What Is: Digital Brand Strategy



Faris Yakob is an award winning strategist, creative director, writer, public speaker and self-proclaimed geek.

Name: Faris Yakob (@faris)
Occupation: Strategist, Creative Director, Public Speaker, Writer. (Formerly Chief Innovation Officer of MDC Partners and founder of Spies and Assassins, a creative technology agency)

1. In 140 characters or less, what is Digital Brand Strategy?

How to deploy finite assets, budget, behavior & brand, to achieve predetermined business objectives, w/ digital platforms & customers.

2. What problem is a digital brand strategist solving? Why are they sitting at the table?

Strategy shouldn’t be fragmented into endless fractal versions of itself. All strategy is holistic, the direction of the whole towards the objectives of the whole.

Brand strategy, then, is a subset of strategy already, which takes business strategy and looks at how to best leverage the key intangible asset of the company – its brand.

Thus Digital Brand Strategy must understand how people are behaving on digital platforms and in the world, interacting with brands and each other and buying products. It’s impossible to separate the content, or the idea, from media on digital platforms, so digital brand strategists need to be hybrid thinkers, concerned with who and what and where and when and why – a complete system approach. Business, brand, behavior, technology, content, channel, social and so on.

3. Digital Brand Strategy is like a) a game of chess, b) making a pizza, c) a rubik’s cube or d) choose your own. Why?

Digital Brand Strategy is, like all strategy, about making decisions with finite knowledge, as best informed as you can be, while making guesses about all the other players in the market, and how culture is changing as well.

So, with that many players, maybe it’s more like World of Warcraft than chess, more like running a restaurant than making a pizza, and more like Meccano than a Rubik’s cube.

4. What’s your favorite part about this field? What gets you most excited?

It’s changing everyday. New platforms appear at the speed of Moore’s Law. Keeping up is part of the fun. So you have to keep learning, be willing to change your mind, experiment with each new platform as it emerges.

Shirky says that behavior is motivation filtered through opportunity. We are in the business of behavior, so we have to keep up with the new opportunities.

5. Name some common mishaps that tend to happen when a team or company doesn’t have a digital brand strategist?

I’ve seen some crazy ones. Creative concepts mocked up that have flash banners and homepage takeover on Facebook. Ideas sold in to clients that are technically impossible (I call this “selling pictures of time machines”). People accustomed to working in traditional advertising have learned to assume that anything is possible if you can get enough money, because anything is possible in a film with enough budget. That’s simply not the case with technology. You can draw a flux capacitor, but you can’t execute it, no matter the budget.

Another mishap stems from the media creative fracture. People concerned with content and creative paying no mind to how it will get into the world and vice versa.

People who don’t actually use digital platforms don’t have a complete understanding of the grammar, literal and social. That can lead to social media mishaps. It’s not enough to read about Vine, or whatever, you have to be using it as well.

6. What are some of your favorite books, links, resources, for someone interested in getting started in Digital Brand Strategy?

Goodness. Hoom. Great question.

Some of the core books would be about digital culture and the new understanding of human behavior.

Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky (@ClayShirky) and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I’ve also put together a couple lists here and here.

Other resources abound, with excellent decks on Slideshare (just search digital strategy and filter by views) and WARC which has so many excellent case studies and papers. Learning from what has worked before is still a good idea, even when things are changing fast.

Research and white papers abound, from companies like IBM, Accenture, and 360i, which are often excellent and helpful.

Most importantly, live online. Experiment, write, create – get used to how attention flows online, how people behave, how you build value for communities.

7. Any advice for an aspiring digital strategist?

When I give advice to young people I try to make it as vague as possible, because principles survive far longer than specifics in a world that marches to an exponential beat. Here are some I prepared earlier.

Oh and when applying for any kind of digital job, don’t forget to include URLs on the resume to point out where you live online.

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