Digital technology is reshaping every aspect of business: product development, go-to-market strategy, customer service, and more. Companies are spending bigly to make the shift to digital in their processes, competencies and business models to achieve a more competitive and sustainable growth trajectory.
Advice on how to ensure a successful digital transformation abounds. For example, BCG suggests many essentials for the digital journey: establish a vision, redefine the customer journey, transform governance, explore collaborative ways of working, and more. Missing from their advice and that of most others is recognition of the inherent need for a parallel and simultaneous brand realignment effort. At best, this oversight is a missed opportunity. At worst, it is a mistake.
The Brand Realignment Imperative
Digital transformation aims to create or strengthen capabilities and provide new ways of meeting or exceeding customer expectations. Ultimately, these changes will shape customer perceptions. It follows that the brand strategy needs to embody these desired new perceptions to capitalize on the opportunity for stronger differentiation and customer relationships.
Digital transformation is an opportunity to rethink the brand promise and positioning and revisit brand initiative priorities. In our view, organizations need a clear sense of how their digital transformation will make their brand stronger and of how the re-envisioned brand can make the digital transformation more successful and impactful.
Where to Start
Here are three ways to keep brand impact top of mind when embarking on digital transformation.
1. Stress Test Your Brand Strategy
Consider whether your current brand strategy is consistent with the envisioned transformed business. Digital transformation often introduces new capabilities and improved processes for interacting with customers, employees and other stakeholders. Start by understanding how the brand strategy should evolve to take advantage of these new capabilities and processes.
Under Armour used its digital transformation efforts to expand its offering, and its brand meaning well beyond athletic apparel. In March, it introduced UA Record, a digital platform to track, analyze, and share personal health data using mobile phones. Combined with its MapMyFitness, EndoMondo and MyFitnessPal offerings, UA Record allowed Under Armour to extend the meaning of its brand to “Connected Fitness.” This also extended the brand’s audience to anyone interested in improving their health and fitness. Under Armour’s digital platform has grown to include approximately 200 million registered users worldwide.
In addition to digital innovation, the Connected Fitness brand meaning also supports UA’s physical product innovation. The new Gemini line of running shoes and HealthBox fitness system seamlessly connect the physical and digital worlds by automatically tracking health and fitness activity. Data generated by the shoe syncs with the apps so users can leave their phones at home.
2. Revisit Your Brand Architecture
Assuming the brand strategy is relevant, the next question is how well the current brand architecture will serve the promise and potential of the organization once the digital transformation is complete.
A common goal of digital transformation is to enable a more consistent customer experience by integrating core business processes and better aligning business units around a common enterprise platform. For the brand, this often means consolidating disparate brands into the master brand for a more coherent face to the customer.
New business opportunities through innovation is another common digital transformation goal. This was the situation for Ford, which launched two new branded features, Sync and MyTouch, to optimize the opportunity of its new software offerings. Similarly, McCormick’s digital transformation included the launch of a new branded feature, FlavorPrint, to help consumers select recipes based on their individual flavor preferences. The tool was spun off into its own technology company called Vivanda to make the FlavorPrint tool available to McCormick’s B2B customers.
3. Ensure Brand-Right Expression
The way the new capabilities generated by digital transformation are positioned can affect brand perceptions. So digital transformation initiatives present opportunities to re-consider how best to express the brand. Consider how best to message what’s new and what hasn’t changed, and how to express the benefits of the changes in ways that are meaningful to customers.
Starbuck’s Mobile Order and Pay apps were launched to encourage customer loyalty. But they were communicated in a way that addressed the needs and desires of customers for greater convenience and shorter (or no) lines. Likewise, Nespresso’s cloud-based re-envisioning of customer engagement was guided by its desire to provide the perfect coffee experience.
Brand is a Key Element in Digital Transformation
As these examples demonstrate, incorporating brand considerations in the planning and execution of digital transformation allows organizations to maximize the benefits of their efforts. Not doing so is a missed opportunity.