How to create a powerful digital-first brand in 4 steps

A quick-start guide to creating your digital brand.

Whether you’re a designer, a marketer, a business person or an entrepreneur, there are four simple steps you need to know about when creating or refreshing your digital brand.

In this video, Nayla Sabbagh, Experience Design Director at Horizontal, shares a case study about a popular discounts app that showcases her digital-first design thinking process. 

Throughout her presentation, Sabbagh gives practical tips on how to make your brand identity relevant and unique in a highly competitive online marketplace.

Four steps

“Branding is an important aspect of your digital business, because it distinguishes your product or service from others, promoting awareness and recognisability in a crowded market,” says Sabbagh.

She advises anyone who is creating a digital brand from scratch, or simply looking to tweak an existing brand, to conduct an audit that includes the following four steps:

1. Research, audit and benchmark 

2. Position your brand

3. Create your visual mood

4. Stay consistent

Step 1: Research, audit and benchmark 

Doing your homework and researching competitors and stand-out online brands is the most important step in the digital design-thinking process, says Sabbagh.

Your research should answer four questions:

• What exactly does my business offer?

• How do we offer our services? 

• Who are we speaking to?

• Who is my competition?

While browsing other inspirational sites online, Sabbagh advises that you take note of lay outs that you like and the latest design trends.  “Write down everything that catches your eye from interesting iconography and illustrations to colours and imagery,” she says. “Similarly, crit your competitors – what do you like or dislike about their design styles?”

Step 2: Position your brand

In a couple of short paragraphs, describe what your brand does, who you do it for and how you want people to feel when they interact with your company.

Using this business positioning statement, create a character for the brand and describe its personality, says Sabbagh – are you devoted to your customers, constantly working hard to better understand and serve them? Are you considerate – only serving them personalised content that meets their needs? Or maybe you’re a positive, friendly, feel-good brand that is all about having fun and being approachable.

“One of the key personality traits that brands should look to have is resourcefulness, particularly in the area of discovery,” says Sabbagh. “Are you promoting discovery of new content or deals, making it easier for your users to find what they’re looking for and encouraging them to explore the site or app?”

Step 3: Create your visual mood

Whether it’s the latest illustration and animation techniques, or the coolest new typography, Sabbagh advises companies to keep their brands relevant by researching the latest design trends and coming up with a visual moodboard.

“There’s something you need to remember in a digital-first brand. It lives – it’s alive, it animates, it’s interactive so you click and items rotate. It’s very different to a static brand,” she explains.

With this in mind, always consider this layer of online interaction in your design – whether it’s client feedback, gamification or AI-infused chat bots.

Even with all these digital bells and whistles, a “clean and clear” layout always wins, says Sabbagh.

Step 4: Stay consistent in your brand assets

Sabbagh advises that as a brand you should stay consistent in your messaging, social communications and your customer experience.

“Speak to your customers in the same way everywhere. Consistency across all your online and offline brand assets from logos to tone of voice, font and iconography is crucial,” she says.

Your marketing assets should all talk to the brand character you designed in step two. “Follow your personality in all your communications from newsletters to billboards, social media and web or print copy.”

“In a world where everything is agile and constantly changing, it is important to regularly do this exercise to re-evaluate your brand, your competition and the latest trends. That’s how you remain relatable and relevant as a brand,” concludes Sabbagh.

Watch the video here