Merriam Webster defines branding simply as “the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand.” If we follow this definition, we in turn find that a brand is “a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer” or “a characteristic or distinctive kind.” When it comes down to the actually promotion of your organization, however, this definition only begins to scratch the surface. This is particularly true in the ever-growing arena of the internet.
In marketing, a brand is not just the name on the sign or the logo on the packaging. A company’s brand is much more vital and much more subtle than that. Your brand encompasses the look of your logo, the service your staff provides, the attitude and spirit your actions reflect, the reliability of your products, the history of your organization, the ease of use of your site, where your products are on the shelf, and the completely unquantifiable feel with which a customer, client, user, or viewer takes when they walk away.
Branding can make or break a new company and can deliver devastating blows even to familiar names. The Gap, for instance, is currently facing a backlash from their new logo release. How do people see your organization? When they pull up your website, does it inspire trust and familiarity? The visual, textual, and emotional brand associated with your organization is what it derives its value from.
Obviously, the goal of branding is to encourage clients and customers to not just pursue your services and purchase your goods, but also return time after time. The strategy, however, is often much less clearly defined. A website’s branding depends on not just the logo, as I have stated above, but everything from domain name to color scheme to content. A website should accurately reflect the attitude and feel of a company’s experience. Entering the site should be like walking in the front door, and it should always be welcoming, engaging, and well maintained – everything you’d expect from the physical location of a company you were working with.
More than just the look of the site, however, branding also draws on aspects such as navigation and usability. A website may be beautiful, but if a user cannot find what they want within seconds they are likely to navigate away. Likewise, content and copy are important. Copy should give the user what they want, make them comfortable, and inspire trust in the organization, but it also needs to draw in search engines, or users will never see it.
As you are browsing the internet today, take note of which sites inspire feelings of trust, which are welcoming, which you return to over and over again. What exactly makes you like these sites? Does yours do the same for you?