the best, most sage advice on the subject.” —Gary Elliott, Vice President of Corporate and Brand Marketing, Hewlett-Packard

“Virtually every marketing campaign – no matter how large or how small – should have some kind of online component. Once again, Allen Adamson has done a truly remarkable job making sense out of an extremely complex and often confusing topic.” —Kevin Lane Keller, Professor of Marketing, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

“As the pace of digital technology increases, the job of a marketer simultaneously gets more complicated and more exciting. But as Allen Adamson points out so powerfully in BrandDigital, the basic rules of brand building still apply. He shows how authentic storytelling and relevance become even more powerful for those who harness digital.” —Beth Comstock, Chief Marketing Officer, GE

“Allen Adamson is the perfect guide for how we should think about branding in the digital age. BrandDigital is the first book that shows how to build a brand collaboratively with consumers who are engaged, connected and ready to participate.” —Mark Addicks, Chief Marketing Officer, General Mills

“Adamson's book reminds us that brands are more important than ever, and their stewards have a more challenging and potentially rewarding mandate in the multidimensional world the digital revolution has created.” —Becky Saeger, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Charles Schwab

“As Allen Adamson suggests, the principles behind building a successful brand are the same regardless of the industry. BrandDigital will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics governing consumers' relationship to brands, whether online or offline.” —Bob Pittman, Founding Member, Pilot Group, Co-Founder of MTV and former COO of America Online and AOL Time Warner

BrandDigital makes it clear that successfully building, managing and nurturing a brand in a digital age requires participating in a conversation with your customer every day. Mr. Adamson illustrates how building a brand isn't a campaign or a department, it's everything you do to create a compelling, differentiated customer experience and to look at each customer touch point as a "brand moment". By weaving together the proven principles of great brand marketing with the new opportunities and realities of digital media, this book creates the path forward for all marketers, regardless of the industry.” —Allen Olivo, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing, Yahoo

“Adamson makes an important contribution to both the literatures of branding and interactive marketing -- namely, that the two disciplines have become one in the same. And -- good news for marketing veterans -- he reminds us that the fundamentals of brand-building have not changed as the world has gone digital, merely the tactics and technologies at our disposal to converse with customers.” —Chas Edwards, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer, Federated Media

BrandDigital articulates the central role which story-telling and consumer inspiration play for every successful business. Building and sustaining brand power is even tougher in our new digital age, when speed and competition raises the bar for all brand marketers. Allen Adamson uses insightful and illustrative examples to challenge every reader to move to the next level. Game on!” —Jeffrey Bell, Corporate Vice President, Xbox Global Marketing, Microsoft

“The idea of simplicity in a digital world is both refreshing and in great demand. Allen Adamson shares engaging stories and case studies that will enlighten and entertain those who are new to the digital marketing space as well as those who simply have become overwhelmed with it. In a marketing environment that is increasingly siloed between the digital and the non-digital, this book offers terrific thinking for those with their eye on the bigger picture - the "brand ball". In a world where one-size does NOT fit all, Adamson offers insights that allow marketers to master the digital world without forgetting everything else.” —Julie Roehm, Founder/Marketing Consultant, Backslash Meta, LLC

“A brand is not just a promise, but a promise delivered. BrandDigital promises to show marketers and their value-chain partners how to navigate the ever-expanding opportunities presented by digital media – and it delivers a set of well-argued principles, illustrated by compelling cases. Brand guru Allen Adamson is a brand to watch.” —Randall Rothenberg, President & CEO, Interactive Advertising Bureau

“This is a very necessary - and very successful - attempt to bridge the two words of conventional brand marketing and new media thinking. It's an extremely welcome read for those of us who believe you can change your bathwater without losing the baby.” —Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy Group UK, London

“In BrandSimple, Allen Adamson provided a straightforward, jargon-free explanation of how the best brands are built and why they continue to succeed. In BrandDigital he uses the same simple, jargon-free approach to demystify how the best brands are built in the world of personal, portable, digital communications. Filled with fascinating examples and practical advice and exercises, Adamson clearly demonstrates how the most powerful brands today use digital technology to their advantage – and for the benefit of their customers.” —Eric Kessler, Co-President, HBO

“While many think the rules of branding have changed as a result of digital technology, in BrandDigital Allen Adamson proves that these rules have not changed at all, but rather, have been magnified. Digital technology makes it both easier and more critical to gain great insights about our customers, to communicate with them in a way that is relevant to their needs, and to deliver on our brands' promises. Everything we know to be true about building a good brand is still true - even more so - and Adamson shows and tells why.” —Cleve Langton, Author of New Business Lessons From Madison Avenue

“The digital experience has radically transformed how brands are connecting with consumers. This book contains the recipe for success in today's dynamic and fluid marketplace.” —Shelley Zalis, CEO and Founder, OTX Research

“One of the things that makes CPG Marketing a phenomenal adventure is the constant change in the consumer conversation... to stand still, to rely on the same vehicles year after year is to pronounce death upon a brand. In BrandDigital, Adamson examines ways in which marketers have evolved the conversation and deepened brand relationships. It's an in-depth look at the role of new digital tools to keep timeless brands fresh, relevant and compelling for consumers of today!” —Bridgette Heller, President of Global Baby, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.

“There is no denying that we are in the era of the digital age. The array of tools available to marketers in this static medium is infinite, and most importantly, ripe with possibilities for more direct customer interaction than ever before. However, as Allen Adamson notes, just as we can see consumers with more clarity, they can see brands with equal clarity. BrandDigital is a clear and concise resource that enables marketers to better understand these endless possibilities and think about how to navigate this technological frontier to build brands to be even better.” —Betsy Olum, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sephora

BrandDigital wonderfully frames, and helps makes sense of the ever-dynamic digital landscape. Allen Adamson underscores that for all the new possibilities digital advancements provide, they ultimately exist to serve the larger needs of marketers, brands, and most importantly consumers, the truest 'brand owners.'” —John Partilla, President, Time Warner Global Media Group

“Digital marketing has changed the marketing and media landscape in a profound and dramatic way. It has opened the door for new innovations in marketing, enabling companies to reach their target consumers more efficiently and effectively than ever before. And yet, the core principles for building enduring brands remain the same. Allen does a super job explaining how digital marketing is, and will continue to revolutionize marketing. A must read.” —Deepak Advani, Chief Marketing Officer and SVP, eCommerce

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St. Martin's Press
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Simple Ways Top Brands Succeed in the Digital World

By Allen P. Adamson

Palgrave Macmillan

Copyright © 2008 Allen P. Adamson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-230-61455-0


The Importance of Gaining Superior Consumer Insight

When I was in college I spent summers as a waiter in a country club. While there wasn't a great deal of communication between me and the folks at the tables to which I was assigned, they did thank me or ask where I went to school. Other than these polite two-sentence exchanges, I did my job and kept to myself, which suited me just fine. I got to make great money (for a college kid), and, at the same time, got to listen in on some pretty interesting conversations. It wasn't eavesdropping; the club members were talking openly in front of me. For all intents and purposes, I was a fly on the wall. There was no way for me not to listen. Just the same, I used my position as a fly on the wall to great advantage. At that point in my life, I wanted to grow up to be the one sitting at a table in a country club, not the one waiting on tables. I became a sponge for information. I wanted to know what these people did for a living, what business deals they were working on (okay, even pick up a stock tip or two), learn about the best places to get a good buy on a waterfront home, find out where they skied, what their investment strategies were, what their political views were—and maybe even if they had daughters who might be interested in dating a hardworking communications major. Essentially, I was gaining insight about these people: where and how they lived, where they bought their bespoke suits, the types of cars they drove, the boats they owned, the golf clubs they used, and the investment firms they trusted.

A segue isn't really required here, but digital technology allows marketers to listen in on the millions of conversations taking place online every minute of every day among participants sitting around a global table. They can listen to what's being said on blogs, on category review sites, on product review sites, within social networks, and on any other digital venue in which people can have their say. And there are a lot of them—venues and people having their say. The Internet has magnified both the extent of these conversations and the level of volume. Given the perceived sense of anonymity, people feel comfortable sharing everything. It's like a virtual psychiatrist's office. Marketers can listen in on conversations about everything happening—online or off, on the record and off: Celebrities, the weather, politics, books, music, movies, car insurance, mortgage rates, terrorist activities, environmental issues, feeding their families, feeding the people in Darfur; how to get a date, get rid of a mate, name a baby, diaper a baby, deal with a mother-in-law; and the companies, products, and services they love, hate, would do business with, would consider doing business with, would hands-down recommend, would wish only ill will upon; and everything else marketers have been researching and focusing on as long as there have been companies, products, and services. Suffice it to say, if anyone is talking about it, everyone else can hear it and weigh in with an opinion.

The other thing that has been magnified in the digital space is not just how people talk, but how they behave, specifically when it comes to their buying habits and activities. Marketers can observe in real time what people are searching for, their buying process, the way they compare and contrast products or services or prices, where they go for advice, the offers they deem relevant and those they don't, the specific features of a product that interests them, and which sites they return to for additional information or purchases. The ability to watch what people do, not just what they say they do, has become an incredible boon to marketers as they go about gaining insight about their customers and prospective customers. Randall Rothenberg, who is the President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told me about "Marketing Media Ecosystem 2010," a research study co-sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, and Booz Allen. "The data that surprised me most," he said, "wasn't thatFortune 1000 marketers stated that gaining an understanding of social networking or media capabilities were among the top priorities. It was that 80 percent said that gaining behavioral targeting capabilities was their number two priority and that 88 percent stated that the number one priority was using technology to gain better consumer insights. It's apparent that marketers see interactive tools as a critical component to getting a more granular understanding of consumers, their interests, needs and desires."

The ability to not just digitally listen but to digitally watch consumers in action has significantly sharpened the quality of the insights that brand organizations use in generating business and branding strategies. It's a must-have. Longish story short: The first thing any brand organization must do to be successful is to get insight about the people they want as customers. This is one of the fundamental truths about building a great brand. The better quality the insights are, the better the chances of meeting consumer needs and expectations, and, ergo, the better the chances of becoming a powerful brand. Digital technology is responsible for magnifying our understanding of what is on people's minds.

The marketplace, as Thomas Friedman discussed in his book The World is Flat, has become virtually flatter still as a result of digital technology, with words and actions audible and visible from one end of the planet to the other. As a matter of fact, in his new version of the book The World is Flat 3.0, Tom titles one of his chapters, "What Happens When We all Have Dogs' Hearing?" He spoke to me about his premise:

In the digital space everyone's whispering but the whispering is magnified. It's like we've all developed dogs' hearing. The challenge is that because there is so much going on out there it could become overwhelming to marketers. The key to gaining meaningful insight about your audience is to be able to distinguish between the whisper of information that's legitimate and defensible and the information that will take you down the wrong path. Marketers, politicians, anyone or any institution using the Internet to get insight into how people think or feel must develop what I call "judgment algorithms." The information is there for the taking, but ultimately you're the one responsible for determining what's trustworthy. There is a future for trusted sources of information, for trustworthy aggregators of information. The Internet as a means of getting raw information is becoming more perfect. But it's still a matter of judgment as to what's applicable to your needs.

The Internet has made searching for information easier, and it is getting more perfect. It is without a doubt one of the digital tools that has been responsible for the seismic shift in the way brand organizations get information and form insights about consumers. As a branding tool, search functionality has significantly magnified the online words and deeds of consumers. It may be one of the best ways to get real-time insights about consumers since Procter & Gamble's Dawn brand team sent researchers into homes across the country to watch how housewives washed dishes. Search, as a way of getting insight, has enhanced the opportunity for brand organizations to hear directly what matters most to people and to determine if their words complement their actions. Search has allowed us, as marketers, to see more clearly whether we're spending millions of dollars developing things our intended audience has been yearning for or whether we're directing branding dollars and communications to the entirely wrong audience.

Search most definitely allows marketers to collect "raw information." It's a science, a very complex science. Perhaps even more complex, however, is the art required to take the data that comes out of the mystical black box, as many in the industry call it, and apply personal judgment based on practical experience. Good marketers know that data is good. Being able to assess the value of data in relation to a business strategy is better. The magic of search for brand organizations is that it has made mining for data about consumer behavior more efficient and more economical. The practical magic of search, however, is that it gives brand organizations a greater body of facts, figures, and mathematical algorithms over which to wave their sound judgment wands. Search is getting more perfect, and this is wonderful. What's more valuable, however, is that search is forcing marketers to learn how to optimize their consumer insights to better meet their business objectives.

Among the people I spoke to about the ABC's of search was Heather Frahm, one of the experts at Catalyst, a company that specializes in search marketing strategies, research, and analysis. From my relatively naïve perspective, I asked her to tell me where search fits into the brand-building process. Without a moment's hesitation she said, "At the very beginning. You must integrate a search strategy into the first draft of your overall marketing strategy. How are you going to know how to position your brand or create effective campaigns if you don't know exactly what people are searching for?" I asked her to elaborate. "Today, search is one of the primary ways consumers get into all phases of the buying cycle. In fact, 40 percent of all online search activity is related to someone's seeing an ad or a promotion, an article or a news story about a new product, and wanting more information about it. It's become a universally automatic response to go to the Internet, log onto a search engine, and expect answers. The right answers. Smart marketers use search as the incredible learning tool it is, and they use it at the start of a project, not as an afterthought. It makes no sense to get a team started on the creative strategy without taking search into consideration." She gave me an example:

Let's say your company sells prescription medication for hypertension, which some consumers refer to as high blood pressure. By studying search results on the topic before you do anything else, you can see which terminology people use and in what context they use it as they go about their online searching. In this case, at a very simplistic level, are they trying to learn more about 'hypertension' or 'high blood pressure,' or do they refer to the condition by some other term altogether? Finding this out can be the simple difference between someone getting information about your brand versus your competitor's. Data derived from search also allows you to track what happens after someone clicks from one place to another, whether they go to one particular Web page, whether they immediately jump to another, or spend time perusing a bunch. It also allows you to see what activities take place after they land at these destinations. This helps you assess the intent of the search. You use what you learn in order to be able to position your message appropriately at the appropriate time in a buying cycle. Your brand campaign should be built on this insight, and not developed before you get it. More than this, because post-launch content has to be in sync with everything else, you've got to be ready for consumers to search for additional information within minutes of their being exposed to the initial campaign material. This has to be worked in up front. Search has given us the ability to see what consumers actually do in real time, by the millions. We can observe their behavior and use the information to reward their search efforts with relevant information. A good search strategy is critical to a brilliant branding strategy and the subsequent creative execution. Who wouldn't want to put their marketing dollars where they belong?

Who, indeed? But the secret to a good search strategy is found between the lines. Thousands of lines of code and data. As I said in the introduction to this book, you must be able to read between the lines of all you hear and see and read to determine what's relevant to your brand, and, ultimately, to your business. You must be able to make sense of the thousands of possible information algorithms that relate to what an individual might be looking for or concerned about at any given point in time. This is one of the complexities of the undertaking for which most brand organizations turn to other organizations, like Catalyst, for guidance. While it isn't necessary to go into great detail on exactly what these search experts do, it is necessary for marketers to have a fundamental knowledge of how search works in order to incorporate it into their branding tool kit. In short, there are two basic search categories: paid and organic. Paid is paid. Anyone with something to sell can buy search terms and place ads that relate to these terms. A search engine will pick up these ad links and offer them up within the overall inventory of responses to a search inquiry, albeit on a separate section of the response page. While this is definitely applicable to branding strategy, it's more important to understand how a search engine processes organic content to generate these mystical algorithms related to online human behavior. Organic content includes everything from brand websites, brand-sponsored pages on social sites like MySpace and Facebook, and all other online locations on which your brand name might appear, such as blogs, product review sites, industry or general media sites. Some of this content can be controlled by the brand, some absolutely not. The Web is, if anything, democratic. Anyone can say anything about your brand if they want to, which is a chapter unto itself. Suffice it to say, the possible brand-related algorithms are endless.

Be that as it may, there are three basic things a search engine does as it goes about serving up answers associated with organic content. The first thing it does is "spider" the Web. This is just what it sounds like. The search engine—be it Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, or any other—sends a number of virtual spider tools crawling across the Internet looking for words or phrases related to the search request. As they crawl along, the spiders pick up these words and phrases, which they then put into the search engine's database to be indexed. It's the responsibility of search professionals to make sure that sites over which the brand has control—specifically a corporate website or brand-sponsored MySpace page—are designed so that spiders can "see" the words and phrases the brand organization wants them to see as clearly as possible and in the context in which they want them to be read. Going back to the example Heather provided, if you sell hypertension medication, you want to make sure that your brand-controlled content includes the exact words and phrases the consumers you're interested in attracting use to describe this condition at various points in the buying cycle. Are they trying to learn about the symptoms? Are they looking for side effects of the medication itself? Are they comparing the cost of your medication to the cost of a competitor's medication? All are good questions, and all are key to gaining insight about your target audience. Search strategy starts with making sure your site has the right code words.

When I talked to Jen Walsh, the Digital Media Director for General Electric, she told me that her team completely overhauled GE.com, introducing all new content, design, and technology because they knew the website could be a much stronger brand and messaging platform for the company. "Simple navigation, clean design, and clear use of language and terminology are the underpinnings of the site," she told me.

Our former site had over three thousand pages. This one has five hundred pages, but each serves a distinct purpose. We streamlined the navigation and spent a good deal of effort each month telling GE's story through our homepage features. In addition, we have worked to ensure that search terms link people directly to what they are looking for immediately. There are no vague words or plays on words. Aviation links you to information on aviation. Electronics gets you to electronics, lighting to lighting. What's more, because we get a lot of traffic from outside the United States, we were careful in the redesign to include global headers to help people find their way to local sites in local languages. Everything we did added to the credibility and value of our brand.

I spent time exploring GE.com, and discovered it was as simple to find what I was searching for as Jen described. I also found the content to be incredibly well organized, which is part and parcel of the second step in the search engine process. Search engines categorize online content. They "read" the content at the most literal level for its relevancy to a particular search inquiry. Obviously, it's critical that the search engine understands your branded content the way you intended it to be understood. Your primary objective is to give people who are searching for something in particular a relevant response to their query. When Gillette launched their Gillette Champions promotion featuring Tiger Woods, for example, the company created a specific Web page to explain the promotion. This page was added to the other pages on the brand's site, which includes topics like product information, shaving tips, and corporate news. The search-savvy people at Gillette made sure that any search engine reading the Web page about the Gillette Champions promotion read it as just that: Here's everything you need to know about this exciting event. It's not that the company was afraid that some pre-pubescent golfer would end up on the Gillette information page about razor burn; it's just that it wouldn't have been all that meaningful to the young shaver; he wanted to read about Tiger Woods. To get insight about people, you need to understand their intent. When you give them exactly what they're looking for in return, it makes them feel pretty good about your brand. Not a bad equity-building opportunity.


Excerpted from BrandDigital by Allen P. Adamson. Copyright © 2008 Allen P. Adamson. Excerpted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Allen P. Adamson is the author of BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep it Simple and Succeed and managing director of the New York office of Landor Associates, one of the world's leading strategic brand consulting and design firms, with 24 offices in 18 countries. He has worked with some of the world's leading organizations, overseeing branding efforts for clients such as Diageo, GE, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Sephora, and Verizon. Adamson has appeared on CNBC, FOX Business Network, and on NBC's Today show. He is often quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, USA Today, and Brandweek. Adamson lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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