I was asked last week to write something on branding, and I remembered a branding article I wrote back in 2007.
A lot of what I said in that article still holds true, but this article contains the benefit of some more years of online experience!
What is branding?
Branding is about creating awareness of your business. Letting people know who you are and what you stand for and, in the process, making you instantly recognisable.
Effective branding will stand you head and shoulders above the crowd.
As I discussed in that earlier article, in the 80’s BMW created a really strong brand for itself in the UK.
It was so effective that if you took the car and all the written content out of one of their magazine ads and asked people who the advertiser was, just based on the style of photography, they could tell you.
Which told me one thing: branding is not just about design and logos. It’s about consistency in every little detail of how you present yourself to the public.
In magazine and poster ads it’s about typeface, colours, tag lines and layout. And yes – logos.
Online it’s about all those and more: how you interact in the social media, the username you use, how quickly your sites load and your mug shot or avatar.
How do you want to be seen?
But before you can start to brand yourself you need to define how you want to be seen. And that will start with your customer.
If you’re targetting the youth or online-gamer market the way you’ll want to be seen is going to be cool, hip and up on all the latest gadgets.
If you’re targetting the Boomers market you’re going to want to come across as professional, experienced, knowledgeable and thoughtful.
So the first step in branding is to define in detail:
- Who you’re targetting
- What you’re targetting them with (e.g. for Boomers it might be financial services or real estate, or something completely different)
- What characteristics are going to build their confidence in you – meaning what do they look for in businesses they would buy from
The answers to those questions will help you to define how you want to be seen.
You do have some wiggle room in the way you want to present yourself. For example, having a professional brand doesn’t have to mean boring. You can be lively, and incorporate humour into your site, but always within the confines of what your target market would consider professional.
How do you grow your brand?
Once you’ve defined how you want to be seen you then need to consider every view point from which people see you.
- Your social media sites
- Your website and blog
- Your auto-responder email sequence
- Your blog comments and replies
- Your advertisements
- The products you sell either as an affiliate or in your own right
Consider every point at which people come into contact with you.
Absolutely everything must be consistent and strengthen the way you and your business are seen by others. Right down to the last detail:
- Write with the same voice
- Use the same username on social sites
- Use the same image or avatar
- Deliver on your promises (or fail to deliver – but either way make it consistent!)
- End your emails or blog comments in the same style.
And we haven’t even mentioned logos and site design yet!
Of course, logos and site design are a huge visual part of your branding.
For starters, the colours you choose (and the number of them you use) can enhance or destroy the way you want to be perceived.
For example: try selling financial services to the Boomers market from a site that’s all yellows and reds!
I would never claim to be a designer but, while the initial impact created by the design of your site may come from the colours and layout, its effectiveness as a design is driven more by the user experience and customer journey.
If your site is easy to use, intuitive and delivers a good customer experience your site will be more successful.
Once you’ve got your site design and logo finalised you then need to use your logo and the same colours wherever you can.
It’s not always possible, of course, but even Facebook enables you to post your logo, albeit within the standard Facebook layout. Twitter gives you more flexibility.
So if you’re active on any social media sites make sure you customise them as far as possible in keeping with your colours, writing style, avatar or image.
You want someone who’s landing on your Twitter site for the first time to instantly make the connection with your main site.
Quite deliberately, I haven’t gone into any detail on design in this article.
While design will enhance or destroy the perception of your brand, branding itself is about presenting a consistent message to the world that makes you instantly recognisable.
A quite different discipline.