Why Brand and Communication thinking in the Digital Era is in fact different

And why it’s lazy thinking to loosely say that it’s all about the idea and the medium does not matter. …

In just the way that the kind of thinking and ideas that you need for making a better aircraft engine are very different from those needed for making designer clothes. I dare say that the kind of thinking & ideas you need to create better Television commercials or Press ads is different from what you need for creating better digital campaigns. And before I go further let me paraphrase that by saying that the thinking for the two can be the same as well but not necessarily and not always.

Here are the differences that I would like to point towards and its important that the subtlety gets picked and lose statements like ‘Its all about the idea – it does not matter what the medium is – as long as you have the right idea’ get banished forever as lazy thinking.

So enough of the foreplay and here are the key points –

1) Digital can be used in ways that other media can’t even dare to think about – The first crucial point is that digital can be used in multiple different ways to build brands –
a) It can be used as a broadcast medium through targeted banners or targeted videos. Used in this way its like TV or print just with greater immediacy of response since response is just a click away…
b) It can be used as a medium for engagement with a brand or its philosophy through social and other owned digital properties. It could be a digitally delivered community – something mass media cannot really do. Mass media channels quite obviously cannot knit a community together the way digital can.
c) It can be used as a medium to deliver timely information to consumers when they are seeking information using search, for example – So digital gets the behavioral insight and also delivers a contextually relevant message often in split seconds. So if the consumer is searching for low cost consumer education your ad message can be ‘a low cost but good quality computer centre’.  On the other hand if the consumer is searching for an HTML 5 computer programming course –  then your ad says that you offer an HTML 5 programme of the highest quality. No non-digital medium can deliver this kind of contextually relevant messaging at the speed of light!

So you just need to think for digital differently don’t you? – it’s a more intelligent & responsive medium than any before it.


2) When thinking of Digital communication plans you need to think in terms of programmes rather than campaigns alone. Campaigns are often run for shorter periods of time. Digital engagement needs consistency and repeat visits – therefore the communication pack needs to offer consumers what they could come back for – that is a different kind of pressure on the communication. It therefore requires ideas that can sustain long term interest – ideas on which you can build a programme – slightly different kinds of ideas…don’t you think?


3) Broadcast Media communication messages can literally be pushed down people’s throats if you have an interestingly packaged brand message. On the other hand, digital messages and communication live to see the light of a consumers’ interest only if they are not just interesting but also relevant to their lives.

Broadcast advertising works well when you define the idea at the life role level but can also carry off ideas which operate at the brand differentiation level. But, consumer relevance thinking is more important than differentiation thinking when it comes to ideas on the internet. Because consumers are not interested in the difference between two brands – both of which typically hold low interest for them – so they will get bored and click away. It takes a life role, relevance, usefulness – for an idea to sustain on digital.

4) The last point is about what a lot of people say about digital – that it is a medium, as well as, an infrastructure. The infrastructure part of digital gives it a certain permanence which an individual medium doesn’t have. Digital also seems a bit all pervading because lots of advertising depends on it for response fulfilment. It therefore forces brand thinking to adopt a more long-term approach (because the digital infrastructure isn’t going away anywhere) compared to campaign thinking which can have a short term role irrespective of the medium on which the campaign gets delivered.

Therefore, this fashionable thing about an idea is an idea and the medium does not matter is a bit under thought through. Next time you say that pause – new thinking could just be a click away.