For the most effective online branding in a growingly complex environment, brands must resist the temptation to put the cart before the horse.
BRANDING BEFORE BRAND ACTIVATION
There are no shortage of articles and blog posts with tips to how to get the most out of online branding. Invariably, they focus on activation – how to make your brand work online through specific activities. It feels as if the ‘branding’ part of the term has taken a back seat.
The first question to address should not be ‘how do we make our brand work online?’ – it should always be ‘how do we make our brand work?’ To cut to the chase, it doesn’t matter how good your brand activation strategy is if your brand itself is weak, or convoluted, or poorly thought out. Online brand activation needs a solid brand platform from which to work, in the same way as ‘offline’ brands. If you don’t have a solid brand foundation already, the temptation to skate over the brand itself and just get on with it should be resisted.
Although there are differences between online and offline branding, the fundamentals are the same. Online branding is just branding online, and as such, should adhere to the rules of branding, which means taking the time to understand and develop your brand. A brand that encompasses not just what you do, but also what you say and how you behave. A good brand should be unique and timeless, a promise of value that connects with customers, users or a community through both functionality (what the brand does) and intangibles (how the brand makes people feel).
It can be argued that the intangible, ‘emotional’ foundations of your brand are even more important in the digital sphere, as in many cases the customer journey no longer includes actual, physical interactions with the brand – and people representing the brand – before purchase or engagement of service.
This is not to say that brands should not be developed specifically for use in an online environment. Far from it – an appreciation and understanding of the channel is imperative. Rather, if your brand will be specifically or primarily ‘online facing’, just apply brand fundamentals with that in mind.
Fundamentals such as: know your audience journey and touch points. Understand your sector and competitors. Develop values. Have a personality. Make promises. Have an ethos, or essence, or core proposition, or purpose, or any of the other monikers branding agencies like to use. Provide meaning and experience for your audience, and add value through intangibles.
Don’t leave these behind in the rush to activate your brand online. Without it, you will risk being seen as inauthentic by those you need to connect and converse with. As with all branding, promise must equal experience. In short, you can’t build a house without foundations. The same is true for online brands.
To get the most out of online branding, ensure your brand foundations are ‘spot on’ before you consider specific online activation strategies. In turn, this should make activation far simpler, logical, and economical.
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