What is branding ? As far as many business owners are concerned, branding has something to do with being overcharged for a new logo they didn't know they needed. A strong logo can certainly be an important part of an overall branding strategy, but it isn't the whole story. A logo may be just a part of an overarching visual theme, and it should also be accompanied by an overall narrative that expresses the personality of the company.
As American author and marketer Seth Godin puts it on his blog: "A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it's a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn't pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer."
In order to make the best use of branding, it is necessary to present a consistent message, and this means using a similar tone across all the different platforms the company operates across, such as a physical shop, office, or other presence. A company might advertise on traditional media such as TV, radio, and print advertisements. The company will almost certainly have a website and might use content marketing, digital advertisements, and social media profiles. It's important to keep the brand message and image recognizable whichever channel a customer comes across and, in many cases, marketing campaigns may be interlinked.
This, essentially, is integrated marketing. Marketing-schools.org says: "Integrated marketing is a marketing strategy that stresses the importance of a consistent, seamless, multi-dimensional brand experience for the consumer. This means that each branding effort - across television, radio, print, internet, and in person - is presented in a similar style that reinforces the brand's ultimate message."
Importance of the company website
All the channels used to promote a brand are important but, to paraphrase a line from George Orwell, some channels are more equal than others. It might sometimes feel like the internet has always been with us, but in reality, the first .com web address was registered just 30 years ago. The majority of early webpages were exclusively technology and computer-based companies, many of which no longer exist, and mainstream businesses took a while to catch on to the potential of this new development known as the world wide web, and it was rare for smaller businesses to have a website.
These days, it's rarer for a business to be without a website. E-commerce is a huge phenomenon throughout the world, and it only looks set to grow as more and more people globally get faster and more reliable internet access. According to Statista, global e-commerce sales were worth just short of a trillion dollars ($994.5 billion) in 2015. The trillion dollar barrier is predicted to be smashed over the coming 12 months, with online sales expected to hit $1.155 trillion by the end of 2016 and to increase by over a third to $1.506 trillion in 2018.
More and more businesses are tapping into this huge online market, including both dedicated e-commerce retailers and bricks-and-mortar businesses, who are offering an additional online purchasing option. Even if online sales are not offered, however, the company website is still of massive importance. It acts as a virtual shop window and is often a new customer's first point of call. Even if they cannot make a direct purchase online, they may be looking to find out more about the business and the products and services offered. A website therefore has to sell the brand as much if not more than any other channel used.
There are a number of different factors that website designers must keep in mind when coming up with a website for an existing brand. It should look great and reflect the visual aspects of the branding, but it also needs to be functional. The content should be designed with the web in mind. People tend to scan far more on the web, and so large blocks or "walls of text" are not recommended. For sites that do offer e-commerce options, the visuals and content should be clearly set out and easy to navigate.
The Carol Wright Gifts site is a great example of a well-designed e-commerce website that also complements the brand's other channels. The distinctive handwritten-style logo is eye-catching but not overbearing, and the tagline "Delivering Quality and Value Since 1972" gives an understated assurance of quality. Products are clearly set out in a tabular form with clickable images, prices, and even customer review ratings all visible at a glance. This also ties in and shares a recognizable brand message with the brand's other channels, including their Facebook profile and print catalogs.
Another important factor that designers should keep in mind is how a website will display on smartphone and tablet screens. Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important as more and more people use them to access the internet. Google recently announced changes to its algorithms, which essentially penalize sites that are not optimized for mobile in its mobile search results, and customers are also demanding an improved user experience. According to a survey by Kissmetrics, 79 percent of shoppers said they were unlikely to buy again from a website that they were not satisfied with. Apps are one option, but webpages should also be designed with mobile in mind. This could involve setting up a separate mobile-only site, but many companies are now opting for responsive design, which automatically sizes and formats a page to suit the type of screen and device it is being viewed from.
Face-to-face and telephone interactions with customers, paid-for digital display ads, and traditional print and TV advertising are all valuable tools, but a company website is one of the most important weapons in the branding armory, and it is vital to ensure that it conveys the correct image and message about the brand.