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All Brands Are Digital Now.

Back before the world changed and we all had to self-isolate, businesses communicated their brand promises both online and off. New, digital media began taking budget away from traditional media like print, broadcasting and outdoor. Many startup businesses found they could launch bigger and faster by putting all their media budget into digital. But even older, legacy brands found value in spreading their media spend across the new channels as well as the old. Every business had to determine for itself where the balance was. And, for the most part, businesses got to the point where they knew their optimum mix of media. But all those media strategies have to change now. Working and shopping at home are going to be much more widespread now, even when the stay-at-home orders are lifted. Many work forces will find they are just as effective when collaborating online as they were when sharing the same physical space. Employers will find they can get by with fewer workers in the office and less office space in which to house them. Consumers, who may have favored brick-and-mortar shops over Amazon will, nevertheless, do a higher percentage of their shopping online. What this means is that every business – every business – will find itself being pulled significantly deeper into the digital marketplace. And that has serious implications for their brands.

Not to take anything away from traditional marketing communications, but digital communications requires a more complex set of skills. With traditional media, media buyers figure out where their customers are likely to be and what media is likely to reach them. Then they calculate the cost per thousand impressions, make their buying decisions and launch the campaign. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, bus placards or skywriting, the calculations are all the same.

And the results from each were just as unimpressive. How many of us have ever seen a TV commercial and determined, on the spot, to purchase what was being advertised? Very few of us. That’s why ad reps tell you to buy a campaign. They say repeat impressions will convince purchasers to take action. But the results are still pretty inefficient. For instance, a regional hospital in Fullerton, California, just south of Los Angeles, found the best way to reach its target market was to advertise in the LA Times. But that newspaper delivers to the entire southern California region. To reach a couple hundred thousand healthcare decision makers in their immediate area, the hospital has to advertise to tens of millions of other readers who are totally outside their market. There’s an old adage that illustrates the inefficiencies in traditional media. “I know that half my advertising budget is being wasted. I just don’t know which half.”

Ask Boardwalk to devise a communications
program for the new you in the new normal.

With digital media, the same purchasing calculations have to be made but now it gets a lot more complicated. Because, in the digital world, there are a lot more options. It’s possible to do a much better job targeting customers. You can communicate with precisely the type of buyer you need and pass up those you don’t. But how best to approach them? Email campaigns? Pay-per-click? Blogging? Influencer marketing? LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? Now I gotta figure out Tik Tok too? What about just selling on Amazon? Or should we go D2C? It’s no wonder many business leaders, especially Boomers, have resisted getting too deeply involved.

But resistance is futile. At least it is now after COVID-19. Because pretty much the entire marketplace has migrated online. And not all of it will come back. One way or another every marketer is going to have to negotiate this labyrinthine minefield. I say minefield because you can blow up your budget by betting on the wrong tactics. Still, you have to go to your customers and they’re all online now. And even when they sound the all-clear whistle (they’re actually not going to do that. The recovery will be spotty and gradual and may well have some relapses), more of them than ever will remain there.

So how does your brand stand up in the digital environment? Is it as strong there as it is in the “real world”? Are you being consistent? Do people feel the same way about you online as they do offline? Are you integrating your brand successfully across all media? How are you approaching people online? Are you passive offline but aggressive in the use of online tools? Now’s the time to address your entire marketing communications stance.

In my last post we indicated that the new normal is going to require a new you. For most, that will also require a new approach to communications.


Coronavirus is reshaping the world. Are you ready for it? Tips to improve your digital brand presence
A nice companion piece to my article, this post makes some good points with some great examples.

Chipotle’s CMO on how the brand quickly pivoted in response to coronavirus
A restaurant brand that already had problems responds well to the crisis.

EQ Quotient: Emotional Engagement in Building Brand Loyalty
A useful article. But I’d say: Think of your brand as a marriage.

How Brands Drive Purchase Decisions
They act as mental shortcuts to meaning.

New Name, Logo, and Identity for Huma
Love everything about this, including the new name. But wish I knew what triggered the desire for a new name.

Creativity is apparently a victim of COVID-19.
You gotta watch this.

Upbranding: Your Product — but Better
Here’s one way to grow your market.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of May 25, 2020

Nation-Branding Soft Power: The Case of Brand China
An engrossing, tragic case of China’s recent brandicide.

How to Build a $100 Million Brand People Love
A really good case study from about four years ago. Worth the short read.

Seeking Sustainability, Finding True Brand Mission
Best possible outcome today. Best possible outcome tomorrow.

Brand Relevance: The Strategy Behind “i’m lovin’ it”
A fascinating deep dive into a slogan with 15+ years of success.

Worst Logos Ever, Redesigned.
Italian designer fixes some really bad logos. Oh, they are so very bad!

Dieline Awards 2020
Best packaging of the year. You see? Something good has happened in 2020.

5 Reasons Empathy Drives Business Success
Hard facts about the soft skills.