Does Your Brand Pass the Digital Stress Test?

Four questions you should ask about your brand to ensure it plays well in digital
Digital Stress Test

Digital marketing is far outpacing traditional forms of advertising. The average daily time spent with digital media in the United States is expected to increase from 439 minutes (seven hours and 19 minutes) in 2022 to close to eight hours in 2025*. Now more than ever, it is essential for companies to do an audit of their brand to see if it plays well with the needs of digital.

Here are four questions you should ask about your brand to ensure it will work well in a digital marketing environment:

  1. Is your logo visually set up to play well in the digital space?

This is the most basic but also one of the most important aspects to manage, due to the sheer volume of locations your logo will appear. Ideally, you are asking this at every step of your brand’s visual development.  

Think about the number of people who will encounter your ads online vs. out in the real world, and make sure your brand looks as good to them as to the people who will see your billboards in Times Square.

When you invest time and money on a rebrand, it can be tempting to focus on the bigger, shinier places the branding will appear. You might look at the logo and tagline mocked up in billboards, magazine ads, and maybe even on swag like t-shirts and water bottles — but how does the branding look in a tiny 12k mobile banner ad or scaled down in the circular icons for your social handles? Think about the number of people who will encounter your ads online vs. out in the real world, and make sure your brand looks as good to them as to the people who will see your billboards in Times Square. The fact of the matter is that there are likely more eyeballs on your digital creative.

The best way to guarantee visual success is to not only look at your logo and taglines in the best-case mockups, but also pressure test them in some of the worst-case placements on the web, where they will be small and very compressed. Doing this will help catch things like logos that are unreadable under a certain size or colors that don’t compress well in a low-res jpg. It also enables you to plan ahead and establish rules around what to do in those cases. This isn’t to say you should change your logo just for digital, but you do need to make sure you’ve planned and established guidelines to make sure it looks its best there.

  1. Have you clearly defined your brand voice?

Depending on where in the funnel an ad sits, the messaging in your marketing materials will be quite different. To further complicate matters, the people crafting that messaging will often be in different departments or even different agencies. If you haven’t established a clear tone of voice for your brand, chances are slim that your overarching communications will remain cohesive.

However, if you’ve established a clear brand voice and have taken the time to spell out your messaging north star, it will go a long way towards ensuring your ads maintain a cohesive overall tone. For example, should the tone of voice be witty and casual or professional and formal? Is your north star about giving your customers the best value or offering them a premium experience they can’t get anywhere else? Clearly spelling out these brand tenets ensures that at every stage of the funnel, your brand is laddering up to the same overall message while still allowing the flexibility to cater the more granular messaging to its proper place in the funnel.

  1. How flexible are your brand guidelines and assets?

As important as it is to clearly define things, it is also equally vital to build flexibility into your core brand guidelines to ensure your visuals and messaging work well in a multitude of situations. Digital advertising is all about scalability — both physical scale (ads online come in all shapes and sizes) and also scale of volume (to do things well, you want to be able to A/B test, optimize and improve all the time).

You don’t want to create assets or rules for your brand that force your digital agency to either break your guidelines out of necessity or follow your guidelines to less-than-optimal results. 

As a digital-first agency for over 15 years, we frequently receive assets that were only created for one exact size and aspect ratio — for example, print materials or TV spots. It’s our job to figure out how to build a complete set of assets out of them. This often means taking a video shot at 16×9 with close crops and resizing it to fit into vertical placements like a 9×16 with UI elements covering the top third and bottom third of the screen — and resizing it to fit in horizontal placements like a 728×90 banner ad. We expect this on one-off campaigns, and we have figured out all sorts of ways to make it work over the years, but when it comes to brand-level assets that need to work for the long term, you don’t want your digital partners to have to skirt around your brand guidelines just to make things work in the digital space.

As a brand, the ideal scenario is to create a strong and memorable brand identity without imposing overly rigid rules that might hinder its digital adaptation and effectiveness.

  1. How well do your digital assets work with each other and within the rest of your brand ecosystem?

Once you’ve addressed the first three questions in this article, this last one should go more smoothly — but it is still an important step. Take a look at your creative materials on a macro level and then a micro level to make sure there is a throughline that connects everything.

On the macro level, this means asking yourself if all your marketing materials feel like they are coming from the same place. At the micro level, this means seeking out the places where items intersect to make sure the look and message work cohesively. This way, people will know what your brand is communicating and what action or feeling you are asking them to take away from every interaction. 

For example, if you have an email campaign driving to an app download, does that email look like it’s coming from the same company as the app? If you have a banner campaign enticing people with 50% off, does their click take them to a page on your site that re-enforces the same offer? Or, do they land on the home page, where there isn’t a discount in sight? Have you set up your digital assets to be versatile so that if you roll out a new look on TV for a holiday campaign, you can quickly swap in new colors or graphics so the ads can seamlessly blend into that campaign? 

It’s always more fun to look at best-case scenarios. But only when you scrutinize your branding from all angles can you ensure that you’re getting the highest possible return for all your marketing efforts. The fact is, digital has become one of the most important forms of advertising, so it is essential to make sure your branding works in the digital space. Ask yourself the four questions above, and if your answers are positive, chances are, you’re on the right track.

*According to A. Guttmann via Statista