Examining Recent Changes in Online Branding

By Adriaan Brits Saturday, August 22, 2020

Branding has come a long way since the times of distinguishing livestock from other livestock to a more product-focused market. It’s become an essential part of consumer culture, and businesses use it to showcase their products and who they are.

The online business world has moved and pivoted in tandem with the uprise and global shifts of technology in recent years, shaping a new definition of branding. Branding has moved online, with this, it’s created a more people-focused culture around it, transitioning from a more product-focused culture. This article will explore current research about recent changes in online branding over the years.

Four Key Online Branding Aspects

Branding and Relationships

The faces and functions of branding have changed over the years. With the advent of the digital age, brands of all types are available with a click. Digital devices have created new bridges between consumers and companies, as well as employers and employees. Online branding has become a two-way street, moving away from the more one-sided methods of how businesses communicate with their brands.

Branding typically focused on mass production during the first half of the twentieth century with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Mass production of products became the cornerstone of consumerism and how branding communicated. However, as times have changed, the world has entered an “information age” in which “knowledge and communication” have become the cornerstones of consumer culture.

According to a recent research article, subjectivity has become an important aspect of the product-consumer relationship, and “consumers no longer only bought a trademarked product to consume the good but also for the experience that the brand provided.”

Brands have almost become human-like. The same research article further states that “brands define and convey aspects of ourselves, our national identity, and the groups that we, as consumers, desire to belong to and be associated with.”

Online branding is no longer just about images and logos. Instead, it’s about the values and relationships that are forged with the brand and the consumption; this is evident in the world of social media platforms where brands engage with their customers.

Branding and Responsibility

As online branding has permeated the digital world and social media platforms have created multiple avenues for the world to speak into, online brands have taken more responsibility in terms of socio-economic concerns. Recent research on branding explores new questions about deeper social and environmental issues and how they can address them.

A brand management research article posits important questions: “What roles can brands play in sharing ‘deep’ values of people and how; how can they be part of solving climate change or sustainability problems via behavior change; how can they address manipulations that are happening and will continue to happen with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI).” These questions move the needle on how brands take responsibility for their place not only in the physical world but also in the online world.

Branding, Employers, Employees, and Consumers

Internal employer branding is also another aspect that has been researched. A recent research paper suggests that employers are now faced with more challenges to achieve their branding communication objectives, mainly due to the rise of social media and the vast new digital world where most companies are competing for online traction.

A Kimball study reiterated that social media is becoming a "channel for consumer engagement." As millions of people are attracted to Social Networking Sites (SNS), companies are using these as strategies to reach consumers, especially through visual communication.

For example, Kimball states that more than 30,000 Facebook brand pages with images were more "popular" online; however, more research is being done on the most effective SNS and consumer engagement techniques.

According to strategy researchers, employees can be seen as a competitive advantage — an "internal customer," exposed to "the employer’s brand value proposition." Employees become a part of a company’s online branding strategy, which creates more opportunity to deliver value to external consumers and communicate the company’s message more effectively.

Additionally, employees are encouraged to utilize an online digital platform to ‘share’ their employer and employer-branding experience. In this way, the employees’ expectations are shaped.

Brand Promotion in the Age of Marketing Revolution

Currently, the world is going through a mass information age, referred to as the Marketing Revolution. As more companies move to online platforms, there is more competition to get a message across to customers. Brand promotion and communication has become an essential key task to undertake for any company existing online. One case study on the effectiveness of branding reports that the “digital branding mode” will become the primary way of “brand promotion for all enterprises.”

Online branding has shifted its course in the global online market, as the world has become more interconnected, so has the relationships between brands, their employees, and consumers. Additionally, online branding has become varied in terms of standing for social issues that reach beyond the brand. In all, online branding has become a force to be reckoned with.

About the Author


Headshot of author Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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