At present, technological advancement allows for various innovative methods of marketing, management, and other ways to engage with potential customers. Among these frameworks, digital branding has been gradually receiving more attention due to the efficiency of online advertisements and the impact of digitalization on the daily lives of most people. In general, this concept refers to a combination of internet branding and digital marketing to create a positive image of the brand and engage with the consumers (Robertson 2019). As a result, a large variety of organizations utilize this strategy to establish an online presence and ascertain a connection between the brand and the customers. The current board paper analyzes the underlying principles of digital branding and applies this information to evaluate the digital brand of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Digital Branding Definition
As mentioned briefly before, digital branding is one of the latest iterations in marketing and comprises both digital management and internet branding. Nevertheless, the core principles of the theory have not changed drastically since the first implementation of traditional brands (Swaminathan et al. 2020). In general, a brand refers to a ‘mix of tangible and intangible assets that act as a marker or identifier, and in legal terms, “separate the undertaking of one business from that of another”‘ (Bailey and Milligan 2019, p. 1). In other words, brands play a critical role in the contemporary markets, differentiate organizations from one another, and help customers make weighted choices. As a result, the significance of brands and the opportunity of digital development have paved the way for digital branding as one of the most effective methods of contemporary marketing.
Eurovision Song Contest Overview
The current paper discusses digital branding based on the case of the Eurovision Song Contest. As seen from the name, Eurovision is an international competition of song writing and performance, which is governed by the European Broadcasting Union (Eurovision 2021). It was first held in 1956, with only seven European countries competing while performing songs in their national languages (Eurovision 2021). Since then, Eurovision has taken place annually with the host countries changing each year. In recent years, approximately 50 counties have participated in the annual competition, transparently indicating the popularity of the event (Eurovision 2021). It is transmitted live via the EBU in Europe and other broadcasting companies in America, Africa, and Asia. The winner of the contest is determined based on the votes of the professional jury and viewers (Eurovision 2021). Ultimately, Eurovision is a highly prominent international competition that attracts more and more public each year.
Digital Branding of Eurovision
Having reviewed the definition of digital branding and examined the history of Eurovision, it is possible to conduct a thorough analysis of the current digital brand of the contest. The primary characteristics of digital branding include logo, website, brand messaging, search engine optimization, and platforms of marketing, such as social media and e-mails (Robertson 2019). Each of the factors directly affects the overall efficiency of digital branding and establishes the online presence of the organization. Consequently, some experts propose the management framework based on the said characteristics. Figure 1 below demonstrates the general chart of digital branding:
As seen from Figure 1, digital branding is a complex concept that utilizes a wide array of marketing strategies and online positioning. From these considerations, it is essential to break down the theory into separate processes and evaluate the significance of the characteristics. The current chapter thoroughly analyzes each of the proposed factors and illustrates them on the example of the Eurovision digital brand.
A logo is one of the most meaningful determinants of a brand, which directly influences the effectiveness of the marketing framework. In general, a logo is a certain image that the customers identify the brand with (Luffarelli et al. 2019: 89). A large variety of experts emphasize the importance of logo design and message as the primary factors to create the brand personality and attract loyal customers (Luffarelli et al. 2019: 89). In other words, a well-designed logo should take the values, target audience, positioning, and mission of the company into consideration (Robertson 2019). Furthermore, these factors should be coherently integrated into the visual aesthetics of the image. For instance, Chen and Bei (2018) emphasize the frame of the logo as the signature design element and prove their theory on the example of Starbucks. Ultimately, the logo should be memorable and brand-specific to successfully capture the attention of the customers.
Concerning the current case study, the Eurovision Song Contest has a unique and rich history of logo representation. Since the establishment of the competition in 1956, the EBU wanted to promote creativity, art, music, and international communication through the contest (Eurovision Services 2021). From these considerations, it was essential to compose such a logo that would represent these values and unite the countries in a peaceful manner. There have been a large number of official logo iterations throughout more than 60 years of event history; however, the standard visual representation remained relatively similar, which can be seen below in Figure 2:
The presented Eurovision logo is a simple image with a heart-shaped letter ‘V’, which is generally painted over with the colors of the host country’s flag. For instance, the 2018 Eurovision event in Lisbon was generally represented by the logo provided in Figure 3:
The heart and the national colors symbolize the primary values of the event, such as the celebration of music, creativity, and freedom of international communication (Eurovoix News 2020). Ultimately, creating a simplified logo for such a large brand is a complicated task; however, the Eurovision official logo has retained its form for many years and is now easily recognized throughout Europe and other parts of the world.
Furthermore, the EBU allows the host countries to create a complementary logo and slogan to emphasize the international nature of the contest. For instance, the official logo and explanation for the canceled Eurovision 2020 and Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam is presented in Figure 4:
Despite the simple idea of the image, the logo transparently conveys the emotion of international connection while underlining the significance of the host country as well (Eurovoix News 2020). On the other hand, past Eurovision events have also attempted to send other messages and emotional stimuli. For instance, the 2017 Eurovision event in Ukraine has commemorated cultural and ethnic diversity as the focus of the contest and, consequently, chosen ‘Celebrate Diversity’ as the slogan (Eurovoix News 2020). The complementary logo was also more innovative and creatively complex compared to the official image of the competition. The logo iteration and some other uses of the visual representation are demonstrated below in Figures 5, 6, and 7:
Ultimately, a logo is an essential component of the brand, and the displayed images transparently demonstrate how logos can be used for effective marketing campaigns.
Unlike logos, which are commonly used both in traditional and digital mediums, websites primarily concern digital branding. Historically, websites were commonly utilized by brands to share information, media, and notify customers of potential updates (Gielens and Steenkamp 2019: 374). However, at present, they are also used to raise awareness concerning the brand and to sell merchandise (Gielens and Steenkamp 2019: 374). Evidently, compared to retail corporations, such as amazon or apple, this factor is not as relevant for Eurovision and EBU; nevertheless, the websites do offer the possibility to purchase merchandise and music (Shop Eurovision 2021). Consequently, websites could be used to establish closer contact with the general public, namely, to answer direct questions about the brand, redirect customers to social media, and publish news with the option of live chatting (Robertson 2019). Lastly, organizations frequently post financially relevant information for potential investors, and, therefore, increase the scope of influence. Ultimately, websites are utilized for various purposes and are essential in the framework of digital branding.
The Eurovision and EBU websites follow the standard principles of the management and are primarily used to share information, notify of updates, and sell merchandise. At the moment, the sales website offers clothing, accessories, collectibles, and utensils of the common Eurovision theme, emphasizing the upcoming event in Turin, Italy (Shop Eurovision 2021). While it is not the core objective of the brand, Eurovision has a large number of loyal customers, and it is crucial to provide them with the possibility of purchasing brand-specific merchandise. Furthermore, the Eurovision website offers a large variety of information, ranging from the history of the event to social media links (Eurovision 2021). On the other hand, the EBU website presents a more formal outlook of the organization, providing information on upcoming events, financial data for investors, and news on vacant occupations (EBU 2021). From these considerations, the two websites fulfill their roles in digital branding development and enhance the connection between the organization and its customers.
Consequently, messaging is another significant factor that defines the attitude of customers toward the brand. Namely, this concept covers the vision and objectives of the company incorporated in the text form (Robertson 2019). For instance, as demonstrated briefly before in Figure 1, tone of voice is one of the definitive factors of the brand’s credibility. Therefore, depending on the target audience and platform, it is crucial to choose the appropriate wording and tone to attract the public (Robertson 2019). Furthermore, the correct message assists the brand to establish its identity and helps people build a solid association of the motto with the organization (DeLane 2017). As a result, slogans constitute a vital part of the overall brand messaging strategy, incorporating the values of the company in a short message.
The mottos of Eurovision events throughout the years transparently reflect the brand messaging strategy and highlight such values as unity, creativity, emotions, magical environment, and diversity. Figure 8 provides the list of Eurovision slogans from 2002 to 2021:
As seen from the list, most of the slogans transparently indicate the values of the brand and indicate the chosen brand messaging strategy. A large number of the mottos appeal to emotions, heart, dreams, and unity; however, they also discuss some of the political notions as well. For instance, the 2004 Istanbul motto, ‘Under the Same Sky’, indicates the objective of Turkey to be accepted to join the EU (Güvendik 2020: 98). Therefore, while the slogans should represent the overall values of Eurovision brand messaging strategy, host countries can integrate their own vision and objectives into the mottos as well.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a crucial role in digital branding. This concept generally refers to a procedure of boosting the amount of traffic on the websites and social media of the brand via search engine entries (Iskandar and Komara 2018: 1). It is commonly achieved via various algorithms that rank the value of keywords and site information (Iskandar and Komara 2018: 1). From these considerations, it is essential to construct the websites and social media accounts using the regular guidelines; for instance, it is advisable to check Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to adjust the website and improve its rankings according to the SEO framework (Robertson 2019). As a result, eminent SEO ratings ensure the visibility of the brand in the online medium. In turn, high visibility of the brand significantly increases the awareness of the public concerning the values and mission of the brand, which has a positive impact on the overall organizational development.
While SEO is an essential part of digital branding for most companies, it is not as relevant for Eurovision and the EBU. Ultimately, Eurovision is a world-known established brand; therefore, most search entries are done specifically to learn more information about the event. On the other hand, SEO is particularly useful for smaller organizations that want to achieve a stable position in the market. As a result, SEO might be beneficial for the Eurovision brand to establish its presence outside of Europe, specifically, in regions, where English is not the dominant language; however, it should not be the priority of the organization concerning digital branding.
Social Media and Other Means of Marketing
Lastly, social media and other means of marketing, such as e-mail distribution and context advertisements, are utilized for digital branding development and attracting new customers. At present, practically every brand utilizes social media as an instrument to share information, notify potential customers of updates, and establish a bond with the clients (Robertson 2019). This phenomenon is explained by the vast prominence of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and nation-specific social media platforms. Furthermore, in the English-speaking part of the world, most people have a media presence to some degree, which allows organizations to target them with contextual advertising and content marketing (Robertson 2019). Ultimately, social media plays a critical role in digital branding and should always be prioritized by organizations.
Eurovision and the EBU also utilize a wide range of social media platforms to establish a closer connection with the consumers. The official website has redirection links to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the recent addition of TikTok (Eurovision 2021). As a result, people can receive the news concerning Eurovision and associated events from any platform of their preferences. Furthermore, the content on the platforms slightly varies: for instance, the Instagram page with nearly one million followers primarily consists of media posts, including performances from older events and even live chats with Eurovision stars (@eurovision 2021). On the other hand, the Twitter page generally publishes the recent news associated with the events (Eurovision 2021). Nevertheless, all the Eurovision social media platforms have a large impact on the overall digital branding of the organization.
Organizational Context of the European Broadcasting Union
Having discussed the underlying principles of digital branding and their application to Eurovision and the EBU, it is possible to conduct a more thorough analysis of the organization’s strategies. The popularity of Eurovision has increased greatly over the last fifteen years; for instance, the number of viewers was approximately 106 million in 2006, while more than 200 million people watched the show in 2016 (Post, 2021). At present, the event is broadcast via traditional telecommunication networks and streaming platforms, such as YouTube, which also has a positive impact on the overall viewership. As a result, the increasing influence of Eurovision significantly affects the European Broadcasting Union and its correlated activities.
The European Broadcasting Union is an alliance of a large variety of media organizations. It implies that the EBU particularly benefits from increasing a media scope and attracting new members. At present, the alliance consists of 69 members, which are, in turn, are represented by 115 organizations in 56 various countries (EBU, 2021). The EBU positions itself as a group of public service media, which are completely free from any kind of government propaganda and only act in the interests of the consumers (EBU, 2021). Furthermore, the alliance supports public service journalism, educational events, and technological research within the industry (EBU, 2021). Concerning the media coverage, the EBU broadcasts various sports events and organizes smaller dancing, singing, and circus competitions (EBU, 2021). Ultimately, other activities of the EBU correlate with Eurovision and achieve similar objectives.
As mentioned before, Eurovision Song Contest conveys the ideals of the EBU and significantly affects its popularity. Since its establishment, Eurovision stood for equity, unity, international communication, and freedom of expression, and these values are reflected in the organizational development of EBU. As a result, people and organizations who appreciate these qualities might learn about the EBU from watching Eurovision and consequently become members or contribute to the alliance. From these considerations, it is essential to develop the influence of Eurovision as the most notable EBU event, and digital branding is an effective instrument of achieving this objective.
Similar to various global events, such as the Olympics or World Cups in sports, the objective of Eurovision is to unite people and demonstrate the emotional power of art and creativity. In the same way, the EBU supports public service journalism free from government influence. Nevertheless, international competitions are frequently associated with politics, cultural diplomacy, and influential social messages (Post, 2021). As a result, in spite of the best efforts of the EBU to retain Eurovision free of politics, the event is a place of international confrontation and competition, which, unfortunately, may result in negative connotations (Post, 2021). For instance, any objective political messages or slogans are prohibited in songs; nevertheless, songwriters might avoid this regulation via an intelligent usage of symbolism and metaphors (Post, 2021). Therefore, one of the current key management issues of the EBU is to mitigate any potential political influence and maintain Eurovision as an event of unity and creative freedom.
Digital Branding Challenges
Consequently, it is essential to discuss any potential challenges and risks of digital branding. Some of the most prominent issues include the lack of quality content, privacy breaches, inadequate interaction methods, focus on a single platform, deficit of marketing creativity, and a product-oriented approach (DMCG, 2021). The mentioned risks can also be applied to the digital branding of Eurovision to a certain extent. For instance, privacy breaching is a major concern for every organization operating in digital space, and quality content, such as audio and video records, is lacking since the event takes place only once a year. Content marketing on social media platforms and websites is an essential part of digital branding; therefore, the content deficit is one of the major issues that affect the development of the brand (Vineran 2017: 95). The Eurovision brand performs considerably well in regard to omni-channel marketing, utilizing various kinds of social media platforms, websites, and contextual advertising; however, the lack of content is a significant obstacle to digital branding development.
Furthermore, subjectively, the most notable digital branding challenge of Eurovision is the lack of personalized content and infrastructure. Eurovision has always represented such values as unity and international communication, which might also imply that all viewers should have the same experience. In other words, the mission of the organization is product-oriented and focuses on the quality of the performances. While it was a successful strategy in the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, the continuous digital advancement has allowed for innovative methods of immersive interactions that are specifically tailored to the preferences of the viewers (Kristines 2018). As a result, the current trends of digital marketing and branding significantly emphasize the experience of each customer individually (Kristines 2018). Furthermore, this approach is utilized by a large variety of organizations and services, which might make the Eurovision infrastructure seem outdated. Ultimately, it might benefit Eurovision and the EBU to implement additional methods of personalized content and immersive interaction.
Brand Development Justification
As seen from the previous sub-chapter, Eurovision and the EBU are affected by a large variety of common digital branding challenges to a certain extent. Nevertheless, the event has demonstrated a rapid increase in popularity in the 21st century, which assures the correct decision-making concerning brand development. Concerning the quality content, the organization is able to mend the problem by utilizing not only video and audio records from past events but also news about relevant musicians, live chats, and even interesting statistical data (Eurovision 2021). Additionally, while the event emphasizes depersonalized interaction with a focus on international communication, it might not be as detrimental to the development of the organization. In other words, while this approach might be harmful to most companies, Eurovision has retained its niche as the place of unity and creative freedom regardless of the preferences of individual customers. Arguably, the event would still benefit from more personalized interactions; however, it is not an extensive obstacle for digital branding development as it would be for most organizations.
Furthermore, concerning the standard digital branding strategies, such as logos, brand messaging, and social media presence, Eurovision has demonstrated exemplary performance. The concept of official and complementary logos, which change annually depending on the host country, has allowed creating the sense of international communication without diminishing the presence of the host nation. Brand messaging has also been highly effective in conveying the values of the event, such as unity and creative freedom. Lastly, Eurovision has a presence on a large variety of prominent social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Ultimately, while there are certain challenges to the development of the brand, Eurovision has gained significant popularity by following the general rules of digital branding.
While the prominence of Eurovision keeps growing each year, some adjustments to the development strategy might facilitate the expansion. As mentioned briefly before, the two primary challenges are lack of quality content and customer-oriented interactions. Eurovision has already made slight progress in resolving these issues by focusing on the most prominent performers from previous years and allowing people to live chat with them (@Eurovision 2021). It is an exemplary initiative, which simultaneously provides more quality content and appeals to the viewers. Therefore, the first recommendation would be to facilitate this process and seek more interaction with the stars of the show. Transforming the Eurovision candidates into prominent media figures might help Eurovision to build a more loyal fan base, that supports the organization throughout the whole year. Furthermore, conducting interviews and events with popular singers creates a large variety of engaging content.
Consequently, the organization needs to emphasize personalized content and immersive infrastructure. One of the most straightforward methods to resolve this issue is to invest in social media communication, including various tests, surveys, and interactive games, and create corresponding personalized content recommendation frameworks (Bok et al. 2019). At present, there is a large variety of techniques, such as text classification, neural networks, and scraping methods, to collect data about the customers or viewers and utilize it to create tailored content (Karthikeyan et al. 2019: 42). Various research demonstrates the notable impact of personalized and customized entertainment on brand development with no meaningful drawbacks (Trifts and Aghakhani 2018: 4). From these considerations, Eurovision and the EBU might significantly improve the popularity of the brand, attract new customers, and establish a more loyal viewership.
Digital branding is an essential marketing component in the era of the digital revolution and continuous technological progress. The organizations make every effort to establish a noticeable online presence and attract as many customers as possible. Since the establishment of Eurovision in 1956, the EBU has conveyed such values as unity, creative freedom, and international communication, while adjusting the branding strategy accordingly. At present, the media alliance follows the general rules of digital branding, and the overall viewership increases each year. Nevertheless, despite the growing popularity, the EBU struggles to maintain a sufficient amount of quality personalized content since the event occurs annually. From these considerations, the current paper has suggested two recommendations: transforming the image of popular competitors into relevant media figures for additional content and investing in frameworks of personalized content. Following these guidelines, Eurovision and the EBU may become even more prominent in the future.
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