Building An Online Brand
Big companies care about brands, small companies don’t, and that is a shame because any company that has aspirations of ever getting big, better figure out how to build and manage their brand. You can get sucked into all the hype about the latest social networking fad and waste all your time and money following this week’s Internet wunderkind or you can get your head out of your digital butt and build a business from the brand up.
Branding is simply how your audience feels about your company and/or signature product or service. Your brand is your personality, your identity, and every company has one whether they know it or not. One of senior management’s major responsibilities is to manage the brand, the perception your audience has of who you are, what you do, and why they should care. Major corporations understand this and use it to their advantage, but companies that fall into the “I’m not General Motors” category often ignore brand building fundamentals and satisfice with a logo.
A logo is not a brand; a logo is merely a visual representation of your brand, a visual mnemonic or reminder of what your company stands for in terms of the emotional value proposition you offer. You can offer low prices and more features, but if you don’t provide some emotional or psychological benefit you will never be able to create a sustainable brand identity.
It Takes a Universe
Building a brand is like building a self-contained world, a universe that has it’s own cultural, ethical and aesthetic perspective, and an image governed by a set of rules. Like any universe if you break the rules, you cause problems. The creators of successful television shows are experts in inventing brand universes. Programs like ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Fringe’ are obvious examples of universes with their own set of rules that audiences will accept no matter how outlandish as long as the producers develop their plots within the context of those rules. Programs that meet that standard become franchise properties and cash cows for their creators. Successful corporate brands are no different. The best brands create a world of their own with a set of guidelines that govern how and what they communicate to their audience. Break the rules and you’ll lose the audience.
Your Website: An Opportunity To Create A Unique Brand Experience
The Web is an open business environment that provides every company, no matter the size, with the opportunity to create a singular brand experience. What better place to create a unique universe than on your website, a self-contained venue that offers multiple communication options?
Most of these communication tools are well within the financial and conceptual reach of even the smallest company. Big companies with big budgets can achieve brand identity faster but their mistakes and missteps can also be more disastrous.
The great equalizer is your website, a venue that provides you the opportunity to present yourself to the world and to build a brand identity as impressive as the big boys, but you have to have an understanding of what it takes, and the discipline to continually abide by the rules you create.
Sticking to the laws of your brand story do not have to be limiting, in fact, they can be downright liberating by allowing you to make better decisions faster and with more confidence.
The Small Company Dilemma
Owner managers have their hands full running the day-to-day operations of their companies; that leaves little time to worry about seemingly esoteric marketing concepts like branding, but branding is one of the key building blocks of controlling and managing a growing business. With all the elements of a brand universe in place, everything gets easier, from decisions on what to do about your website and mobile strategies, to what message needs to be communicated in your advertising, to hiring and managing staff.
Taking a step back can definitely help in moving forward, but the truth is most entrepreneurs and management executives are neither expert in, nor trained to dev