Branding has always been one of the most important aspects of marketing, right back to when advertising was first invented, and even before, when the brand on your cattle meant that everyone knew where they came from, and therefore how well they had been raised. There are many, many definitions of branding, but, for me, the one that sums it up best is still David Ogilvy's.
‘The intangible sum of a product's attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it's advertised" David Ogilvy
Ogilvy was the founder of Ogilvy and Mather, and one of the top ad men of all time, so I'm happy to take his word for it.
Not just your logo
The number one point to remember is that your brand is much more than just a nice logo. Your brand represents what your company or product means – based on your reputation and your customers' experience.
It includes your corporate identity, your logo, colours, name, strapline, tone of voice and image too. These provide a shortcut for your audience, a visual representation of your brand that tells them instantly who you are and what you stand for.
Online is different... or is it?
Brand marketing has been around for years, and FMCG companies made it into an art form in the days when brochures, press and TV ads were where budgets were focused.
But it's different online - isn't it?
Actually, the basics are pretty much the same. Your online brand is still a representation of what your company stands for. It still needs to be consistent and recognisable and reflect your reputation.
The difference is that there is so much more to think about, more people have access to your brand and consistency is much more difficult. In the good old days, the brand manager had total control over what went out of the building. Today, your team, your customers and (sharp intake of breath) even your CEO can represent your brand on the internet.
- Consistency - Think about looking at a company's Facebook page, full of funky imagery, funny quotes and pictures of happy staff. You click through to their website and it's deadly serious, full of dense text and a few product photos. You immediately think you have landed on the wrong site and head elsewhere. You need to be clear about what your brand is and make sure it is represented in the same way everywhere. This includes the tone of voice, the type of imagery, the fonts and colours that are used.
- On topic - Your content strategy needs to address what your topic is. This is the broad theme on which most of your messages will be based. For example, if you sell pensions, your topic might be "what you want to do when you retire" and if you are a surveyor, your theme might be "new buildings". It should give you enough scope to produce content that is interesting for your audience, while still remaining relevant. About 80% of your online content should be on topic.
- Visual Imagery - At the very least, does your logo work in the little square profile picture box used on various different social media channels, or do you need to develop a square version? Are you using the same colour scheme and similar header photos everywhere. Are the images you use in you social media accounts in line with the ones you use on your website?
- Your website - The biggie. Your site is your owned property on the internet. It's where you can do whatever you want. So it has to be good. Without going into detail, does it represent how you want your brand to be perceived? Is it instantly recognisable as yours? Does it meet the needs of your customers?
- Messages - Look at all the content you produce online - your blog, any guest articles or PR, social media posts, branded content. If the same person is not producing everything, you need online brand guidelines to ensure that your key messages are being received by your audience.
- Testimonials - Until they have first hand experience of your business, your potential customers will want to see evidence that you are as good as you say you are. That's where testimonials come in. They are incredibly important when buyers are deciding whether or not to choose your company.
There are also the things you don't have control over online such as reviews, mentions by others on social media and press coverage. What you do have control over is how you respond. Make sure you monitor mentions of your company and respond promptly. Even a bad review, if handled really well, can benefit your business in the long term.
If I had to pick one point for you to remember it would be consistency. The more consistent your brand is online, the stronger it will become.
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