Those who know me know that I am both a branding geek and a David Ogilvy fan.

Mr. Ogilvy is possibly the single-most important individual contributor to advertising and marketing in the history of the discipline. The man invented the concept of brand image. The fact that he created this definition decades before the digital age is irrelevant.

A brand is the intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.
– David Olgilvy

A brand is a brand is a brand.

What has changed are the primary delivery methods we use to present some of the brand attributes, namely reputation and advertising or promotion. Print is quickly going the way of the Dodo, and even digital channels are evolving at high speed. For example, gone are the days when websites were merely digital versions of printed catalogues and brochures. Today a good website is a carefully planned brand experience and expression of the brand story.

Digital channels allow brands to be built and toppled at a rapid pace thanks to things like viral videos and the ability for anyone with an opinion to voice it loud and clear in the comments section.

Social media, for example, has given marketers new ways to build brands – and new ways to ruin them, too. Just think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge or the recent United Airlines scandal and their impact on both popular culture and the reputation of those two brands. That’s why social media content needs to be selected with care, and big brands – from the CEO to the most junior employee – in particular need to always behave as if a camera is rolling. If they don’t, they’ll see their misdemeanours posted to YouTube for all the world to see and judge.

Email marketing is another delivery method that can provide great value or great detriment to your brand, depending on how you use it.
Good for brand: Strategic campaigns full of high-value content, delivered to the right people at the right point in the buying cycle.
Bad for brand: Scatter-shot email blasts to anyone and everyone, or sending out irrelevant content.

The former is modern marketing nirvana. The latter is simply hellish. Unsubscribes rise, engagement falls, spam complaints mount up. The brand is irrevocably damaged in the eyes of the affected inbox owners. You will likely never, ever get them back. Oh, and lack of compliance with CASL and other regulations can cost you big bucks in hefty fines.

The internet has given us myriad ways to disseminate content and engage our target audiences, while also gathering an unprecedented opportunity to collect data about those audiences. But how you collect that data and what you do with it can make or break your brand online.
Gated content – the practice of asking a visitor to fill in a form to download a whitepaper or register for a webinar – is a fabulous lead generation tool. But it’s important to not get greedy in the process. Long forms that ask for too much information are a definite turn-off, for example.

And I’m sure we’ve all been victims of the jump-the-gun sales rep so keen to make quota that we feel violated. Case in point is a situation I’m experiencing as I write this blog. I used my personal email address and mobile phone number to fill in a bunch of Stay Informed CTAs with one of our client’s competitors. I do this when I want to analyze their email marketing campaigns to see how we can make ours better.
This time, I regret it bitterly. I have had a sales rep not only bombarding me with emails, but that same rep has called my mobile every single day for three weeks.

Every. Single. Day. For. Three. Weeks.

I would unsubscribe, but I haven’t received the promised e-newsletter yet. I can assure you that I will get myself off that list the instant it lands in my inbox. I can also assure you that no company I am ever affiliated with will ever buy a single item from the company that employs our rabidly enthusiastic sales rep. Brand damage = permanent.

And speaking of unsubscribes, you’d better honour those requests if you want to keep your brand’s reputation.

Then there’s the security of customer and prospect data. There’s not much that can destroy a brand reputation faster than the news of customer data being compromised. Make sure you have all the safeguards you can in place to protect your customers, and your standing.
So, although Mr. Ogilvy wasn’t talking about digital marketing when he defined brand – he died in 1999 when only 4% of the world’s population had internet access – his thinking holds true.

You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.

Every ad is an investment in the long-term image of a brand.

For fun, check out more David Ogilvy quotes. You’re welcome.