It's hard to place a tangible value on company brand and reputation. But C-level executives who have lived through a security breach or a product or service compromise understand the costs of brand damage--and the hard reality that it can take years to rebuild a damaged brand.

Because companies are what they represent themselves to be, it is imperative to infuse corporate digital strategy with total brand awareness. The unfortunate irony for many companies is that they create C-level positions for chief digital officers (CDOs), but they forget to link everything they do in their digital strategies to their marketing and their brand.

What are some of the ways companies communicate their brand through digital?

1: Websites that focus on the customer experience

Especially for companies that run online retail, it should be easy for customers to navigate websites and to do business online. These customers should be able to readily identify the company's brand, the values behind that brand, and the value of doing business with that brand.

Brand awareness is built by developing words and imagery that capture the brand's essence--and when the customer does business with the brand, the experience should be so seamless and intuitive that the customer never enters the website with a sense of trepidation. Brand awareness, ease of navigation, and ease of doing business are also important for organizations in healthcare, government, banking, etc. If it's difficult to file a claim online, to move funds online, or to get an answer online, customers will look elsewhere.

2: Unobtrusive analytics

For companies that use their websites to promote products and to match their product and service offerings to what they know are customer preferences and buying patterns, there is a fine line between helping customers become aware of a product they might like to purchase and overwhelming them with so many recommendations that it becomes intrusive and pushy. Part of the corporate digital strategy in sales and marketing should be to determine where these fine lines are, so customers receive the amount of privacy they want.

3: Social media

The company should maintain a social media presence on popular information pipelines like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter--and it should focus on directing some of the conversations about its products and its brand that take place in these channels. When negative comments appear, company representatives need to acknowledge the comments immediately and answer them constructively. The company can also use social media as a research source for potential input into new products and services.

SEE: Job description: Social media analyst

4: Mobile strategy

The world is going mobile, so companies need digital strategies that can address the smaller digital footprints of mobile devices with their brands and their offerings.

5: Email and text messages

If the company uses push emails or texts to customers who opt in for these messages, the development of messaging should continue to build and support the brand as well as the products or services that are being offered.

6: Channel integration (omnichannel)

There are still major brands that have failed to integrate their brick-and-mortar operations with their call centers and online operations. Some of these enterprises actually have separate companies or business units running the physical and online manifestations of brands and products. Almost a decade ago, retailers started talking about omnichannel--a concept that from the customer point of view means you could initiate a transaction with a company through any access channel (e.g., brick-and-mortar, phone, e-commerce)--and anyone on any channel would be able to track with you throughout your entire experience without losing sight of any issue. This is still a distant reality for many companies, and customers are left to do all the legwork to correct breakdowns. This doesn't help anyone's brand strength.

7: Security and privacy

Privacy policies should be clearly spelled out for customers. Security of website access and e-commerce should be ironclad. The last thing you want is to have to mitigate the damage caused by a privacy or a security breach.

Final remarks

Your digital strategy should create trust in your brand, faith in your products and services, and a great customer experience. Companies continue to underestimate the importance of these deeper levels of digital strategy execution. Thus far, they have been given a mulligan because customers do understand the difficulty of pulling all this together. But as more companies begin to mature their digital strategies, customer tolerance levels for poor digital performance will go down. It's not too early for CEOs to start talking about digital branding with their boards, their CDOs, IT, and the managers of their business units.