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An example of how we used digital first thinking in our collaboration with Colruyt

Year after year people spend more time on digital platforms and social media. And yet, when we look at how companies develop their digital branding, we still see lots of letterheads and business cards. Little time is spent thinking about how a brand should present itself online. As much as we love working our magic and creating crazy solutions with the little amount of assets the client can deliver, we also think clients should start taking digital seriously and stop treating it as an afterthought.

Time spent on digital platforms is still on the rise

After spending more than a year in (semi) lockdown we’ve all experienced first hand how important digital platforms are. They are what kept us connected, they helped us to do all the shopping we couldn’t do in real life when we were in quarantaine, they kept us entertained and they kept us on our toes about the important social issues. It’s no wonder consumers spend more and more time on digital platforms. 

According to Xavier de Graux Belgian internet users between 16 and 64 years old spent on average 1h45 per day on social media platforms in 2020. This was 9 minutes more than the average in 2019, or a growth of 9,4% on an annual basis. Chances are that consumers are already interacting (or trying to) with your brand online. Since we spend more and more time on social media, it gets more important to figure out how to approach your online presence.

A digital-first approach optimises your customer’s experiences

When companies develop their visual identity and their branding, they still think in the old terms: business cards, letterheads, envelopes, gadgets for events,.... While all of these elements can still be a relevant part of your visual identity, and by extension, a relevant part of your branding, you shouldn’t stop there.

In fact, we believe you should start your branding with a digital-first approach. Meaning that at any point during your branding process you keep in mind that your brand is going to live on digital platforms and the content you create for the brand is going to be consumed on those platforms. It ensures that the experience, the visual style, the tone of voice and the interactions customers have with your brand are consistent across a variety of digital touch points.

When we talk about a digital-first branding approach, we’re talking about creating your brand with the mindset that the first and probably the most important experiences people will have with your brand will happen online. These can be Google searches for the best solutions for a specific problem, getting your newsletter forwarded from a friend, seeing your ad pop up in their Instagram feed or getting to know your brand because of a crazy dance challenge on TikTok.

Thanks to social media, consumers have a direct connection to brands. They aren’t scared to voice their opinions about brands or call them out when they’ve been lied to or when they’ve been misled. Since companies should expect to be held accountable for the brand they try to conceive, it’s more important than ever that you have a consistent brand strategy.

Our tips on how to think more digital-first

Example of responsive logo designs by Nike, Heinz, Lacoste & Guinness
Example of responsive logo designs by Nike, Heinz, Lacoste & Guinness

1. Don’t panic about your existing branding

Identify where people can interact with your brand and think about ways to adapt your branding to fit those digital formats. Start, for example, by making your logo responsive. This can be as simple as having a fully elaborate version with a baseline on your letterhead. For your website you use a slightly more simple version, without the baseline for example. And finally a very simple version (think only one letter or only an icon) that fits as a social media avatar or can be used on your mobile website or app.

Example of how we use the illustrations on the Lima packaging in their social media posts

2. Extend your existing visual style

If you only have letterheads and business cards in your existing visual style guide it might be time to start adding some extras. Creating some examples for social media content or designing social media templates will help you stay consistent. If you don’t know on which platform you should start: just check where your customers are most active and start there. Keep in mind though that every social media platform has its own language and you should adapt your content to the language of the platform. Another great way to extend your visual style is by reusing parts of your offline style online in new ways. For example our customer Lima has this lovely illustrated packaging. Those illustrations are perfect to use in small animations in their social media posts. And by reusing these offline elements, you create a more recognisable brand with your customers.

Some comments from fans in the active community we built on Facebook for Elvea

3. Realise branding is more than just a visual identity

Branding is all about the experiences people have when they get in touch with your company. By making sure these experiences live up to peoples’ expectations you’ll help your brand stand out. This can be as simple as making sure to answer questions you get on social platforms about your products or services. People expect social media to be social, so don’t leave them hanging.

Our vertical shooting setup when we film recipes for Instagram

4. Start developing new campaigns with a digital-first approach

When creating new campaigns, start designing them with a digital-first approach. One way to do this would be making sure footage is also usable for social media. Maybe you never thought about this, but a lot of footage shot for traditional media (eg. TV) is not social media ready.  Because of the difference in format crops are often wrong and because the campaign is already shot and created there’s no option to add extra shots for the different digital platforms. Quick tip: always shoot wider than you think you’ll need.

5. Think about worst case scenarios and how to respond to them

If a customer posts a complaint about your product, how will you respond? What is your brand’s tone of voice and how can you extend this voice online? These are hard questions to think about, but necessary. The answers will help you create more coherence between your clients’ offline and online experiences. Imagine your in store employees are super helpful, even when customers have a complaint. Now imagine your Facebook feed where your social media manager is chatty to all of your positive comments but ignores all of the complaints or just plainly deletes them. How will this make your customers feel?

Just by starting to think about a digital-first approach and by taking it into account when you start creating new content for your company, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Hopefully our tips can guide you through the process. But, in case you’re still not sure how to translate your brand to online platforms, we’d love the help. Contact us and we’ll make your brand shine.

The talents behind this project

Because teamwork makes the dream work. 

Eline Van Der Gucht

Eline Van der Gucht


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