Why digital needs to be brand specific

In this article, Cognite’s Mike Young discusses the importance of having a brand-specific communication strategy in order to engage successfully with internal and external stakeholders via an optimal cross channel mix.

Whilst products are physical objects with measurable properties, brands only exist in people’s minds. They are what internal and external stakeholders think and feel about them. As a result, no two brands are ever the same. This being the case, all communication, including digital, should be linked to the uniqueness of the brand. Anything borrowed or copied from another brand is simply sub-optimal. To explore this in more depth it makes sense to view it through the lens of the brand’s communication strategy. The questions this strategy needs to answer are:

• Who do we wish to communicate with?

• What do we want them to do?

• What do they need to think and feel to do it?

• How do we get them to think and feel this way?


Answering these questions are likely to require a combination of external and internal insight, meaning you will need to do research as well as use internal experience and expertise

Who do we wish to communicate with?

This is the fundamental question, the answer to which drives everything in the communication strategy. It therefore pays to get it right.

If your brand is already on the market, the answer will depend on whether you are trying to grow your brand through your existing customers or are seeking new ones. If you are launching a brand then by definition all your customers will be new.


“…all communication, including digital, should be linked to the uniqueness of the brand.”



It is clear that defining the identity of your existing customers is easier than determining the profile of your new customers. In the first instance, payers, HCPs and patients are likely to appear on everyone’s list of potential external customers. However, the challenge is to find the best segments to target within these groups.

There are a number of reasons why your customer base should be different from that of your competitors. Firstly, there are likely to be differences in your product or product / service offering. Secondly, your vision and objectives for the brand will be different. Thirdly, you will be seeking to differentiate your brand from competitors, which means that the customers your brand will appeal to will not be the same as those of your competitors. Fourthly, the way your potential customers view your brand will be different from those of your competitors. Reasons for this may include their rational and emotional needs, the way they view your company, their experience with your other brands in the past and the encounters they have with your brand once it is launched.

In summary, finding the best possible customer fit for the unique characteristics of your brand is the bedrock on which all success will be built, including your choice of digital and non-digital media.

What do you want them to do?

The point of this question is to clarify what actions are expected from the defined customer groups in response to the communication. In the case of payers, this might be approval for use in their community. For opinion leaders, it may be recommendation. For prescribers, it may be to diagnose earlier, to try the brand, to increase usage or use in a different way. For patients, it may be about recognition, prevention or additional health measures they can take when under treatment. The important thing is that the goals are clear and consistent with each other and the overall brand objectives.


“…finding the best possible customer fit for the unique characteristics of your brand is the bedrock on which all success will be built…”



What do they need to think and feel to do it?

The answer to this question will be informed by the brand blueprint and result from customer research and internal insight exploring what the brand should stand for in a workshop setting. The blueprint will include the positioning and the brand identity, the first being the rational side of the brand and the second the emotional side. Positioning therefore defines what customers need to think about the brand if their needs are to be met in a way that will help the brand meet its objectives. The brand identity defines what they need to feel.

How do we get them to think and feel this way?

To effectively answer this question you need to consider your messages and responses, as well as the media mix through which they will be deployed.

The messages and responses will be derived from your brand blueprint discussed above.

The media mix will be determined in part from a second phase of customer insight that explores how best to reach and engage your customers with these messages and responses. The research will examine which media your brand’s customers relate to and how they employ them. The results will provide the external input for a structured workshop that will also take into account internal opinions and organisational restraints, as well as budgets and synergies. The goal will be to systematically evaluate all the digital and non-digital options so as to arrive at the most rewarding cross channel mix, specifically tailored to meet your brand’s objectives. In contrast to off-the-shelf or non-specific solutions, the focus will be exclusively on what is good for your unique brand. After all, if digital isn’t about making your brand successful, what is it about?



About the author:

Mike Young is a partner in Cognite, a strategy and communications company specializing in brand and market shaping. Because no two brands are the same a core belief is that digital strategy must be brand specific. With this in mind, Cognite and the Insight Research Group have come together to launch Digital Edge, an exciting new product that combines a research and workshop format to help clients arrive at the optimal multichannel strategy for their brand. Call +44 (0)7771 88 50 57 for more details.

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