There’s no denying digitization has turned our world upside down. We’ve forgotten how to function without the internet, every service imaginable is at our fingertips and when it comes to reputation, there is nowhere to hide. The fact that the universe has gone digital isn’t a new revelation, so why have some brands mastered their new digital identity while others are eating their dust?

Let’s start by going back to the basics. What exactly is a brand in the first place? When you hear the term “brand,” I’m willing to bet images of widely recognized logos such as Nike, Coca-Cola and Apple pop into your mind. It is true that a brand’s name and logo help set the foundation for how the world perceives them, but in our digital age, there are multiple layers to consider when discovering your brand’s identity.

One of the greatest definitions of the word “brand” that I’ve encountered comes from Dallas McMillan, CMO of Influential:

 

“Your brand is who other people think you are when they’re not looking.” [1]

 

In our digital world, this means everything. Because the truth is, everybody is looking at you all the time. It is inevitable that people will form an opinion of your organization based on your company’s digital presence; and this goes beyond having a fancy website (though that is still important). Are you engaging with your customers, prospects, team members and potential talent through social media? Are you consistently publishing thought-leading content? Are you being found through organic search? All these things factor into becoming a well-rounded digital brand, but more importantly, they help tell the world your story.

But still, even perfecting your company’s online presence doesn’t necessarily make you an innovative, digital brand. Shane O’Neill of InformationWeek said it best:

 

“Many companies have no problem looking and feeling digital – a mobile app here, a redesigned website there – but the real challenge is being digital.”[2]

 

Remember, the goal is to be who people think you are when they’re not looking. So, the next question is… how does an organization be digital? Here are five principles we at SGH live by to stay ahead of the curve:

Prioritize learning potential when hiring. We like to say, “If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards.” This rings true when recruiting top talent for a fast-paced environment. Skills and experience are undoubtedly important, but the ability to learn new digital programs and tools is crucial for a digitally driven organization. Steer clear of people who claim they are not “techie.” In a world where four-year-old’s can work an iPad without a minute of training, everybody has the potential to be techie in one way or another.

Always look for a better way. Establishing processes is key for any company to stay organized, but always be ready to modify those processes to keep up with digitization. This goes back to the importance of learning potential. If a certain automated solution becomes your industry’s benchmark, you should probably get on board. Hint: if you’re still going through an exorbitant amount of printer paper daily, you might want to start there.

Embrace disruption. When an organization becomes really good at one thing, it’s difficult to look in the mirror and tell yourself that what you’re doing today might not be relevant in five years, five months or even five weeks. A prime example is what happened to the Toys “R” Us’s and Kmart’s of the world. Nobody ever expected Amazon – once just an online marketplace for buying and selling books – to eat their lunch. Know that your competitive landscape is constantly changing. Be on the offensive, not on the defensive. Always take time to do some self-reflecting to understand where you stand in your industry.

Be social and resourceful. Don’t turn a blind eye to what your peers are doing across social and digital media. It’s crucial to be innovative, but innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Social platforms like LinkedIn have made it easier than ever before to monitor what your competition is doing; and better yet… to gauge whether these new strategies are working for them or not. Is your main competitor getting a ton of new followers daily, and receiving hundreds or thousands of likes, comments and shares? Obviously, whatever they are doing is resonating with their audience. Pay attention, and constantly brainstorm innovative ways to reach your target audience.

Promote a digital culture. This is probably the most important tip of all. Establishing a strong culture can be difficult in the first place, so promoting a culture that is expected to constantly change, adapt and improve can seem almost inconceivable. Changing behavior can be the toughest of challenges, but if everyone is speaking the same digital language, that is when you’ll truly see progress as a digital brand. Start by promoting the fact that digital tools are meant to help one do his or her job; not make things more complicated. Collaborate as a team to identify where current processes are broken and come up with potential digital solutions to fix them. Hold lunch-and-learn discussions to introduce simple technologies that can make basic daily functions easier. The bottom line is, technology should be working for you, not the other way around. Empower your team members by collectively finding ways to insert technology into the workplace to benefit everybody.

 

 

[1] Influential. “What is a Digital Brand?” http://influential.com.au/what-is-a-digital-brand/

[2] InformationWeek. “5 Steps to Become a Digital Business” https://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/digital-business/5-steps-to-become-a-digital-business/d/d-id/1174131