Branding in the 21st Century: The rewards and challenges of building a brand in the Digital Age

Building a brand used to be a relatively straightforward process.

In order to be successful, businesses needed little more than a beautiful and memorable logo and a generous marketing budget. Armed with those simple things, business owners could buy ad time on radio and TV, place coupons in the local newspaper and drive customers through their doors.

Things have certainly changed.

At the dawn of the 21 stcentury there are more marketing outlets than ever before, yet the value of each one has been greatly diminished. Old-line newspapers are dying on the vine and looking for a way to remain viable in an increasingly digital world. Television viewers can whiz past commercials with the touch of a button, and radio is increasingly moving online and offering ad-free options.

With so many challenges to the old marketing and branding model, it has never been more important for business owners to adapt and change. If your company has been in business for decades, you have probably already seen major changes in the way you advertise, grow and protect your brand. If you are running a new startup, you are no doubt struggling to get the attention of consumers with an ever-increasing ability to tune out marketing messages.

In the 21stcentury, building a brand means taking advantage of every available marketing outlet, from traditional forms of advertising like radio and television to new media like Facebook and Twitter. Throughout all of those advertising media, the branding you create must be consistent and consistently positive.

One of the biggest differences between building a brand in the old days and doing so in the 21stcentury is the need to engage with customers. In the 20thcentury, marketing was largely a one-way street, with businesses buying ad time and consumers sitting passively as they watched TV, read the paper or listened to the radio.

These days marketing efforts need to be interactive to get results. Business owners are actively engaging with their customers through a variety of different platforms, and the ones who do it well are seeing excellent results.

Whether they are chatting with customers on Facebook, answering queries on Twitter or responding to negative reviews on Yelp!, those business owners understand the power of the brand and the need to protect it. They know that one wrong move could torpedo all their efforts, and they work hard to ensure that everything they do, both on social media and off, reinforces and enhances their brand.

In many ways building a brand is more difficult than it ever was before. Business owners need to navigate a myriad of different marketing outlets, from traditional social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to newcomers they may never have even heard of. At the same time they need to make the most of old-line media outlets like radio, television, magazines and newspapers. That is a lot to keep track of, and a lot to consider.

On the other hand, the introduction of so many new media outlets has served to level the playing field in some ways. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce and air a series of TV ads but next to nothing to record and post instructional videos on YouTube. Setting up a Facebook page and Twitter feed for your business costs nothing at all, leveling the playing field even more and allowing tiny startups to compete effectively against the biggest players in the industry.

Like everything else in the modern world, 21stcentury marketing and branding efforts are somewhat of a double-edged sword. In the end, what you get out of them is a direct reflection of the time and effort you put in.