Branding is not a new concept, nor is it a fad. It is not the up-and-coming marketing strategy of the times. It is, on the other hand, the mode in which a company gains trust and authority with its users. And, in this day and age, branding is crucial to any company's success. Large and small.
Indeed, there was a time when the word "brand" referred solely to the name of a product or the label on the product. Many examples exist today of company brands that have withstood the test of time and have reached well into their hundredth birthdays.
As time progressed, however, and many facets of a business were outsourced, brands no longer seemed as important. Newcomers on the market were not focusing on creating lasting well-known names. Today, however, it is absolutely necessary to build a brand on the internet. Both your name and your products must stand for something. Typically, that is reputation.
Without doubt, the internet can be a boon or a bust to your business. The dynamics of the web create a "make it or break it" environment. Unsolicited comments are rampant through review sites, social properties and consumer forums, etc. All of this exposure affects your brand and ultimately your sales. There was a time when a few disgruntled customers were not necessarily a threat to your business, but those days are long gone with the internet. Every customer's voice matters when thousands, or millions, of people are listening. More than ever, website owners and company management must recognize the power of the social media on the internet when it comes to branding and reputation management.
Be aware, even if you do not create a brand or do not feel that a brand is necessary, one will be created for you. Because users are speaking online, they will automatically create your brand if enough people discuss your products, your services, and you personally. This, of course, is not an ideal situation, especially if your message is misconstrued or the comments are solely negative. We all know the internet is viral. This can be a huge advantage, obviously, if you can garner the votes of thousands. Unfortunately, the process is a two-way street. The comments can move in the other direction just as quickly and just as exponentially.
Typically, creating a brand means that you provide a solution to a dilemma. If we examine seasoned brands, we can take any one of them and immediately recognize that they provide value to the consumer. For example, if we look at the company Proctor and Gamble. Each one of their brands is meant to make one's daily life better or easier. Their original products were promoted in a simple manner. Consumers understood that they made their houses cleaner. Back then, of course, companies had jingles and mascots for their brands. Consumers identified with both the music and the imagery.
Coke "Hilltop" Ad (1971) © The Coca-Cola Company
In the new millenium, branding has evolved. It is not enough anymore simply to have an identifiable logo, a perky jingle, and a cute animal to identify a brand. The behaviors of today's connected generation force businesses to move in wider directions. The internet now influences how consumers perceive individuals, companies and products. To this end, it is imperative that individuals, small companies and conglomerates alike, establish their brand clearly and concisely on the web.
Moreover, the website alone will not be enough to gain authority from potential customers. What you say about yourself and your product is not necessarily what others are saying about you. So along with your branding, reputation management is key to your online success. You must protect your brand, and that means continually scouring relevant locations on the internet in an attempt to understand what others are saying. Integration in those communities and awareness of one's actual reputation is now a major function of any successful marketing campaign.
In order to achieve a significant measure of success or profitability with the promotion of your brand, the existence of an overall strategy must be apparent. The blueprint will entail a concerted effort of creating a logo, building a dynamic website that includes responsive design, marketing through organic search and PPC (pay-per-click) traffic, establishing social media pages, and generally putting your face out there for potential customers to see – and interact with.
• Can you legitimately get people to follow you?
• Do followers interact with you?
• Do others mention you on the internet?
• Are your products or services a source of conversation on the web?
• Do people associate your name in a positive manner?
• Are you someone who helps others and interacts positively with your customers and clients?
• Do other people and websites cite your content and/or link to your site?
• Do others in your field want their users to know what you have to say?
• Are you considered an expert in your field or industry?
To conclude, branding is now an integral component of your site design, your marketing program, and the profitability of your business. The only question is: Who is controlling your brand right now?
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