Building an Online Brand

Whether it’s products or services, customers are increasingly going online first in order to learn about, evaluate, and to select what you have to offer. Many people only consider buying from recognized brand names and are skeptical of the rest. That’s why building a recognizable online brand plays such a crucial role in improving your odds of success.

In this article, we will take you through just why branding is so important online, and the initial steps to take in establishing an online brand.

Everything talks

Ray Mithun was the visionary founder of the Campbell Mithun advertising agency in 1933. He established the young agency’s branding philosophy in an internal memo that proclaimed, “Everything Talks.” He explained that every component of communications should work together seamlessly, “like cogwheels.”

Your brand is not just a name, logo, and catchy tagline. It includes the totality of how you present your company, the reputation you’ve earned, and ultimately the overall brand perception of previous, current, and future customers.

Why building an online brand is important

Building an online brand is crucial for business growth. Strong branding can provide you with a competitive advantage during the awareness and consideration stages of the buying process. This is the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) which Google describes as “the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase.”

Once prospects become customers their experience with your brand can lead to a preference for what you have to offer. Ideally, this leads to repurchase/retention, loyalty and if you are really good, advocacy. Establishing this brand perception begins with the four pillars.

1. Vision

For your company to be attractive to consumers, a clear vision must guide it. Vision is what your brand works to achieve, dollars aside. It’s impactful, not monetary.

How do you discover your vision? Try to revisit your company’s origins, dig into your history to find out what inspired its founder to form it. Why did you create your product in the first place, beyond profit? Go beyond transactions and think about what you want people to think or feel long after they’ve used your product.

2. Values

Values are what is dear to you and your audience. Your values guide your organization and inform everything you do, and how you do it.

To nail your values, answer these 3 questions:

  • What are customers saying about you? Customer reviews or surveys of your audience can provide insights into what customers currently think you are doing well.
  • What is important to you? This question forces you to pinpoint your priorities, what’s important to you.
  • Why do you like your favorite brands? What about them makes you a loyal customer? The values you appreciate most are generally shared values.

3. Voice

Brand voice is how your company is perceived when it communicates with your audience. It includes the language, tone and personality. Establishing a brand voice should be based on your industry, audience, and intent of your communications. Your communications may range from fun, to informative to authoritative depending on the message, it still should sound like you, be consistent to be memorable.

4. Visuals

Often times the first introduction to your brand is visual.

Your logo is your brand “face.” As in personal relationships, it is often the first thing people notice about you and you want to make a great first impression. It can take many forms but it should be easy to distinguish from other brands and reflect your voice.

  • A brandmark or logomark is an icon or symbol that represents a brand without the accompanying name. This may be part of a family of logos and could include a mascot logo or an emblem. Think of the Olympic rings or any social media brand. Online businesses generally need a mark that can be used within the confines of each social media profile as well as for mobile badges and favicons.

  • The design of a lettermark may include the brand’s monogram or initials only. Think of NASA, New York Yankees, KFC, or your local university. These can take time to establish.

  • Wordmarks are common and generally feature a stylized version of the company name. Think of Coca-Cola and many other consumer brands.

  • Wordmarks, brandmarks, and lettermarks can stand alone but they can also appear in a lockup or combination mark. Brand guidelines may specify an arrangement that includes the company logo and a brand name locked together. Sometimes it could include a tagline or slogan. Lockups can also be specified to represent a company division or product brand. Think of Adidas and Wendy’s.

Beyond your logo or wordmark, there are additional visual branding elements that are key factors in the presentation of your brand. These include

  • Typography is more than font selection and includes everything to do with the appearance and style of the written word.
  • Colors are often unique to a brand eg. Coca-Cola red, IBM blue, and may evoke various emotional responses from customers. There was considerable push back when Cummins Inc. switched from Cummins blue to red and black. Research shows you can increase brand recognition by up to 80% by effective use of color.

How do you put it all together?

Creating the right brand identity is critical and can be a challenge to enforce across your company, your contributors, and various affiliates. Your online presence shouldn’t be determined by each programmer or content author. Brand standards documentation should pull all branding requirements together and be made available to anyone who is generating communications on behalf of your brand. Remember, “Everything talks.”

See this is interesting study that shows the evolution of logos for major companies and how difficult it is for people to draw the current logos from memory. Could your customers draw your logo?

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