Building a brand online and offline
July 3 2018
A strong brand must be consistent wherever your business can be found. Your online presence, offline activities and the actions of your employees should all make sense in the context your brand identity.
In the digital age it’s easy to restrict your thinking about branding to your online presence. Indeed, it’s crucial to get your branding right on your website and social media channels. However, in most cases, your business will have some kind of offline presence, whether through offline advertising or the fulfilment of physical products and services. Where this is the case, your brand identity must also be maintained in those areas.
With that in mind, this article will look at how to build a brand identity both online and offline. The end goal is that customers will receive the right impression of your business and will be persuaded to interact with you.
Your business’s website is the one space online where your brand can be expressed without restrictions. You should make the most of this freedom by getting your branding just right. Branding on a website includes the obvious graphic design and logo but also extends to the site’s written content and media. Anything that gives customers a clue as to what your business is like can be considered branding.
As such, it’s important to decide on a brand identity and stick to it. Values are an important aspect of this decision. What is important to your business? What impression do you want to give people who browse on your site? Do you want your business to come across as professional? Affordable? Efficient? Modern? These are the questions that you should answer before going any further.
As for the creation of the website, take your time. Whether you’re building a new site from scratch or updating an older site, you can’t rush these changes. Make sure the website’s graphic design and visual templates are in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. Check all your written copy carefully. Assess the quality of your videos and images and don’t be afraid to leave out low quality assets.
Before you invest in any other online channels you should invest in your website. There really is no substitute when it comes to online branding.
With a strong website in place, social channels can be another avenue for building a brand identity online. Not every social channel is appropriate for every business; in fact, the channels that you use can be a choice that shapes your brand by itself. Instagram is perfect for business that want to come across as modern and trendy. Pinterest is perfect for arty, creative businesses. LinkedIn is ideal for B2B businesses.
Whatever channels you choose to be active on, you can build your brand through both paid adverts and regular posts. Both can be effective. Whichever you focus on, the language and imagery you use will speak volumes about your brand.
You should be thinking, first and foremost, about how to keep your social media communications consistent with the way you’ve presented your brand on your website. It would be jarring for a serious commercial law firm to be joking about sport on their Twitter feed, but it would make sense for an online activewear shop that presents itself as fun and engaged.
Email marketing is a great way to showcase your brand in personal communications with your customers. While websites and social feeds need to communicate your brand identity to anyone and everyone who might stumble across them, an email will only go out to people that you know are already engaged with your business.
This familiarity means you don’t need to communicate explicitly the values and aspects of your identity that they already know. Of course, those values should already be implicitly present, but you don’t need to shout about them. Instead you can communicate the particulars of how your brand can add more value to their lives.
Make sure that emails maintain and build upon the standards that you’ve already set in the channels that these customers have engaged with previously. As with your social channels, make sure that the language and imagery that you use gives the right impression. If you’re emailing out company news or special offers, make sure that subject matter is also consistent with what your customers expect.
If websites and social feeds are about creating expectations, email marketing is about nurturing those expectations to turn one time customers into brand representatives who will not only stay loyal to your business, but encourage others to engage with it.
Your online branding means nothing if customers’ offline engagements don’t match up to their expectations. If you promise a quality service and don’t deliver, they’ll stop using your business (or worse, write a scathing review). If you promise efficiently and it takes you 2 weeks to fulfil a standard order, don’t expect them to use your business again.
You can also use physical signals to improve the impression that your brand has made online. If you run an ecommerce business, using high-quality, branded packaging to protect the item in transit makes a great impression. You could even use printed boxes and tape to keep your brand in the forefront of the customer’s mind when they receive the package.
Once again, consistency is the key. Do what you say you’re going to do. Maintain the values of the brand in every area of your service. Work to keep your brand in the centre of attention so that customers can’t forget about you. These are the keys to offline branding.
This final point encompasses both offline and online interactions. It could include anything from customer service phone calls to interactions in a Twitter direct message. Whenever anyone from your business has direct contact with a customer, they are a representative of the brand and cannot forget about the values that you’ve worked so hard to instill everywhere else.
The way your brand comes across in customer interactions cannot be controlled to the same extent as the other areas we’ve mentioned. Rather than taking the time yourself to ensure that everything is perfect, brand identity in customer interactions can only really be maintained through clear guidelines and staff training. Your customer service team should be acutely aware of the brand values that they need to embody in every conversation that they have in a professional capacity. They should know what kind of language is expected of them and what kind of experience they should be giving to the customer.
Ultimately, a customer should come away from an interaction with your customer service team with the same impressions that they took away from your website or social feed. If you can get consistency in everything from your website, to your Twitter feed, to your packaging, to your customer service, your business will be well on its way to online and offline brand success.