The four keys to digital branding

It’s almost impossible to take digital channels out of the equation when it comes to your marketing and communications mix. This means that your brand has to be well-represented here as well. What makes or breaks your digital brand? It all comes down to four key pillars.

Let’s start off with setting our terminology right. Sometimes digital branding and digital marketing get mixed up, so let’s clear this up for a moment.

Digital branding

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The difference between digital branding and digital marketing

Even though digital branding actually is an important part of your business’ digital marketing efforts, both terms aren’t interchangeable. Digital marketing usually focuses on specific products or services. It’s fast-paced, requires high precision in its execution and focuses on high returns.

Digital branding, on the other hand, is everything surrounding your marketing. It starts with the obvious things: your logo, the colors that represent you and the tone and voice you use in your texts. It doesn’t stop there, though. Your branding is the connection between your offering and your users.

Your digital branding helps you enhance your brand awareness through its image and style, with an aim for long-term quality.

Digital branding, marketing and Formula 1

You could apply the principles of both disciplines to Formula 1 racing. Digital marketing would be your car (which is your product) and the team that tweaks its performance to make sure it is able to win races.


Digital branding concerns the way the car looks in terms of design and colors. Additionally, it’s the fans cheering the car on, forming a community around the Formula 1 team.

This sounds simple on paper, but achieving good branding is a challenging task. A good digital brand is supported by four pillars.

Four pillars of digital branding

Pillar 1: Have a convincing brand story

People aren’t simply looking for products and services. They look for stories they can relate to. Ultimately, the feeling someone gets when they think about your brand, is what drives purchasing decisions.

Your customer + your product or service = your brand story

From a brick to a home

Take a brick, for example. Bricks are typically very lifeless and – let’s be honest – boring objects. If you were asked to buy a set of bricks, you probably wouldn’t care where they came from as long as they are qualitative.


A stack of bricks make up a wall. That’s not too exciting either. It’s just more bricks. Inanimate objects that together form a much larger inanimate object.

Now let’s pour some storytelling over this scenario.

A brick is a sturdy, often essential part of a house. A stack of bricks don’t just add up to a wall. Bricks build your home. A secure place where you can hang your hat and decompress after a long day at work. The place where you feel safe and loved. If you’re buying bricks, you want to make sure to get the right ones to help you make up your home.

All of a sudden, a simple brick has become more than just a piece of stone, right? That’s because through storytelling, we connected the product with its user.

Bring what you sell together with who you sell it to

In short: your customer + your product or service = your brand story.

It all starts with the seemingly simple question: why? Why do you sell what you are selling? Why does your company exist? It’s this core reason for your being that resonates with the right audience for you.

A lot has been said and written about finding your “why”. In the end, it’s still Simon Sinek that puts it best in his TED Talk and book on the subject.

consumer plus product is story

Pillar 2: Be creative

Sounds very simple, right? Those who have tried this already, will probably know that being creative – especially on command – isn’t as easy as it sounds. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an essential part of digital branding.

To help you be creative, we think it’s best to break down what creativity really means. Let’s do this with a great example.

Brands bringing creativity into their branding mix, make a more significant mark with their customers

Waffles and shoes

In 1971, Bill Bowerman was trying to come up with the ideal running shoe for his shoe company Blue Ribbon Shoes. One morning, while eating waffles, he realized that the waffle iron he used, would actually be a great mold for the sole of this shoe. The small squares that would be imprinted in the rubber, should offer the right amount of grip. The shoe turned out to be a great success.

Waffles and shoes

Fun fact: Bowerman’s company was later rebranded as Nike. And his shoe changed the sports apparel industry.

It’s a great story, not only because it’s the atypical origin of one of the world’s most iconic brands, but also because it sums up what creativity really is. Bowerman looked at a typical household appliance, and started thinking about alternative uses for it. That’s creativity in a nutshell. It’s 1+1=3.

Creativity sets you apart

We’re not saying it’s always as simple as looking for an alternative use for things you already own. We are saying – however – that looking for a creative angle will help you in your digital branding efforts.

The Journal for Advertising Research concluded that brands bringing creativity into their branding mix, make a more significant mark with their customers.

Creativity will allow you to go the extra mile. It’s creative branding that allows companies like Coca-Cola to launch campaigns like “Share a Coke”, in which you wouldn’t even need a logo to recognize its originator. Creative campaigns like these make people appreciate the creativity and effort that goes into it, and lingers longer in your target audience’s mind .

share a coke image

Pillar 3: Use the right content and the right channels

Every brand has its own audience. These are the people who resonate with your story and like the products or services you put out. It’s crucial to know the audience that is drawn to your brand.

Research your audience

Only if you really know your audience, you know what content they prefer to look at. That’s why you have to research your users. There are a variety of ways to do this. You can talk to your stakeholders, send out surveys to your customers, interview a target group, or hire a data analyst to take a deep-dive into your analytics.

Knowing your audience, allows you to take an outside-in approach to your digital branding and online marketing. You know exactly which topics you have to talk about to catch their attention.

More importantly: it gives you insight into where your audience tends to spend their time. Instead of being active on a select few social media platforms that are common, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you can actually double-down your efforts on select channels that might not be as traditional.

Hamburgers and video games

Take the American fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s, for example. When they wanted to reach a younger audience than their regular clientele, they didn’t turn to Instagram or TikTok, which would be the obvious choice.

wendys in fortnite

Instead, they launched a campaign in which they livestreamed themselves playing Fortnite via Twitch. In these livestreams they would go on a quest to destroy all refrigerators in the game, driving home the key message that their hamburgers are made with fresh beef.

The new target audience loved this so much, they actually joined in and started ravaging freezers all over the Fortnite game map.

Pillar 4: Create a digital relationship

As a final step, you have to realize your brand is reaching actual people. Your target audience is more than just a number of followers and customers. As you tell your story, they will want to engage with you.

The key to building a relationship with your audience, is making sure they feel heard. Communicate with them through their channels of choice, be it social media, through video games or even on your own website. Accept their feedback and get to know them better, so that you can improve your brand even more.

It’s the people buying your products and services who eventually make or break your digital branding

One does not simply rebrand beer

It’s easy to underestimate the relationship between your customers and your products. The best example for this, comes from the Belgian retailer Colruyt Group. When they wanted to change the name of their low-budget beer Cara Pils, there was a major outcry in their community. As it turned out, the Cara Pils-drinking Belgians didn’t want a rebrand, since the name and branding of the beer was already very iconic.

This outcry resulted in Colruyt Group cancelling the full rebrand and offering their customers more control over the future of Cara Pils. Through a website, they pitched some ideas for redesigning the can in which the beer is available. The customers were able to vote on their favorite designs, which would ultimately make it to the store shelves.

Cara pils origineel blik

When you’re not in the room

This drives home the point that people actually are a part of your brand. They are not just customers, but they form the community that ultimately become synonymous with your brand identity.

Jeff Bezos, the famous founder of Amazon, actually put it best when he said: “Your brand is what people are saying about you when you’re not in the room.”

Keep this in mind. It’s the people buying your products and services who eventually make or break your digital branding.

Stand out from your competition

Good branding ultimately comes down to standing out from your competition. It’s about being appealing to the right people, who feel connected with your story. By taking into account these four pillars, you already have a solid foundation on which you can offer services and products that suit your business.

Intrigued? Watch our webinar on digital branding!


Our design director Ivo Blomme presented this topic in one of our Reboot Sessions. You can find the webinar for free on our website.

Watch the webinar


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Text written by Lazlo Cootmans, based on the webinar by Ivo Blomme.

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