THE BLOG
01/02/2013 05:08 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2013

The A, B, C of Online Branding

For marketers, the Internet is like a building site, except houses are replaced with brands. Diggers and cranes are replaced with graphics and innovation content. Carpenters and decorators are replaced by followers and connections. Like construction workers, marketers need to follow a set of principals to ensure their creation is robust, long lasting and creates demand -- which poses the questions: how do marketers build their brand online in order to do this? And also, what should they not do to prevent 'the house crashing down'?

This all sounds very complicated -- but, marketers fear not, it's as easy as A, B, C:

Appropriateness

The online arena is becoming increasingly crowded. Consequently, web-etiquette has developed, and online branding needs to adhere to it in order to succeed:

Do...
...seek uniqueness in nomenclature. Marketers need to ensure their brand name is unique to avoid confusion with other brands, foster a unique identity and optimise SEO. In a brand saturated society, there is inevitably a risk of applying a brand name already in use -- Finlandia for example, is a brand of both cheese and vodka.

Don't...
...ignore cultural uniqueness. The Internet is a truly global space. As such, when generating branding material marketers need to ensure their messages are equal in meaning to a global audience. Not examining local cultural implications can be detrimental to a brand. Not only will it cause a brand embarrassment, but it will also highlight a lack of cultural awareness and sophistication whilst suggesting an absence of global aspirations. Schweppes ignored this rule, meaning that their slogan 'Schweppes Tonic Water' translated into 'Schweppes Toilet Water' in Italy.

Bridge the Gap

Just because we live in 'the digital era' where online usage is booming and Google dictates the direction of web traffic, marketers should not assume that consumers will search for, or easily find, a brand online of their own accord. Therefore, marketers need to build their brand as one which is a conversation starter with consumers using these principals:

Do...
...jump on the social media bandwagon and show consumers some TLC (targeted, loud, consistency). No online branding exercise is complete without a social media presence. That said, many online-centric brands can improve their branding in this area. In a nutshell, the core 'do' in bridging the gap between a brand and consumers is to target potential conquests through the social media channels most relevant to them. Loudly communicate with them -- be active in starting, continuing and hosting conversations to build a repertoire between a brand and target consumers. Finally, do so in a consistent way by ensuring imagery, brand messages and promotions are clear across all branding instruments -- resulting in a robust and intelligible brand identity.

Don't...
...be pessimistic about building a brand to be social media savvy. Yes -- social media's ROI is contentious. Yes -- social media could be a fad. And yes -- social media success does take a lot of time with no guarantee of tangible success. That all said, failure to invest in social media within your branding will have both functional and imagery defects. Functionally speaking, a brand without a worthy social media presence will have less channels to build its identity and less avenues to generate website traffic. Brands not showing the aforementioned TLC will also appear as unwilling to talk to consumers, behind the times and, given social media's mass presence, as having an incomplete set of branding tools vs. competitors.

Content

Within online branding, content is key. Content in this context refers to not just the archetypal branding content of logos, names and colors but through leadership and engagement:

Do...
...use online outlets to give a brand depth. In the 'offline era' brands were limited in how deeply they could build their identity -- often limited to print and TV branding instruments. In an online dominated society, brands can now mold themselves in a deep and meaningful way by sharing their thought leadership and innovative thinking with consumers. Branded blogs and YouTube channels are just two methods of doing this. GoPro -- a small lightweight camera brand has used YouTube to define itself as an all-environment, robust, yet fun, technology brand. Similarly, Mashable has used its thought leadership and content sharing to build itself a persona of the web-hub of all things innovative, quirky, yet intelligent.

Don't...
...neglect dynamic content opportunities. By failing to build thought leadership into online brand strategy, a brand will appear plain, simple and indistinct. With so many brands building their identity online, it is hard to differentiate. Failing to deliver online thought leadership and dynamic content -- extremely valuable outlets to building uniqueness -- will mean a brand risks being viewed as conventional and boring. Boring brands will not be talked about and risk falling into the ether that is the online brand-bin.

Sign up for our email.
Find out how much you really know about the state of the nation.