The Sunday New York Times reported one more brick removed from traditional media's wall, as the Huff Post introduced an online weekly, available for the tablet via the Apple Store. As the article's writer, David Carr, points out, a few years ago this wouldn't have even been called a magazine. Ah, but how that has changed, with Arianna Huffington a powerful general leading the charge into the digital future.

We have also been writing and speaking quite a bit about digital, from the viewpoint of how consumers engage with it, and specifically how that digital engagement intersects with how they engage with brands. Tablets and digital share more than a critical symbiotic relationship, it turns out. They both represent a warning shot for brands. Those brands that fail to look beyond their category to the lessons in the tablet category are often those who have relegated digital to the playground of the brand – that space where the brand is trying things, with little or no strategic intent, even as digital applications multiply like a science fiction organism.

In our work in the tablet category, we find a stunning example of the sharp left that those who are highly engaged with digital technology – the Higitals – make when it comes to decision making. How they make that decision is striking in its hierarchy. While the general population seeks a brand name first to inspire confidence in their choice of a tablet, the Higitals squint their discerning eyes and examine things like design and advanced features first. They're looking for a not-so-little something called "innovation" from the brand. Only after completing that technological coal walk can the brand make the short list of possible choices. And, unlike the masses who are looking to paid digital messages from the brand, it's all about the earned media with Higitals. Who's writing and posting about you? It's blogs, online articles and social media connecting up with brand in that space.

Why should a shampoo or cereal or diaper brand care? Because even though those categories don't work the same at all, Higitals are buyers there, as well. And looking at how those folks see your world is to see the future. Understanding how they are using digital technology specifically in your category, enables you to be one of the brands that does more than experiment in the digital space, but instead links strategy to the technology consumers have adopted at blow-back speeds.

When it comes to tablets, here's how the world at large sees the top five brands that are doing it best when it comes to meeting their expectations:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon
  3. Samsung
  4. Barnes and Noble
  5. Asus

Steve Jobs once said, "The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have." And, we would argue, the better brand.