What is a brand?
The concept of branding has been around for thousands of years, originating around 2000 BC when the ancient Egyptians branded their livestock. We are all very familiar with some of the world’s most powerful and recognisable brands such as Coke, Hoover, Disney, Apple, Kellogg’s, Microsoft and MacDonald’s – to name just a few. When we think of them we will have a pretty specific idea of what those brands represent and what feelings they evoke. A formal definition of a brand can be summarised as:
“The set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it – a unique combination which the name or logo of the product or service should evoke in the mind of the audience.” Chartered Institute of Marketing
Your brand is essentially how your customer perceives your business. Your brand is not just your business logo rather, a number of attributes that mesh together and elicit an emotional response from your customers towards your business and its products and services.
Why establishing your brand is so important
Creating a brand identity is important for your business therefore, it shouldn’t fall to the bottom of your list of priorities to be dealt with in a few years time when your business is more established. Small online businesses and start-ups need to begin to develop their brand from day one since, branding can help:
- Increase your sales
- Set you apart from your competitors
- Establish trust in your products and services
- Build on-going, loyal relationships with your customers
6 Simple tips to help build your online brand
When you are beginning to build up your business online, there are a number of ways to help you start building your brand presence. These tips don’t just help your brand, they also make good business sense as they reflect sound online business practices.
1. Improve your customer’s online experience
Branding is all about customer experience. When a customer visits your website what experience will he or she get – positive or negative? First impressions are extremely important so try to think about your customer’s online journey – from start to finish.
For example when a customer lands on your website is it professional looking? Have you paid attention to detail making ensure there are no spelling mistakes, broken links or out-of-date news? Can your customer navigate around your site easily to find what they are looking for? If you customer needs advice or help will they receive good customer service and a quick response? Is your online shopping cart and checkout secure, efficient and easy to use?
Customers who have a good experience more likely to leave with a positive image of your business and therefore far more likely to come back than a customer whose experience has been poor.
2. Conveying and building customer trust
A fundamental part of branding is customer trust. Right from the very start you need to be looking at ways to establish your online business as trustworthy. A long-established, credible brand is able to convey trust to its customers simply through the power of its brand image. Unfortunately however small businesses and start-ups don’t have that luxury so you will need to work harder to establish trust and make customers feel secure on your site.
Use trust signposts to help make a customer feel secure. This can help a customer feel comfortable parting with money or personal data and give them confidence in the quality of your product or service. Examples of trust signposts could be:
- Trustmarks and security logos
- Customer testimonials
- Product reviews
- Visable returns policy
- Easy to find contact details and registered address
- Links to official organisations and associations
3. Give your business a personality
Having a brand personality can help set you apart from you competitors giving you a competitive advantage. People want to deal with people and so giving your business a personality is a great way of building your brand identity. Businesses that have a human element are more likely to be able to build an emotional connection with their customers and consequently generate loyalty with strengthened customer relationships.
Use your social media to give your business a human face. This is where social media comes into its own, it gives you the chance to interact directly with your customers and build a two-way dialogue. Blogging and email are also great tools to use to help get your business personality across to customers.
4. Content is central to customer engagement
You want your customers to love your website and all it has to offer. Content is integral to successful customer engagement, which is in turn is central to building your brand. Quality content will engage your customer, bring them back for further visits, reinforce your brand as professional, informative and authoritative and help with your SEO which increases your brand awareness and recognition.
So think about ways to keep your online content fresh and informative to help engage customers. For example this could be through implementing things like new feature and product updates, informative articles, video tutorials, weekly newsletters, blogs, social media competitions and press releases.
5. Build brand recognition through consistency
When you are starting out building up your online business, it is important to implement some consistency across certain areas so as to reinforce brand recognition.
“Did you know that it takes at minimum 6-7 brand touches before someone will remember your brand?…Consistency is key when it comes to social branding. Consistency doesn’t have to equal boring. It simply means you have a consistent representation of who you are, what you do and how you portray it to the world.” Social Media Today
For example starting at a basic level, keep your logo consistent and use it on everything associated with your brand. Make sure it is present and consistent from your letterheads to your social media pages. Try to also use a consistent colour theme. For example Cadbury’s purple is so synonymous with the brand that you almost don’t need to see the word Cadbury to recognise it. So keep the colours on your website, social media, blog, email newsletter, flyers, banner advertisements and so on as consistent as possible to increase recognition of your brand.
You all so need to be consistent when it comes the message you are conveying to your audience. Of course your tone and approach will change depending on your audience and communication channel, however your underlying brand message and brand values should remain consistent – you shouldn’t be sending out mixed messages about your business.
By starting to think about your brand at the very beginning and implementing some of these simple tips, hopefully it won’t be long before you create a solid, recognisable business brand to your customers – increasing sales and growing loyalty.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so do please leave a comment.
Coca-Cola image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Unique sphere image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Branding Written on chalkboard image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Trust image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Heart Apple Image courtesy of Claire Bloomfield at FreeDigitalPhotos.net