We spend a great deal of time in this blog discussing how to drive traffic to your website using SEO and other marketing techniques. However one of the critical tools that will keep visitors returning to your website is the branding of your website. Once you have delivered traffic to your website, your visitors are now in the hands of your website’s content and your websites branding, the latter of which will contribute greatly in determining whether visitors will ever return … or not.
Branding is a pretty old idea. It came about as a simple solution to the issue of how to tell one persons’ cattle from another’s. I’m not an expert in the field (quite literally) but I’m willing to imagine that it was as simple as branding the name “Steve” on Steve’s cattle and “Bernie” on Bernie’s cattle – A simple technique that was later adopted by students worldwide to keep wandering hands off their provisions in the refrigerator (note: with varying degrees of success).
As we discuss Branding here today, we are still discussing a certain amount of ownership and though branding has evolved and become a powerful sales technique, the basic idea remains very much the same. Branding exists so that we (the consumers) can tell the difference between one business’ product and service from another business’ product or service and can make the “right” decision about which to purchase.
Branding is certainly not a light topic – there are entire publications as well as very many books that have been written on the subject, however to put it in a nutshell you could describe a ‘brand’ as an organization, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. This article should be considered as a starting point for further research.
The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller.” [Note: Abridged]
It is easy to explain using the definition above but a really good brand is a different entity altogether and is far greater than the sum of its parts. Branding has becomes an entity that has real psychological power over people.
I’m willing to bet that you know all (or most) of the Brands in the image below with no further explanation (you may already be connected with several of these brands):
Do you remember having a birthday party somewhere, or choosing where to go for your birthday… a restaurant, say. How did you choose where to go? What are the memories you have of the occasion? How did the experience it make you feel? Maybe a few years down the line you might see the logo of the restaurant and recall a memory or an idea that relates to the brand… and the happy memories of your birthday party.
Brands are designed to capture you on a subconscious level and not let you go!
At its very, very best a brand is a psychological stimulus that will sell a product or service before a salesman has even spoken to you but it relies upon your connection with the brand and the subconscious images and ideas it brings with it. Branding is important everywhere in business, no matter what your niche!
A brand is the visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with a company or a product. Here are some well-known branding examples.
When you think Volvo, you might think safety. When you think Nike, you might think of Tiger Woods or “Just Do It.” When you think IBM, you might think “Big Blue.” The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from the product or service.
While Brand-X cola, or even Pepsi-Cola, may win blind taste tests over Coca-Cola, the fact of the matter is that more people buy Coke than any other cola and, most importantly, they enjoy the experience of buying and drinking Coca Cola. The fond memories of childhood and refreshment that people have when they drink Coke is often more important than a little bit better cola taste. It is this emotional relationship with brands that make them so powerful. (Also, check out the Coke / Pepsi logo comparison below to see the great job that Coca-Cola did with their logo)
A brand is not just a logo, ad campaign, spokesperson or slogan. Rather a brand is a product of the millions of experiences a company creates with employees, vendors, reporters, communities, and customers—and the emotional feelings these groups develop as a result of their experiences.
A brand is the sum of all the characteristics that make your offering unique:
- Customer Service
- A Promise
- Product Line
Every business has a brand, whether they like it or not, whether they realize it or not, whether or not they have an expensive ad campaign or a new logo. A company has a brand whether it’s selling bread, beer, oxygen cylinders, accounting services, or chemicals. Even cities and geographic areas have brands – think New York, Los Angeles, Cape Cod and Detroit. Some cities have such a strong brand identities that they have products named after them to leverage this image—South Beach Diet, LA Fitness, Chevy Tahoe.
Your business has a brand. It’s the sum of everything your organization is, says, and does.
The question is, are you in control of your brand? When you are, your image will be clear and your results will be consistent. When you aren’t in control of your brand, the marketplace will let you know. You can see it for yourself with companies like AOL. They placed much emphasis on an initial push for consumer business which resulted in big sales, but whose service wasn’t able to keep up with the demand they created. Until AOL built greater capacity the results were dissatisfaction–even anger from consumers diminished trust.
Right, we’ve spent quite enough time discussing the brands of other business’ The purpose of this article is to get you creating a brand for your own website.
This process usually begins with brainstorming and I would certainly recommended that, even after you have picked the branding elements that you want for you website, give yourself a few days to think them over. Once you have branded your website and attracted a few visitors, you would be disappointing them and losing their trust. It would be tantamount to learning that overnight, McDonald’s had re-branded their primary color to green and changed their logo to a penguin diving off an iceberg… I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go down too well…
There are many things to consider and ask yourself questions about:
- What products and/or services do you offer? Define the qualities of these services and/or products.
- What are the core values of your products and services? What are the core values of your company?
- What is the mission of your company?
- What does your company specializes in?
- Who is your target market? Who do your products and services attract?
- What is the tagline of your company?What message does your tagline send to your prospects?
Using the information from the previous steps create a personality or character for your company that represents your products or services. What is the character like? What qualities stand out? Is the personality of your company innovative, creative, energetic, or sophisticated?
Use the personality that you created in the previous step and build a relationship with your target market that you defined in Step 5. How does that personality react to target audience? What characteristics stand out? Which characteristics and qualities get the attention of your prospects.
Review the answers to the questions above and create a profile of your brand. Describe the personality or character with words just as if you were writing a biography or personal ad. Be creative.
A logo identifies a business or product in its simplest form.
A logo is not your brand, nor is it really your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a business or product.
The identity or ‘image’ of a company is made up of many visual devices:
- A Logo (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
- Stationery (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
- Marketing Collateral (Fliers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
- Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
- Apparel Design (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
- Signage (Interior & exterior design)
- Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
- Other Communication (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
- Anything visual that represents the business.
A logo is for identification.
A logo identifies a company or product via the use of a mark, flag, symbol or signature. A logo does not sell the company directly nor rarely does it describe a business. Logo’s derive their meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to explain. In a nutshell, what a logo means is more important than what it looks like.
Here are several hands-on branding strategies for you to apply to your own Web site, using your business name and your own name:
- Repetition – This is very important: keep all of your design elements the same from page to page and make sure the key elements are always present. Most importantly, display your logo at the top of each page, consistently throughout your website. Your website must always have its own distinct “feel“.
- Newsletter Use your mailing list to push your domain name and slogan (consisting of your Unique Selling Proposition). If you have an newsletter (or a periodical e-magazine) create a header that contains your domain name and your slogan. Use this same header in every single issue.
- Domain name – Always use your domain name as your brand and put it everywhere; put it on all of your stationary (letter heads, business cards, post cards, statements, etc.).
- Signature file – Implement your USP into your signature file, so with every email you send visitors will be further and further exposed to your brand. Check out the help file of your email software for more on setting up sig files.
- Thank you pages – If you have online forms (for visitors to contact you, request more information, subscribe to your newsletter etc.), you most likely have a “thank you” page where you thank visitors for using your form. This is an excellent place to position your logo and slogan. Don’t clutter with lots of banners and marketing material. Keep it plain and simple.
- Ebooks – Create free books on subjects of interest to your visitors and allow them to re-distribute to their own visitors. Brand your ebook with your logo, domain name and slogan on every page of the ebook (also consider including your own name).
- Publish free articles – With thousands of new web sites and ezines popping up in Web land every month, the demand for high quality content is immense. You can provide articles for other webmasters/editors to publish on their Web sites/ezines. At the end of your article put your name and a link to your Web site, with short teaser copy to get people to click on your link (offer a free book, subscription to your ezine or some other enticing offer – see my resource box at the end for an example). This is free publicity at its best – not only will you get traffic back to your Web site; you’ll also add status and credibility to your name (provided your article is of high quality).
- Autoresponders – These are emails that are sent automatically to anyone who requests them (triggered by sending them an email). Autoresponders are great as they work 24 hours a day without any intervention on your part. Use them to send visitors free reports, articles, list of links, etc. And add your branding copy (logo, name, slogan, USP etc.) at the top and bottom of the autoresponder message, with a link back to your Web site. Nowadays all good Web hosts provide their customers with free autoresponders.
If you don’t brand, you’ll have a hard time surviving on the Web. If you do brand – properly – you’ll have a hard time not laughing all the way to the bank. And as shown by the above tips, online branding is not hard to do. Just implement the tips and you’ll be well on your way.
Remember that your branding can use tools offered to you by websites such as Facebook Twitter and YouTube to include your branding there, using your account control panel (and maybe a bit of markup code). Make sure your logo is always present so that regardless of how a visitor finds you, they will feel comfortable when they arrive at your website.
Remember: Your branding must be universal and repetitive if it is going to stick in the hearts and minds of your customers!
If your website does not stand out or stay fresh in the mind of your visitor then your website has done them an injustice! You will always be surprised at the effect that a well branded website will have versus a website that does not have such good branding. Simple things like an extra bit of though about the perceptions of your visitors and some design work can do wonders.
Make sure that you never let another website visitor leave your website without having been exposed to your branding and certainly don’t frighten them out by suddenly changing your branding!