Branding and the Digital World — 20 Years of Change

Can you believe it’s been almost 20 years since we were all terrified of the millennium bug?

With the year 2020 coming into sight, it seems a good time to reflect on how branding has developed over the last two decades. Here at Popple Kharlamova, as a York design agency with over 23 years’ experience in the industry, we’ve seen a lot of changes….

Back at the turn of the millennium, a lot of homes still didn’t have internet access and many of those that did were using a shared phone line and a dial-up connection. (Remember that zany, Sci-fi sound of dial-up?) To a lot of companies back then, branding still meant little more than having a smart logo at the top of a letter!

As internet technology developed, a company website went from being a novelty to an absolute necessity. By 2010, if you weren’t online you were nowhere. Branding was transformed by this shift because the company website wasn’t just a virtual shopfront but a platform for a brand to communicate what it was really all about.

With web design becoming more advanced, we branding professionals saw more and more ways to connect with customers. An “About Us” section of a website allowed brands to tell their story and clearly communicate their ethos.

The company blog became a standard tool that, to some extent, by-passed the traditional press release-to-media route to communicating with the market. At our York web design office, we came to realise that even the particular shade of the background colour and the typeface used on the website was a critical element in branding.

 

Branding and social media

Another major shift was the development of social media. As Facebook, Twitterand Instagram grew in popularity, the whole relationship between a company and its market changed. Today, people talk about “brands” far more than “companies”, “designers”, “firms” or “manufacturers”. This change of vocabulary might seem trivial, but it’s really an everyday manifestation of a profound move in the way that customers relate to companies.

Posts on social media are now viewed alongside posts by friends and family. Some brands such as Sainsbury’s even wish their customers good night on Twitter, alongside recipe ideas and photos. (“Night night folks” and “we’re off home now” were both seen on their Twitter feed recently!)

Effective branding today is about a company using social media to create a connection to an individual and to develop an intimate bond. Branding, of course, still covers traditional elements such as logos, but it also has to consider the tone of voice of every single tweet. Every word, every exclamation mark used, or not used, is significant in communicating the brand’s voice and image.

As we move into the future, the technology we all use to communicate is developing faster than ever. Whatever form the branding of tomorrow takes, it’s clear that the psychological sophistication behind it is only going to increase. For expert branding insights, get in touch with us at hello@popplekharlamova.com. Alternatively, call our digital agency York on +44 (0) 7958 494713 or +41 79 927 66 73 for our Zurich office.

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