7 Highlights From “Digital Branding” by Daniel Rowles


This March we celebrate the launch of the 2nd edition book by our CEO, Daniel Rowles: Digital Branding (second edition). With chapters on social, mobile, email, PPC, marketing automation and more, it’s a comprehensive guide to your brand’s digital relationship with its audience.

We’ve brought together seven key quotes in this article, to give you a taste of what the book’s all about. If your interest is piqued, please go ahead and order a copy from our publishers Kogan Page.

“What digital branding is really about is the sum of our online experiences.”

When we think of branding, our minds typically race towards the figurehead components of a brand – especially logos and taglines.

While it’s entirely understandable to latch onto these obvious associations, having them in the foreground can obscure the big picture. The reality is that every way and everywhere you interface with a customer is a part of your brand, from the tone-of-voice your agents use when dealing with complaints on social media, to how aggressively you optimise your website for search engines.

Everything you do is branding – and everything you do digitally is digital branding. If everyone within your organisation acts with this mantra in mind, the brand will be in a good position to communicate consistently and thereby earn its audience’s trust.

“Make digital branding a consideration in everything you do.”

If digital branding is the sum of your online activity, it only makes sense to ensure everything you do aligns with your brand.

The best way to achieve this is through careful planning of your communications guidelines for each type of customer interaction that’s relevant to your brand (e.g. each kind of advert, social media channel and audience segment).

Consider each activity and ask the question: Is this how our brand should say this? The guidelines you create might cover:

  • Social media tone of voice
  • Media buying strategy
  • Participation in third-party media (PR/outreach/earned media)
  • Landing page copy
  • Content marketing
  • Video style and themes

This process should become more comfortable as you develop the habit of questioning whether each digital action conforms to your brand. However, it is natural for off-brand habits to build over time. For this reason, we recommend carrying out regular audits of random communication samples. This will help flag up bad trends while reinforcing the importance of brand amongst your agents.

“If brand is essentially the personality of something, digital branding gives us the ability and opportunity to understand the true personality of something.”

Digital can reveal a brand’s real personality on multiple levels.

Firstly, digital communications – and social media in particular – create the possibility for a brand’s claims to be publicly interrogated by customers in a public forum. If your brand’s actions, nature and/or offering are misrepresented in your marketing, it’s highly likely your customers will tell you about it, online.

This highlights how important it is for a brand to be fully lived throughout the organisation that manifests it – a subject we touched upon in our interview with Minter Dial last year. As the touchpoints between customer and brand have proliferated, the need for thoroughness has increased.

It is possible to lessen the adverse effect of a social media complaint by responding promptly and moving the discussion to a private channel, i.e. social media messaging rather than a public comment thread. However, the true nature of your brand will undoubtedly shape its digital footprint.

Another reading of this quote is that digital branding helps us discover a brand’s true personality, through giving the customer access to more productive communications and content at a higher volume than was previously the norm.

Pre-digital, a fashion brand’s customer might have picked up a catalogue while browsing a boutique, at best. Today, that same customer can follow the brand on Instagram, read features on its website, and find its products worn by influencers across a range of social media.

These new types of content make it possible to create a highly developed brand personality that’s finely targeted towards its audience.

Is that necessarily a good thing? An ambiguous personality can sometimes be an asset to a brand – it’s what allowed Dr Marten’s boots to gain popularity amongst punks and workers at the same time. The jury’s out on this one, but in our view, more in-depth development of brand personality is usually a good thing, especially if different facets of that personality are targeted towards different audience segments.

We believe this sort of targeting is the key to success with a diversified brand personality. Just as you’d show different sides of your character to different people based on the situation at hand, you should pick and choose characteristics (all of which are rooted in your brand’s core values) to connect with different types of customer. This is exactly what McDonald’s are doing when they show their playful side to kids, show off healthier products to parents, and create adverts like this one for night owls:


“Digital branding […] relies on the provision of value. The provision of that value will typically rely on some form of content, which may be something that educates us about a topic and builds our trust, or content that we can share with our peers to make ourselves perceived in the way we would like to be perceived.”

We’re great believers in the power of content marketing here at Target Internet – which is one reason why you find yourself reading this article right now. It is possibly the most flexible existing method for communicating your brand identity while serving a customer need (providing value).

Guides Memes
News reports and analysis Videos/images/other media with artistic merit or aesthetic appeal
Explainer videos Interactive applications
Opinion pieces (B2B) Photo filters/frames
Podcasts Digital points, trophies and other gamification rewards

As Daniel points out, that value often takes the form of educational value or a social identity-forming aid.

You’ll find lots of educative content here at targetinternet.com (have you checked out our weekly Digital Marketing Podcast?)

Creme Egg Snapchat Filter example

As for identity-forming/social content, Snapchat filters like the one shown above are currently a particularly popular method. This example from Cadbury shows how this technique can be used to create an association between the identity of the customer and that of the brand. For the customer, this is a fun way to wear your consumer choices on your sleeve; while for the brand, it’s a superb method for communicating a customer’s trust to their social connections.

“If you want to check that Google is visiting your site and when they last visited, go to Google as normal, but instead of searching for a word or phrase, type the following into the search box: cache:www.yourwebsite.com.”

Daniel’s new book isn’t all about theory. It also contains lots of immediately actionable pointers on how to do things better and/or more efficiently – like this one.

If your website is relatively new, or you’re concerned it might not be appearing in Google search results, try the procedure described in the quote above and see what pops up. You’ll be shown a date-stamped entry if your website has indeed been cached by Google – in which case you will know there’s some other reason behind your site’s poor search rankings.

This is also a useful technique to use if you’ve recently search-engine-optimised your site and now wish to measure the results. If you find yourself disappointed that your rankings haven’t improved as expected, use this method to find out when Google last visited. It may turn out that the changes you’ve made merely haven’t been picked up on yet.

Here’s what we saw when we typed “cache:www.targetinternet.com” into Google:

Target Internet Google Cache example

“We need to make sure our emails are fully optimised for the multiscreen journey.”

It’s very likely that whenever your brand sends out a newsletter, recipients will open it using a variety of devices. Some will use a laptop or desktop, others will use a tablet or smartphone – and within each of these categories, there will be variables affecting user experience, including screen size, resolution and operating system.

Some of you will already be aware that this variability calls for a unique approach to email creation, known as responsive design. This enables the creation of individual emails in which the content changes to suit whichever device is being used to render it. You can read about one of the most common technologies used to deliver responsive design in our Guide to CSS Media Queries for Digital Marketers.

Single customer, multiple devices

Daniel refers to “the multiscreen journey”, not a multidevice audience because variation in device type is not limited to a recipient-by-recipient basis. For example, an individual recipient might first open your email using their smartphone, and later take a closer look using their laptop.

When a customer views an email using a succession of devices, we can tentatively infer that they are particularly interested and/or likely to convert (or that the email wasn’t rendering correctly on the first device they used!).  Try tracking which users are using multiple devices to view your emails, and then market to those users more aggressively. If the results are right, you can deduce that the use of multiple devices signals a high likelihood of conversion amongst your customers.

“There is no one solution, measurement framework or dashboard that will suit every situation. We should therefore be open to adjusting and improving our methodologies as we learn from the process.”

Digital is changing at an exponential rate. For digital marketers, this means we must set up our processes in such a way as to allow fluid, continuous change. Here’s an introduction to the key concepts that help facilitate this adaptability:

Lean business model

It’s easier to change and innovate when your organisation is lean. That might mean using a flexible, multi-skilled team in a loose set-up; prioritising the most profitable tactics; or running with as little budget as possible.

Of course, some organisations are too big and complex to be truly lean. This shouldn’t necessarily prevent your digital operations from using lean principles.

A culture of continuous learning

Continuous learning on an organisation-wide level is the only sustainable way to keep up to speed with the changing face of digital. Without it, your team will soon fall behind the pace set by your most assiduous competitors.

If you feel your organisation has ground to make up on this front, read our guide to digital culture, which includes a combination of fundamental ideas and actionable tips.

In your recruitment, continuous learning should be presented as a selling point to candidates. Our company is in a state of constant progression – and that means you’ll keep progressing too.

Integrated systems

One of the most common blockers to digital transformation is difficulty in switching between technological systems. If you have a complex backend which has had lots of different applications bolted onto it over the years, change can become a significant challenge, perhaps so much so that it compromises your operations.

Do yourself a big favour in the long-run by having an exit strategy for every element you add to your system. Ask yourself whether each application will be easy to uninstall and whether you’ll be able to migrate the data and processes from it when the time comes to switch.

Contractual obligations with tech providers may also affect your capacity for change – particularly if you’re working on a lean budget and are locked into a long-term contract with a provider whose solution falls out of line with the direction of your strategy. Bear this in mind when negotiating your relationship with suppliers.

Agile methodology (optional)

The Agile methodology is a system of work, created by developers and now used by teams in all sorts of industries and situations.

In Agile, teams work over short bursts of activity called sprints, with a focus on the activities which generate the best ROI. You can read much more about how it works in our guide to the agile methodology for digital marketers.

Agile is not necessarily the best way of working on a companywide level, as some process fit more naturally into a more traditional or siloed system. However, for marketing and development teams, it tends to encourage focus and growth.

There’s lots more in the book

In this article, we’ve taken a few interesting points made in Daniel’s book and expanded on them in a slightly different direction to the book itself.

For deeper insight into these and many other topics, pick up a copy of Digital Branding (second edition) today.

Order Digital Branding by Daniel Rowels

get your free membership now - absolutely no credit card required

  • The Digital Marketing Toolkit
  • Exclusive live video learning sessions
  • Complete library of The Digital Marketing Podcast
  • The digital skills benchmarking tools
  • Free online training courses

Interested in Digital Marketing Elearning - Start Free 14 Day Trial >