For those who have read my blog for years now you know that my passion in this space is brand development. Notice that I don’t say website development because these are two different things. Just about anyone can build a website but as we all know surfing the web, not every website is a brand. In it’s simplest terms I define a brand as something that people are aware of as a player in a particular niche. People don’t have to love them (that would make a strong brand or a category leader) but they should know about them.
Think about this in terms of the auto space – one of my favorites. Have you heard of Honda? How about Toyota? BMW? Mercedes? What about Ford or Chevy? Whether you love or hate Ford I can venture a guess that you’ve heard of them, and regardless of how they are doing economically at any point in time you know they are a player in the space. Now let’s get a bit more digital, have you heard of Internet Explorer? How about Safari? Ever used Firefox? These are some of the top brands in the web browsing space.
The first rule of brand development is really quite simple – your brand should be known by people in your niche. The first thing to know about branding is that it takes a lot of work, time, and money. At the end of the day this time doesn’t have to be yours, but in that case it probably will take some of your money! Don’t worry – this won’t be my only post on this topic but I thought now was a good time to do an overview of brand development and the basics that you need to have a strong brand. Below are a list of the qualities I’ve found are shared by brands:
- Domain Name – a domain name is a critical part of a brand. If people hear about your brand from a friend, a radio ad, or a blog ad, you want them to remember it and easily be able to type it into their browsers when they get home. A good domain name also helps with SEO and can increase click-through rates as a strong domain can speak to a consumer much better than a weak one. Just think about it, if you’re looking for a brand that will help with camping supplies which would you be more inclined to think is a meaningful brand in the space SimplyCamping.com or best-camping-supplies-to-buy.net?
- Website – it’s 2011, I don’t care if your brand has nothing to do with the Internet, it should have a website. Not only should your brand have a website but it should have a clean, easy-to-use website that speaks to your target customer.
- Facebook/Twitter – your brand should interact with customers on Facebook and Twitter. This doesn’t simply mean having a Facebook and Twitter account, this means actually having someone interacting with people in the niche you are targeting every single day.
- Marketing – word of mouth is great but people should find-out about your brand when they do the things they would do that are related to your niche. Could you imagine going to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and not finding Sony or Samsung there? Ever been to an auto show where BMW doesn’t show-up? This translates to the web as well, your brand should be visible on the websites that your target customers visit. Don’t worry about clicks, that’s more of a early 2000’s way of thinking about web advertising, consumers in general would rather visit a site by typing it into their browsers than clicking on an ad. Plus branding is about repetition, I can assure you Coke has no idea how many people that see their ad in Times Square buy a Coke, but they know it is critical to building a brand. Look at Dell, they advertise on a ton of website, I see them on Tech Crunch all the time, I’ve never once clicked on their ad but they are on my mind every day because at some point in my day, I see their ad!
- PR – if you never have had news to announce chances are you aren’t doing anything ground-breaking or exciting. Sorry, don’t mean to be blunt here but it’s true. You should have some news to announce at least once a year otherwise I can assure you, your competitors will!
- Evangelists/Fans – if you build a truly enchanting brand like Apple or BMW, you should have some real evangelists that promote your brand simply because they love it. Ask most BMW-owners how they like their cars and they’ll go on for quite a while, the same goes for Apple users. If people promote your brand even when they know there is no direct benefit to them it means that your brand really has made an impact.
- Product/Service – this is last in my list but is absolutely 100% the most important thing, you should make a product or a service that people like to use. Having a great product or service is the meat of your brand, every single customer should feel the love and love what you do.
This list could go on and on, however what I have above are what I consider to be the foundations of brand development. Stay-tuned as I’ll be digging deeper going forward into each of these elements and getting into the nitty gritty, which is really a lot of fun!