While it was a coincidence that the 2008 ad:Tech conference in New York took place on the days immediately preceding and following Obama's presidential win, it was no coincidence that his win was due, in good part, to a brilliant understanding of how digital tools can and should be used to reach and engage consumers. It was apparent from the hundreds of attendants and many insightful presenters at the conference that digital tactics as part of a wise marketing strategy are no longer a "nice to have,' but a "must have." Obama's team had them and used them wisely. It was also apparent from the number of digital organizations with booths or speakers at the Ad:Tech conference that players in the digital space have grown exponentially from 2007 to 2008. Unlike the first digital boom in 2001, most of these players have some tangible offer or service to provide. A money-generating business model is always a smart first step. Unfortunately, like many of the players in the first digital boom, a good many of these youthful businesses will most likely not make it to Ad:Tech 2009. Why? From my branding perspective there are three reasons. First, a good many of them have not found a way to differentiate their businesses in a way that is relevant to the consumers they'd like to reach. A commodity product on the detergent aisle is no different from a commodity product in the digital realm. Second, from what I saw, there's a lot of atrocious branding out there. This mostly had to do with product and service names; either ultra-generic or ultra-clever, neither tied to the promise of the brand. This brings me to the third reason many newly-minted digital businesses might not make it. In this ultra-scary economy, everything a business does has to be incredibly efficient, especially the branding. If I can't instantly tell from your brand's name what it does, I'll pass it by. If I can't immediately understand what makes it different and useful to me, I'll pass it by. If I don't know how to use what you offer to successfully reach and engage the consumers I want to connect with, I'll pass it by. Just as there was a shake out of less than exemplary brands in the first age of digital, there is going to be a shake-out in this new digital age. This time, however, it will be a result of not being able to communicate quickly and simply why your brand is different and better along with not having a brilliant understanding of how digital tools should be used to win voters, uh, I mean consumers.