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Defining Your Brand for an Online World

webhdt your personality on the web

Your personality on the web - Branding 101

Your brand is the sum total of every interaction and touch point your target audience has with your business. Social media and social applications let you extend and expand your brand reach and brand penetration by leveraging technology that makes your business easier to socialize with. Understanding and planning your brand strategy is crucial to success in creating a successful social network for your business. This blog article asks you to clearly define what your brand is, and what you want it to represent in the eyes of your target audience.

Branding 101

If you sell gaming computers and hardware, you probably want your company to appear young, hip, and current because that’s the personality your target market is attracted to and will more likely buy from. Behaving like your target audience isn’t just for show or convenience, it has direct impact on business profitability. Customers like buying and interacting with someone they can relate to, and so the closer your company can behave like them, the better your overall success. Consciously planning out a strategy to attract a particular audience demographic is where a brand starts to show its usefulness.

What The Brand Actually Is

The brand of a company is its persona. That persona is represented by everything customers can see and interact with – logos, business cards, employees, letters, products, packaging, services, phone calls, store fronts, front doors, parking lots, etc. Each of these touch points builds an experience for your customer that works together (or not at all) to create a persona that customers can identify with.

Every Touch Point

Every interaction customers have with your company is considered a touch point. Every touch point affects how your company brand is perceived. Managing every customer touch point can lead to a stronger brand image since every interaction has the potential to contribute to the company brand.

Tip
Review every touch point you have with customers from the first letter, phone call, or face-to-face greeting right out to the final sale. See if those touch points match the brand image and persona you want, or matches the persona customers prefer to interact with.

What Does Your Brand Already Say?

It’s more than likely a brand voice and personality already exists in your company. You might not have a full fledged brand strategy, but you will have some idea about how you communicate with customers. For example, you might host CEO luncheons for partners to help promote new technologies that save them money, thus positioning you as team members for success in the eyes of your target audience. Look at what your company is communicating already. If you don’t have a clear and consistent message that includes your company’s vision, mission, and values, start communicating one now.

Tip
Pick three customers, and ask them to describe your company as a person. Take the most positive things they say and use that to think of a brand personality you want to bring to life. Note the feedback you are happiest about or matches where you are going or want to go. What customers say about your brand or the brand of your competitors should give you some ideas about a brand personality you can design.

Brand Creation

Successful branding involves promoting your company’s strengths, assets, and unique company values and mission. Look at what your company is good at, and what you believe in as a business. For example:

  • The unique skills your business has
  • The level of customer service you provide
  • The best value for money you provide to customers in your marketplace
  • Your business’s unique approach and innovation

The key elements of a successful branding project are:

  • The big idea that makes your business different from everyone else
  • Your company’s vision for where you are going or want to go in the marketplace
  • Your company’s values that clarify what you believe in as a business
  • Your company’s personality dictated by the tone, language and design of your communication

Why Create A Brand?

Strong brands have many tangible business benefits:

  • Differentiation in highly competitive markets
  • Higher customer recall and recognition
  • Creates customer trust and loyalty
  • Inherent value creates long term goodwill and increases value of the business
  • Cost effective when a brand identity speaks for itself
  • Easier for customers to market to their friends/family

Ways To Communicate A Brand

After you have a clear idea of what your brand needs to be, you need to decide how to get your message across. Numerous techniques exist that you could use including:

  • Storytelling – telling your story of how your business started, grew, etc
  • Visual identity – your logo/trademark and other visual means of representing your company
  • Credibility – showing through testimonials, case studies, and customer feedback
  • Differentiation – explaining how you are different from competitors
  • Focusing on product creation – focusing all your efforts on the product and product innovation which leads customers to believe something about your brand
  • Endorsing – using the goodwill of an existing and already successful brand to launch a child/sibling brand.

Brands Online

Most social tools are meant to increase and improve communication with your customers, friends, partners and peers. All of these tools provide an opportunity to exercise your brand strategy. Some of the more commonly used online social tools available include:

  • Blogging on your website – to communicate your company’s ideas and innovations
  • Facebook – to communicate your company news, updates, and commentary
  • Twitter – to communicate relevant and timely short messages or promos
  • Social Bookmarking – to communicate what you care about and follow
  • User-generated Videos – to communicate with speech and video
  • Flickr and other photo-sharing sites – to communicate visually with pictures

Just as you manage how your brand is represented at every other touch point, you must be conscious of how an online audience perceives it. This includes keeping a consistent tone of voice and/or visual style whenever your brand is represented online. It can also dictate where you may want have your brand seen.

For instance, if you want your CEO to appear more approachable, a Twitter account managed personally by the CEO would be an option. This has been used to great success by Zappos.com. On the other hand, a company wishing to maintain a very traditional, conservative demeanor may not want to participate in Facebook because it is much more informal and friendly. Remember, you want your brand to talk to your target audience where they are. Sometimes, that means picking only certain social media while forgoing others.

Don’t get caught up in social media for social media’s sake. If you’re going to choose to use a social media tool, make sure it fits your company and that you use it properly. It’s very easy to drift into spam territory on Twitter. Posting brief, important information with hash tags people may search if they’re in the market for your business is smart. Rabidly searching for any word that could, even slightly, relate to what you do and then replying to that tweet is not.

If you choose to blog, do so with care. As we discussed before, you must know your audience. You should be aware of what kind of information they are looking for and aim to provide it in an easily accessible manner. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you care about something your customer will find it interesting as well. Stick to communication that’s relevant, interesting and unique to your target. The readers will come.

Regardless of the tools used, developing a brand strategy and company personality is an important first step before using any of the tools listed above because it’s that strategy that dictates the methods and tactics, and not the other way around.

Summary

  • Your brand of a company is its persona. It’s everything a customer can see or interact with.
  • A consistent brand is important and must be carried out through all touch points (every interaction a customer has with a brand).
  • Find out what your brand is already saying. Ask three customers to describe your company as a person to get started.
  • Promote your company’s strengths, assets, and unique company values and mission.
  • The key elements of a successful branding project are:
    • The big idea that makes your business different from everyone else
    • Your company’s vision for where you are going or want to go in the marketplace
    • Your company’s values that clarify what you believe in as a business
    • Your company’s personality dictated by the tone, language and design of your communication
  • Brands can be communicated in many ways, including:
    • Storytelling
    • Visual Identity
    • Credibility
    • Differentiation
    • Focusing on product creation
    • Endorsing
  • Social tools allow you to improve communication with customers, but only when done correctly.
  • Know the social media you’re using and make sure it matches your brand.
  • Use the media properly and only communicate what is interesting and/or appropriate to your target.
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