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As a specialist in brand management, HEC Paris Professor Gachoucha Kretz has considerable insights to share on what makes digital branding distinct from more "traditional" approaches. In this interview, she outlines what digital branding really means, which brands are implementing it most effectively and the role modern technology plays in developing a successful strategy.
“Digital branding is a form of branding that has had to adapt to the challenges raised by digital technology,” says Professor Kretz. Generally, branding is all about building brand equity and sharing the brand's message, she explains. Digital branding shares the same goals, but achieves them in different ways. For example, through websites, apps and social media, all of which are now essential touch points in the customer's buying journey.
Thanks to Big Data, brands now have access to a far more detailed and accurate picture of their customers' needs. This means that communications can be tailored specifically to individual customers.
All messages sent by the brand can be fully adapted and customized in real time, and companies can now even predict the future purchasing needs of the customer”
– Gachoucha Kretz
Not only does this approach make branding more effective, it makes it less intrusive as well.
According to Professor Kretz, companies need to do three things if they want to develop an effective digital branding strategy: “Understand and clarify marketing objectives, align their brand strategy and roll out their digital branding and marketing tactics and tools.”
Companies that “display opportunistic behaviors without a good reason for doing so " or "imitate the competition without any rationale” run the risk of losing sight of their long-term goals. In a similar vein, companies should not “roll out tactics without having set up a clearly defined objective or an aligned strategy beforehand.” Being outcome-focused in this way can help a brand bolster its image while also attracting and converting new customers.
AI and machine learning allow us to use algorithms to acquire a better understanding of consumers based on their past behavior, states Professor Kretz. By capitalizing on AI, companies can identify which photos or words get the most clicks, which ad formats generate the most conversions and which brand keywords get the most searches.
Virtual and augmented reality promise to enhance the customer experience even further. Professor Kretz gives the example of a virtual shopping mall – “By simply using your phone, you can turn your home into a retail space."
Understanding your brand well is the first step in implementing a successful brand strategy, affirms Professor Kretz. This means identifying the essence of the brand and distilling its key values. Take the example of the niche brand Celine, which specializes in luxury leather goods. An element of inaccessibility is essential to the brand's identity, so a digital presence that spreads the net too wide would clearly be inappropriate.
Knowing your objectives is also essential to success. What image do you want to build? If you are a brand with many product categories, like Louis Vuitton, a strong digital presence makes sense – but it is crucial to protect the brand's image. "If you don't want to dilute the brand," Professor Kretz says, "you have to make sure not all the products are available, especially the most exclusive ones."
Professor Kretz emphasizes that success can come in many forms. Chanel, for example, has succeeded in preserving its brand image. Gucci has developed brand equity and expanded e-commerce with sales increases. While Glossier has succeeded in developing a community and a better understanding of the needs and expectations of customers.
Every brand has different goals and the technology available to achieve them is now more powerful than ever before. If a brand can leverage these tools while holding on to its unique personality and DNA, digital branding success could be just around the corner.