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Creating Natively Digital Brand Experiences – A Recap

Attendees at the Legal Marketing Association conference will normally shy away from any session that is entirely presented by service providers – but if that session is done by One North, they’re making a big mistake.

Not only are they always entertaining, but they assume the audience comes in with a high level understanding of the content to begin with (not always the case with all presenters, admittedly) and they deliver some solid food for thought. 

At #LMA15, their session was on “Creating Natively Digital Brand Experiences,” which sounds like a lot of terrifying marketing speak. We are going to talk about branding and logos, but the marketing nerd in me loves all of this, so please bear with me. For the lawyers in my audience, you may want to read along anyway – it will give you some insight into the broader challenges that your firm and your firm’s marketing professionals face when it comes to branding (which is an important issue!).

LMA members, if you missed this, Kalev Peekna and Nate Denton from One North, the conference presenters, will be sharing highlights from their presentation in the next Social Media SIG webinar on May 12th – members can register here.

The session description tells us:

The rising dominance of digital marketing – whether via web, email, social or mobile – makes it more important than ever that your firm’s brand expression receive continual care and extension. And yet, most legal marketers inherit the brand that they champion from a pre-digital era. Even the clearest guidelines for elements like logo treatment and Pantone palette don’t account for new digital contexts where brand communication is inherently more vibrant and dynamic. A compelling brand in the digital era must break out of a static, ad-driven definition to drive everything from social thumbnails and mobile typography to overall content strategy.”

In this session, we’ll start with the basics: What key components make up a digital brand? How can firms ensure their digital brand is communicated effectively? We’ll provide both in and out of industry examples of how businesses are maintaining brand consistency in content, typography, imagery and more. With key examples and some handy tricks and tools along the way, you’ll come away with a thorough understanding of how you can extend your brand into the interactive world.”

Kalev started the session by saying what many of us know to be true – “brand” is a four-letter word. It may be one of the most misused and misunderstood in all of business, and certainly in legal.

When they asked a group of people the question “How is your brand?” they got a series of interesting responses that drew some hearty laughter from the audience:

  • “There’s no way I could get them to shorten it.”
  • “It’s fine. Everyone hates it. It’s not changing.”
  • “Looks good on a golf umbrella.”
  • “The last time we did anything with it, we spent $300,000 and ended up with the same colors.”
  • “Is there any way to refresh it without anyone noticing?”
  • “I’m glad you asked. Can you make it bigger?”
  • “I hate taglines?”
  • “What do you mean by ‘brand?'”

That last one in the list is the best response by far, says Peekna, because it invites conversation.

What is Your Brand?

So what is your brand?

Your brand is what people say about you when you aren’t in the room.”

It’s more than a tagline and fonts. And in today’s world, we also have to understand how people experience our brands digitally. The need to position your product to differentiate it hasn’t changed, but HOW you differentiate it is where the change resides.

Digital isn’t new – but it is changing how we experience a brand. It’s not a physical place like it used to be. It’s online. Digital is in your pocket, on your arm, in your bag, on your desk, in front of your couch – and it’s fragmenting the experience. People’s experience with your brand is getting shorter and shorter, but it’s happening more throughout the day. You may get maybe a minute of interaction at a time, but it will happen three to four times a day.

People spend the most time interacting with your brand through digital communication. It’s experience all of the time, and is driven entirely by the audience. That means that branding is participatory because of digital – that’s why we talk about “users” and not “audiences.”

Everything you Know About Branding Has Changed

Everything you know about what your brand looks and feels like has changed because of digital. The traditional approach involves testing your brand on various print artifacts, like coffee mugs, brochures, etc.  But that’s not the case with digital.

Why doesn’t that work? Because nothing translates cleanly. New brand experiences are absent. Brand expressions are fragmented. So if you ignore digital until the end of a branding process, it’s a big missed opportunity. Instead, move it to the front of the conversation.

Nate Denton took over and said “Let’s get digital!” with a very ’80s “Let’s get physical” graphic.  He said that material design marries classic design principles with innovation, science and technology,and suggested we look at this idea of material design to see how to communicate a design compellingly.

He used BBC as an example of a brand using digital effectively – they have a Global Experience Language, which defines the user’s brand experience across all of their digital platforms.

Digital First – What to Consider

So, if you’re on board with putting digital first in your brand conversations, what are some of the up-front considerations you need to have? One North tells us:

  • Responsive design: This is about getting the same experience on your mobile devices as on your desktop. Not sure if this really matters? Learn more about what everyone is referring to as “Mobilegeddon” here.
  • Digital images: .jpg versus .svg (scalable vector graphics). This is about scalability. Jpgs don’t scale well – they get very pixelated. Svgs don’t – they maintain integrity across all delivery platforms.
  • Contrast ratios: How do people see colors in contrast to others? This affects how easy your site is to read. You can check your contrast ratio here to see if you pass or fail. Nate showed us a couple of examples – Kalev had shown us the Hermes site earlier (which is one of the worst websites out there) and while they didn’t fail, they weren’t very easy to read either. Nate shared another very famous brand with us, which got its start well before digital media – McDonalds. In order to keep their brand integrity, while also embracing digital, they’ve evolved and treat their digital content differently.
  • Line length: 66-characters (including letters and spaces) is ideal for a single-column line. Anything from 45-75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length for a single-column.
  • Microinteractions: These are the “details that delight” and create a better user experience. Recommended reading on this can be found here.

Takeaways

What should we take away from all of this? A few important things:

  • Your first and most frequent brand interactions are now digital. Your brand should be designed for those digital moments.
  • Test new brand ideas in a digital context – on LinkedIn, Twitter, email, etc.
  • Expand your understanding of brand visuals – take advantage of digital’s dynamic approaches.
  • Print still matters – but do that AFTER you nail digital.
  • Users experience a single brand, no matter how many different kinds of interactions. Consistency creates seamlessness.
  • Get lawyers to accept social media by involving them in the process – ask for input, not for feedback (as a side note, I mentioned this during the conference too – that’s good advice for marketing in general, not just branding).

One North was generous enough to share their slide deck with everyone here on SlideShare, you you can access it as well. Excellent presentation, and a big thanks to Nate and Kalev!