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How to develop an effective digital product brand strategy in 5 easy steps

How to develop an effective digital product brand strategy in 5 easy steps

  • Product Definition /

Jonathon Hensley

Those involved in product ownership or management have all experienced a simultaneous excitement and a twinge of dread with a digital product budget being approved and a project starting. Often much later than originally planned. It’s up to you to get things moving — quickly.  As you begin to evaluate potential partners to produce your digital product or assess your own abilities to accomplish things in-house, budget will always be a consideration but factoring in time to project completion is starting to take precedent.

With this in mind, I’d wager that having a sound brand strategy to execute upon is not a luxury most would say they have the time for. Sure, it sounds important — but can it be done quickly, and without blowing the budget? The answer to both is, yes.

The major thing to also understand about developing a brand strategy for your digital product is that it is critical for the success of both the digital product and business. Why? Think of it this way. A digital product is an extension of the brand. Whether the audience interacting with it is internal or external, they are interacting with something that your company or organization produced. It’s a mirror of how you conduct your business and operations and therefore a direct reflection of how you feel about your customers. So it’s ultimately beneficial to consider them, and ensure they have a great experience. Unhappy experiences tend to be vocal. In some cases, very vocal.

What is a Digital Product Brand Strategy?

A digital product brand strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how a company creates and promotes its digital products in the marketplace. It involves defining the brand identity, target audience, and positioning of the product in the market. The strategy also includes the messaging, visual design, and user experience of the digital product, as well as the channels and tactics used to promote it.

A successful digital product brand strategy requires a deep understanding of the target audience, their needs, and preferences. The strategy should also align with the company’s overall brand identity and values. By having a well-defined brand strategy, companies can differentiate their products from their competitors, establish a strong brand presence, and build trust with their customers. Additionally, a clear brand strategy can help companies make informed decisions when developing and launching new digital products.

5 Principles for Developing an Effective Digital Product Brand Strategy

Developing an effective digital product brand strategy can be a daunting task. By following these 5 basic principles you can be assured you are making strides to understand your target audience and develop an effective brand strategy for your next digital product.

Principle One — Empathize with your customers to understand their ultimate goal.

The best way to address this is with an Empathy Mapping Workshop with your key project stakeholders. It’s not hard to facilitate. Create a short list of 5-10 individuals that operate from different parts of the company, bring them together in a room, and brainstorm together your 2-3 most critical audiences to understand:

  1. What a particular audience type’s respective ultimate goal is in regards to the digital product, i.e. “I want to be able to buy products easily and quickly”.
  2. The tasks that will bring them closer to this goal.
  3. How they are feeling going about & completing these tasks (both positive & negative).
  4. The pain points they experience along the way.
  5. How they are influenced by competitors with similar offerings or the evolving world at large.

Empathy mapping is a deep subject with a variety of different forms and approaches. No matter how you structure your workshop, the aim is to better understand your users and how they might benefit from your products.

Principle Two — Manage your brand perception to create accountability.

If your organization does not have a completed brand platform or brand guidelines, this is another area to work on as a larger company mission. Among the many components involved are brand positioning, mission, and values. These three particular components are key to understanding your own brand DNA. They are crucial to gauging your place within the market and among your competitors. Everything that your business or organization produces should, therefore, make sense when considering the positioning, mission, and values. These work in tandem to create a perception of your brand by audiences that interact with it regardless of the chosen medium involved. More importantly, create consistency with how it’s carried out (through voice, tone, and brand aesthetics) and accountability with the future trajectory of the business and how your digital product fits into that roadmap.

Principle Three — Ensure stakeholder alignment with a proper product vision.

The success of your digital product strategy hinges on your stakeholders being bought into your product vision. We’ve written extensively on how to create a product vision and create a north star for your entire organization to follow. What is your digital product for? Why is your product necessary for your target customers? I’m sure you can think of a few times where internal teams argued over the overall value or specifics of a project initiative. When there is nothing written to capture its reason for existing, there is nothing to turn to when things become questioned down the line.

Principle Four — Establish clear design principles.

If a product vision is the overall strategic intent & north star for a given digital product, think of design principles as reflections of how this is carried out in solution-making as general guidelines. The easiest way to quickly create this is to use the brand’s core values. Each statement has a directly translatable design principle that honors the general intention of the core value itself. Using our own firm as an example, let’s say we were working on a digital product (our website). At Emerge, one of our most cherished core values is, “Co-Create with Incredible People.” A perfectly suitable design principle to complement this would be “We will create interactive touch-points to show how we work with incredible people and co-create with them”. If you need to see an example of how this was carried out in execution, turn to our Work page.

Holger Sindbaek, the owner of World of Card Games, said, “When we took over World of Card Games in 2023, leveraging my journey from a designer to a developer was crucial. Having built a similar platform, I was deeply familiar with the market’s nuances. This insight drove us to anchor our strategy in solid design principles. We focused on crafting an intuitive and engaging user experience, aiming to make every interaction on the platform visually appealing and deeply resonant with our audience. This approach wasn’t merely about aesthetics; it was about creating a space where players felt at home, leading to a significant uptick in engagement and community growth. It underscored the idea that understanding your audience and applying clear design principles can profoundly impact your digital product’s success.”

Principle Five — Create a hypothesis to test against with your audiences that you can validate and refine.

Once you have the previous four principles fleshed out, you now have a basis to start creating something tangible as a potential solution. But how can you be sure that it’s the right solution? There’s only one way to be sure and that’s to start asking the audience who would be using it “What do you think?”

Creating a potential solution is a hypothesis that you must validate and refine. Think back to your science classes of yesteryear. When you conducted scientific tests, remember that you had to put together a hypothesis first? This is no different. When you are testing a clickable prototype or a visual design, for example with the audience that would be using it with the goal of gaining insight into what is working and not working — the hypothesis is the solution idea you came up with, the test is the actual process of asking the audience questions, and validation and refinement comes from the results of the testing.

What Happens if our Digital Product does not have a Brand Strategy?

Not having a digital product brand strategy in place when creating a digital product can lead to various pitfalls. Firstly, it can result in the creation of a product that doesn’t resonate with the target audience. Without a clear understanding of the brand values and personality, the product may not align with the audience’s expectations, leading to low adoption rates and poor user engagement.

Secondly, not having a brand strategy can make it difficult to differentiate the product from competitors. A strong brand strategy helps to communicate the unique value proposition of the product and how it stands out from the competition. Without this, the product may be perceived as just another me-too offering in a crowded market, making it difficult to attract customers and establish a loyal user base.

Developing a Digital Product Brand Strategy

With these five principles in mind you have the basis to create a digital product brand strategy document. This will enable you to track how these things come together to support your project initiative, create accountability for how it is produced, and ensure that it represents your brand. You won’t just score brownie points with the c-suite and your boss in the short-term, you’ll actually be creating true success for your project and the business itself which might just score you a whole lot more in the long-term.

Forward. Digital. Thinking.

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