We all know that branding is an essential aspect of any business. Not only does it help to drive marketing efforts, but it also helps companies stand out in the marketplace and forge meaningful connections with their consumers. However, while our digital landscape offers some useful branding solutions, this can also result in a lot more competition vying for attention.
What has become clear is that it is not enough to simply rely on the tactics of the past. We can’t just attach our logo to a piece of content and expect this to build our presence in the marketplace. This isn’t sustainable and simply doesn’t reflect the needs or preferences of the digital audience we’re hoping to reach. We have to go further and build a brand identity online that is both strong and agile.
As more consumers are turning their attention to online spaces, now is an excellent time to examine how you can effectively construct and shape your brand. What tactics can result in the most positive impact? What actions should you avoid?
1. Understand Your Audience
Creating a strong brand identity certainly has to involve incorporating what is important to your business. However, it would be a mistake to think that you should build your brand in an echo chamber. After all, part of your reason for building your brand is so that you can make meaningful (and, let’s face it — profitable) connections with your demographic.
Therefore to create an effective online brand identity, you need to understand what that means to your audience. One of the keys to successful branding is telling your audience what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them. Do your research, open a dialogue with your demographic to find out what they value in the brands they connect with. Discover what they feel is missing from not just other brands but your own too, and take that as the starting point.
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2. Combine Psychology with Imagery
Once you’ve gathered the data on what your demographic needs, use this to inform your design concepts. You want your brand identity online to be inextricably connected to those ideas and emotions that both you and they value. Don’t just redesign your logo simply because it’s out of date, refresh it to elicit a response. Ensure that your website uses color schemes that evoke psychological reactions that reinforce desires, and prompts behavior. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that while there are common reactions — reds promote action, blues tend to be calming — these are often subjective. Don’t use color psychology as a blunt instrument, but rather use it to support other elements of your brand identity and marketing.
3. Focus on Quality
One of the mistakes businesses often make with building their online brand is relying upon superficial connections. A good example of this is the approach to content marketing many companies were taking initially. There was the impression that if brands simply attached their visuals to good content, or sponsored a viral video, they would essentially benefit from the kudos the content would generate. As it turns out, online audiences are too savvy for this to work well. They don’t value brands that simply attach themselves to content, the brands need to be meaningfully involved in their consumers’ lives and interests.
This is what we mean by a focus on quality. Not only does the marketing content your brand creates have to be top-notch, but your efforts to make an impact have to be based on forging genuine connections. Your brand identity will be stronger if you make the effort to get involved with the online subcultures you’re targeting and help them to build and maintain their community. Don’t just think sponsorship; think resource sharing, think signal boosting important issues, think supporting their creativity.
4. Build Partnerships
When it comes to the crunch, your brand has to be able to stand up on its own. But few businesses maintain a strong presence in their field without building mutually beneficial relationships. This is important when it comes to your brand identity online, too.
Seek to form strong, genuine, and visible relationships with other businesses or industry influencers. Use social media to discuss relevant issues, collaborate on podcasts and videos that are of interest to your audience. Especially if you’re early in the process of building your brand, this can help to build your identity by association. Which is why it’s also vital that you only seek to build relationships with other brands that share your values, and reflect the positivity you’re hoping to foster.
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5. Stay Consistent
For your brand identity to be both comprehensive and cohesive, it also has to have a third “C”: consistency. This doesn’t mean that you have to be boring or predictable. However, you have to be able to set certain expectations about your business for your audience, and consistently live up to those. Inconsistency in your brand identity can be jarring, and may even result in a loss of trust.
This is especially important when engaging in social media marketing. While the content you provide should be diverse, you should use a consistent voice, tone, and appearance. Don’t pretend that it’s always the same person using social media — that can feel disingenuous. But you should help your audience to instantly recognize that posts are genuinely reflective of your brand, your values, and your approach. This should also go as far as scheduling content. Sure, you’ll want to surprise them with something new now and then. However, by keeping a consistent content calendar you set expectations, and give the impression of a reliable, cohesive brand.
Your brand identity online is not just a visual element of your company. In many ways, it is the key representative of your business in the biggest global marketplace. As such, time and investment need to be put in aesthetic and tangible measures that resonate with your demographic. Don’t just design your identity from within your business — rather, connect with consumers and the online environment. Seek to forge a strong, consistent, and credible presence.
By Luke Smith
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.