If you would take a quick look at the online environment of today, you will notice this: All successful companies and individuals are backed up by strong and popular brands, easy to recognize and easy to trust.
If you are not on the Internet these days, you don’t exist as a professional or as a business. Seems a little bit dramatic but this is how it all goes. The Internet is our main open-gate to the world and at the same time, our most important display window. We need to be there but it matters how we present ourselves.
Take for example Dollar Shave Club. They have built their online brand by targeting the right audiences and by embracing the kind of content that is popular in today’s environment: The Video. Video is “ what brought this brand into the world. It’s what launched this brand. It helped get awareness by really spreading the word on what made us unique versus our competition in the early days,” Adam Weber, CMO at DSC said.
What can we learn from them?
The conclusion is that, in order to better present ourselves, we need a strong brand.
Why and how? Well, these questions are to be answered throughout this article and I will do my best to do it as thorough as possible.
The main ideas behind a powerful online brand. What you need to know and what you need to do
First, what is a brand?
Some say that a brand is the name and the logo that makes you stand out from the crowd. It’s the name and the visual imagery that allows your audience to recognize you and separate your business from all other similar businesses that exist out there. It is important because of this. And, it is important because it differentiates you from the competition.
A strong brand translates to a name and a logo that is easily recognizable and at the same time, a name and a logo that instantly triggers strong positive emotions within the audience.
But I believe that today a brand is everything you do inside and outside the company. A brand is the customer call. A brand is the featured image on your blog. A brand is the “hello” and “good bye”.
Why is the online brand important?
Well, the answer to this question is quite easy to give. People of 2018 are more connected than ever. And, they all – or at least the vast majority – have access to the Internet. They have broadband connections at home, 3G and 4G connections on their mobile phones, access to free Wi-Fi everywhere they go. It is almost impossible to stay out of the grid and for a business or a professional; this means that the Internet gives them worldwide exposure. You cannot expose yourself or your business without marketing your brand and this is why I chose this topic for today’s article. Branding takes up a whole new meaning in regard to the World Wide Web and you need to construct it from top to bottom in order to be successful.
Also, a well-developed brand is a brand people know. And, at the same time, people tend to trust the things or the people they think they know.
Besides trust, here are some other important things that are related to this topic:
The online brand creates awareness of what we or our business stands for. It allows us to market our names, our values, and our visual identity.
The online brand allows us to create credibility and likeability. It shows the audience that we’re out there; that we are present in their lives and that we are open for communication and dialogue.
And, of course, the online brand helps us build trust with the audience as I have already mentioned earlier. I am talking about a specific type of trust, the trust created via knowledge and history. People trust what they know and they trust what they know for a long time.
Now, let’s get to work and pinpoint some of the most important steps in brand building and also, the main goals upon these steps should be based and set.
1. Goal set: Branding for commerce and eCommerce
Small business owners and entrepreneurs have a lot of work to do in this area, especially at the beginning of their business venture. Whatever you have to sell the first thing you need to know is that you won’t become successful overnight. You need to invest time and a lot of work in building your business and market your products and everything starts with branding.
In order to sell something and be good at it, therefore, you need a strong and powerful brand.
All major brands like Nike, Amazon, RedBull and so on, they all have something in common. And, common is the fact that they all needed to start small and build a brand and a reputation over a long period of time. What’s also important is the fact that they are continuing to do so and their branding endeavors never stopped at any point in time during their history.
Why is branding important for commerce and eCommerce?
Well, the first thing you need is an audience. You need to convey to all your potential customers the message that you are out there and that you have what they need. In order to do this, you start by creating a strong visual identity, a logo and a brand that is easy to pair with your business and at the same time, easy to remember. It would be perfect if you manage to make your visual identity attractive and eye catchy as well.
2. Goal set: Branding for promotion
Promoting something is quite similar to selling something. The two goals are not that different if you think that you need to make your brand visible and let the audience know you in order to grow your small business and start making money.
The difference is that you can set a promotional goal for your brand without linking this marketing endeavor to a commercial goal as well, at least not directly. You can create a branding campaign and build a strong online brand for the sake of promotion only and all the other goals will follow naturally once the audience gets to know you and associates your name and your products with your visual identity.
Take for instance Red Bull’s marketing strategy. This is a huge company that sells a specific product but with an online brand that transcends that product and expands via a well-constructed web of media channels and sports-related websites such as RedBull TV. They are all meant to promote the brand and the trademark.
3. Goal set: Branding for awareness and company growth
You can use personal branding in order to grow your company as well. This is a rather indirect way to conduct marketing for a small and growing business but at the same time, it may prove to be quite effective should you already have a personal brand.
The most suggestive example I can think about in this case is that of Gary Vaynerchuk, the man behind a series of successful online businesses and of course, one of the most prolific and consistent video bloggers of these days.
His daily video clips – Yes, he posts a daily video – and podcasts helped him build a powerful personal brand that is probably one of the strongest personal brands of today. This allows him to market his own businesses as well and grow them faster and quicker than other entrepreneurs who have to start everything from scratch when it comes to branding.
Here’s the model Gary is using to build is brand through content and social media.
4. Goal set: Grow your brand via an online community
Yes, you can use the online community you are developing around your business in order to grow awareness on it and eventually, build and grow a strong and powerful brand. You will need some core values that are well defined and in line with the values shared by the community you are targeting. Also, you will need a voice to share these values and show the audience that you are really investing in cultivating a true relationship with them.
A good example, in this case, comes from Charity Water, a non-profit organization that provides clean and safe water to people from developing and poorly developed countries from all around the world.
What did they do? Well, they managed to build an online community around their business and enlist this community to spread the word about their message and their core values. This community helped them build a strong brand.
Can you do this as well? Well, you can but you will need a message. You will need values and strategies that could convince the community to link back to them and to spread the word about them. You will probably need to give something in return or, come up with a powerful social message. Another similar example comes from Nike and their 2010 “The Chance” campaign.
The campaign was designed to give youths the chance to win a year at the Nike Academy. What was the result? Participants created more than 17,000 Facebook pages that spread the word about Nike’s campaign and ultimately, their brand.
Where do you grow your brand?
Now that we know how a powerful brand can help your ongoing marketing campaigns, we need to discuss the means to achieve this goal. First, let’s talk a bit about the most important channels you can use and how to use them at the same time. So, where can you grow your online brand?
1. Social media
Social media is one of the most powerful channels you can use in order to grow your brand at first and ultimately, your business. Virtually, there are no limits on what you can do on social media. Yes, you need at first friends, a page and motivation to create some content but nevertheless, your efforts should be minimal, compared to what you would have to do and the amount of work required by traditional media.
Also, if you have an advertising budget at your disposal, you can advertise your brand and your company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and get a wider exposure and at the same time, access to a whole new audience.
A great example, in this case, comes from KLM, an airlines company that understood the importance of social media and managed to grow their brand and get more clients by adjusting to the new trends of today’s society. They embraced social media and they did it quite well, considering the circumstances.
What did they do?
Well, apart from the traditional strategies that require companies to post regularly and communicate with the audience, they managed to take the whole social media marketing to a new level. How? Some of their recent strategies include messenger integration that takes communication on social media to a whole new level. It is said that their response time is the best in the industry and according to stats, social media managed to get them an impressive increase in sales and revenues.
2. On your own website/blog
The best way to grow your brand is via your own website and/or blog. Why? Well, a personal website gives you the liberty to be what you want to be, on your own terms and at your own pace.
Most of the businesses and entrepreneurs have already set up websites that are already well known as a great way of conducting content marketing. On your own website, you have the liberty to publish whatever you like, to spread the word on your values and goals, to share valuable information with the community. Starting with the visual identity and up to the blog posts and articles you get to publish, everything that is on your website belongs to you. Moreover, you are free to write about anything you want and share information with the audience regardless of the topic or the content.
And, yes, if you are wondering whether I am also engaged in content marketing or not, rest assured I am. This website and at the same time, a personal blog is my gateway to the world and my first and foremost channel for cont marketing since the beginning of my online endeavor.
I started writing for fun but then I found out that publishing valuable content is also good for business, especially for my personal brand. In time, I got to be noticed by bigger businesses and influential individuals and managed not only to grow but at the same time, to thrive.
Publishing as a guest author is beneficial for two reasons:
First, most of the websites that allow guest posting also allow you to link back to your own websites via your profile bio. Some of them will even allow you to publish articles that feature one or two links to some of your own blog posts. This means that you get to grow your own website’s authority and as a consequence, grow your pool of readers and your influence. More traffic means more influence, more money, and more advertising contracts and so on.
Secondly, guest publishing allows you to grow your influence and your own personal brand. As you publish, considering you are publishing on relevant and popular websites, you get access to a wider audience. Also, you get to share some valuable content with that audience and at the same time, grow in popularity among your peers and grow your personal brand as a professional in your field.
Guest authoring is very important for your personal brand and this is why I have also tried to be present on other websites since my first days as a content marketer.
How do you do this?
Things are easier than they seem to be. Search online for websites that allow guest publishers, contact their owners and send them some of your ideas and propositions. There’s almost nothing to lose if you get rejected but you can gain a lot if they accept your blog posts.
How do you grow your brand?
We already know why branding is important and also, we’ve discussed some of the most important channels you can use in order to grow your online brand. Now, it’s time to discuss some of the means that will get you there. How do you grow a brand? What can you do? What are the most important steps you can undertake?
1. Tell a story
Without a story, your business does not exist. And, neither does your brand. Today’s people need stories that can associate with brands and companies and if you want to survive and thrive in the online environment; you need to come up with something new, something fresh, something unique. Or, you have the alternative of coming up with a social story, a story that has a direct impact on the masses and defines your core values at the same time, like we’ve already discussed in the Charity Water example.
Here’s a great example of a backstory from Toms, a company that managed to embrace the today’s environment and thrive thanks to a great marketing strategy. What’s their story? Well, things are quite simple: they exist in order to improve lives. It is a simple and yet effective message at the same time. Learn from them and try to come up with something similar in significance and value.
2. Define your core values
This part is also important as you will connect with your targeted audience based on it. Remember the examples I have shared? Remember about Clear Water and Toms? Both these companies, regardless of their destination, being non-profit or whatever, they all share their core values with the audience. At the same time, they have very clearly stated values, ones that are easy to understand and follow by their audience. Can you do the same thing? Well, in order to be successful, you should.
You don’t need to give things for free or help the poor. What you need is something that can trigger emotions. And, it’s important to trigger positive emotions within the targeted audience. If you do that, you will be successful, nevertheless.
3. Work on your tone and visual identity. Be consistent
Also, it is important to work on your identity. When it comes to branding, identity is essential. What does this mean? Well, you need a visual identity defined by a logo, colors and style. At the same time, however, you will need an editorial identity as well, defined by the style and the tone of your writing. This depends on your audience and your goals. You will evidently need to address an issue to an older audience in a specific tone and in a completely other tone to a younger audience. Study the market and assess what your style should be. Then, adopt it and consistently display it everywhere you go.
Use your brand logos, colors and writing style on social media, on your website, on complementary websites and of course, on your emails.
4. Engage in content marketing
And, do it with consistence. Share everything you know to be of value with your customers, with your audience. Give them a good reason to come back to your website once in a while and of course, to share your articles online. A shared article is a small but consistent step towards brand awareness, whether we’re talking about personal brand or the brand of your business. As long as you have something valuable to share with the community, the sky’s the limit.
Start by defining your objectives, what you know and what you think the community would want to read about.
Then, create a strategy and schedule a consistent editorial policy for your own website. Finally, write, publish, write again and publish again. Share your posts on social media channels and always respond to comments posted by your audience.
Branding is very important whether you are doing it for your personal gain or for your small business growth. You can achieve great things if you brand gets stronger and this should be a goal every marketer and business owner should set right from the start, before creating the long-term strategy.
With this article, I have tried to discuss some of the main reasons for branding and at the same time, some of the best strategies to embark on such a mission.
How focused are you on branding and to what extent did you managed to grow your personal or your business’ brand? What were your strategies and what channels did you use?