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By: Samantha Scott, APR
Grand Poobah / Owner
I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a “consistency stickler.” It doesn’t matter if it’s in the tone of writing used on a website or in PMS colors, I can’t help but notice when something isn’t consistent. In our field, marketing communications, it’s important. All too often business owners, marketing folks and other people communicating on behalf of companies don’t maintain consistency in their branding or marketing. This week we’re going to address this – and why it’s important.
What is Branding?
According to the mighty Wikipedia, “A brand is a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”Branding began as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp.” Simply, branding started as a means of differentiation. That’s what it’s meant to today, as well.
Importance of Brand Consistency – Face Time
Let’s start with the basics. A company’s brand is their image. It’s their face, so to speak. Just like we differentiate people by their appearance, voice, and other attributes, we (consumers, people in general) differentiate companies and products by their logo and/or packaging, colors, etc. As Michael Tasner points out, “It’s the image, words, feeling, etc associated with your company.”
Not only should the aesthetic of the company, the logo, company colors, etc. be pleasing to look at and easy to read, it should also accurately depict the company and its offerings. If your logo is in Cowboy font, but you’re a tech company, something’s not translating. Keep in mind, people could see your brand/logo without knowing anything about your company. They have to be able to look at it and understand what you’re all about. Are you traditional or edgy, a modern and tech-savvy Internet firm or a mom and pop lawn service? Make it clear from the start.
Another key component in marketing as it relates to brand consistency is avoiding the risk of brand confusion. Did you do a double take when you saw that image? That’s what consumers do when they look for a certain package or product and can’t find it or see something similar. The more consistent your branding can be the safer your market share is.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. You are one after all! If you go to the store and look for a specific product, say laundry detergent, and can’t find the brand you usually buy, what do you do (after seeking help from an associate, etc.)? You might try another brand or wait to buy it elsewhere. Now, what if the product was there, but the packaging had changed and you just overlooked it? That company, the one you were loyal to previously, just lost a sale and perhaps a lifetime customer or future purchases.
Of Note: The average attention span in 2012 is just 8 seconds. That’s down from 12 seconds in 2000 and even shorter than that of a goldfish. This makes it all the more important for your brand to be visibly differentiable quickly. Source: Static Brain.
Different Departments or Products – Same Brand
So you say, branding and consistency are important, but what if I have a multifaceted company? How can our brand be consistent if we have different departments and/or products? Colors and a primary logo will be key.
Use Coca-Cola for example. They have a number of different product lines, but their brand is consistent throughout. They use the same primary logo, colors and packaging.
Have a Guide – Enter the Brand Book
We’ve discussed why it’s important to maintain brand consistency. You get it, so now how to do you ensure the rest of your team or co-workers will support this as well? Enter the brand book. A brand book is a critical resource for any business. Simply put, a brand book is a guide for anyone involved with the company. It outlines the brand logo, colors (PMS, so they’ll be EXACTLY the same), typefaces or fonts, acceptable layouts, email signatures and more.
BrandMaker News offers an excellent review of what a brand book is, what needs to be included and how to use it.
Go. Brand. Succeed.
By: Alex Fernandez
Internet Marketing Specialist
One of the most fundamental marketing lessons I took away from my days at Florida Gulf Coast University with Dr. Ludmilla Wells, was this principle: “You CANNOT market in a vacuum,” meaning that there will always be external factors, such as competition, environmental factors, industry trends, etc., that you will have to adapt to. Simply ignoring these factors can render a great idea absolutely useless.
The topic I want to address today is building a brand with online competition and SEO in mind, or “Branding for SEO”. One of our specialties at Pushing the Envelope is establishing online presences for our clients, whether it’s building them a website, landing page, social media account, or online directory listing. However, often times we will find that the client hasn’t considered online competition when they built their brand, as if search engine ranking pages (SERPs) and Internet marketing in general was an afterthought.
Internet marketing and search engine marketing is not the “wave of the future” as it is often tritely described. Internet marketing and search marketing is NOW. I would even go further to say that mobile marketing is also NOW. These mediums should be the first consideration for anyone that is creating a new brand. A few questions you should ask:
What are your domain options?
- A costly domain isn’t usually a great move for a start-up.
What are the top three results for each keyword or key phrase you are targeting?
- These are your search engine competitors, which could vary greatly from your offline competitors.
How active are your search engine competitors online and on social media channels?
- It might behoove you to find ways to be different and avoid an uphill battle from the start.
These questions might seem uber-simple, but they can save you thousands of dollars in time and web development costs, which will make you more profitable long-term. Here are a few principles to follow when branding for SEO:
Check the search results first!
Whenever I have idea for a new website, the first thing I do is see if anyone has come up with a similar or better idea before me. As brilliant as we like to think we are, the law of large numbers will always prompt me to perform a quick benchmark search inquiry. Why? Because if I thought of it, there is a high probability that a large number of people before me thought of it, too.
To illustrate let’s say you type in the prospective brand name and you see several other companies doing business under that name. Perhaps all but one company are doing business in a different industry. You are going to look at the one search competitor within your industry, and click through to their website, blog and social media. Is everything well designed, up to date, creative, content-laden, etc.? Will you be in direct competition with them? If so, you might want to rethink starting off with an uphill battle.
Own your brand on the major search engines.
Another concept of branding for SEO is owning as much of the web under your brand name as possible. Search for popular business directories such as DMOZ, BOTW, etc. – there are thousands of others. Then add your company information, keywords, links, any information they will allow you to include. Each new directory you setup for your business will generate an additional backlink to your business.
Another step to take is local SEO, if your business is a brick and mortar company with specific locations. You can place additional listing for your business on popular local search and user review websites, such as yelp, MerchantCircle, Trip Advisor, YP, superpages, and more.
The end result is your business “owning” the SERPs for your brand keywords. If you type your brand into Google, you want more than just #1 – you want 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and so on.
Grow your brand without destroying it.
To illustrate this – think about the “New Coke” crisis that the Coca-Cola Company had in the 1980s. By creating a new beverage and discontinuing the old beverage, they essentially alienated their customers and abandoned the brand equity of Coca-Cola Classic.
This is a great way to think about branding for SEO. It’s important as your company grows, to keep in mind that you should never abandon the brand equity that you have built. It can take multiple years for some companies to reach number one for their targeted keywords – only for them to decide that they want to change their brand name. Make sure your brand strategy is clearly defined before changing your online presence.
You might want to add a brand extension, or create a separate website for your parent brand, rather than changing your current name in order to avoid unnecessary losses. For example, SC Johnson is the parent brand for Windex, which has a dedicated landing page for it’s Windex Outdoor Shine product. Each of these company names work together to create brand equity, without detracting from one another.
If you have questions about how you should go about launching your next big idea, or if you want to grow your brand without losing your brand’s equity, please contact us! We’re here to help you succeed.
This is part 3 of our 3 part series covering lessons learned and tips gathered at the recent FPRA Annual Conference.
Peter Hollister, APR, Fellow PRSA, CPRC of Hollister, Trubow & Associates, offered a lecture on strategic communications during the conference. Before you start yawning (no offense Mr. Hollister), as we all know strategy talk can sometimes be dry, this was a powerful presentation.
First of all, there has to be an understanding that communications plans (or really any marketing plans) must have a long range view that relates to the company or organization’s brand and branding efforts. Additionally, we have to “get” that this not something that will be developed then put on a shelf or adhered to the same way now as it will be 5 years or even 2 years. With the ever changing media and communication landscape, we have to move forward and design our strategic plans in such a way that they are flexible and a living document.
- Strategic Planning vs Long Range Planning
- A strategic plan does not have an ending. It’s a dynamic, living thing. Components within have an ending, but not the plan.
- A strategic plan has evaluation built into it. Benchmarks, etc. so you can tell as you go along if you are making the expected progress.
- Strategic planning is participative. You must be involved in it, not invite an organization in and hire them to do it.
“Strategic management provides guidance, direction & boundaries for operational management.” – George A. Steiner Strategic Planning
A strategic plan encompasses all aspects of an effort or initiative and is people and customer centered. This is of the utmost importance! Now, with social media and consumer driven/derived media we (communicators) are considering this more. Before there was a push mentality.
We would push information out. Send our messages where we thought our target audiences were. Now, we can ask them. Listen and find out what they want and communicate WITH them, not AT them. It’s really relationship management. We have to be constantly thinking about ENHANCING RELATIONSHIPS.
Every strategic plan must take this into account. And, as Mr. Hollister pointed out, this change in thinking and way of designing a strategic plan explains what PR and communications is and does for those not in our industry.