Digital business and the brand promise

The University of Stellenbosch Business School’s We Read For You event is a forum where a highly rated book of topical interest is read by an industry thought leader and presented freely to interested parties.

On Friday, 7 August 2015 Di Charton reviewed the book Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy by R Wang. Wang is the CEO of Constellation Research, a consultancy that brings “Silicon Valley insights to global leaders”.

Charton’s talk was engaging and interspersed with relevant examples. As former managing director of the Red and Yellow School of Marketing and a regular commentator on marketing industry trends, Charton brought a unique insight and analysis to the presentation.

The presentation was centred around what it means and what it takes to run a business in a digital age.

It’s a complex question with many different avenues to explore and countless (right) answers. Here are the two main insights I took from the talk.

1. Brand is key

In order to move forward in a digital world businesses need to understand the critical importance of brand. Brand is what the consumer feels about you and “in an interconnected world the authenticity of the brand promise is absolutely important”.

As such, brands need to keep their promises, and deliver authentic experiences and outcomes. Essentially brands need to know what they want to be and live and die by it.

In order to achieve this brands need to be:

  • Transformation focussed
  • Relevant
  • Authentic
  • Intention driven
  • Networked

2. Understand and live the why

If transparency, authenticity and relevance are the currency of the digital age, then businesses first need to understand their “why”, that is their purpose/cause/belief/reason for existence, in order to gain traction in this new era. Simply, brands need to understand their reason why and stay true to it as all costs.  

Charton refers to leadership expert Simon Sinek’s prolific “golden circle” TED Talk where he postulates that your “why” is the thing that gets people to buy into your vision, ideology, product or service. And only when brands have an understanding of their own why can they capitalise on that and draw people close to their ethos and objectives.

Sinek’s talk is a must-watch for anybody interested in brand building or even just the human psychology that drives brand loyalty.


Only when brands fully understanding their purpose – which means being able to answer the “why?” question – can they embrace the opportunities that operating in a digital world presents.

These were just key takeouts from the presentation. Charton’s slides and a video recording of the talk is available.

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