The role of branding / purpose in the digital economy

In two articles on HBR the role of branding in the digital economy is discussed.
(Unfortunately behind the HBR paywall)

In this first article Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen argue that in many categories customers now acquire knowledge and competence about a product before purchase. This diminishes the effect of traditional advertising and marketing, where the brand is largely communicated as a function of emotion and preference (“the story”).

Then in the second article Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen
seemingly disagrees with the idea that brands are less valuable – they are if anything even more valuable today:

“The mistake Simonsen and Rosen make is to confuse the value, role, and meaning of a brand in today’s digital economy with the methods used to build the brand.”

Which means that both articles agree that branding needs something more than the traditional tools.

Skibsted and Hansen continues:

“How can we strengthen our brand when the traditional tools such as advertising, corporate identity programs, and PR are becoming impotent?”

And finally

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“Part of the answer is in making the brand more—not less—central

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. In a hyper-transparent digital world, consumers instantly know the difference between what a company says and what it does. Organizations can no longer draw clear lines between marketing and product development, between communications and services

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. Brand builders must embed themselves across the customer value chain. Products and services must be able to tell a story and communicate value without an extra advertising layer on top. As information is more and more available and the importance of brands increases, the ability to tell a meaningful story through actions and products, not words, is the only way to win.”

So it seems that the idea is that companies need to put more effort and thought into the design of their delivery, their products and services – because this is where the all important battle for the brand/delivering on the company’s purpose will take place (in some/many categories).

(And as soon as we understand that using the term “story” to frame the idea of what a company’s purpose is, will keep us anchored to the past – then we can look forward to moving forward as well.)

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