Online Branding Style or Substance

If I had to pick just one, it would be substance. When I refer to style, I am limiting the definition to items such as logo, name and title, public relations, advertising. While these and more are all important factors in creating a look and feel for your online visitors, they are all clearly secondary to substance.

So what do we mean when we speak of substance? Substance, in its essence, refers to those elements that create a lasting impression, a unique and lasting "user experience." In the real world of bricks and mortar, we can all quickly name scores of successful brands. They all have one thing in common ? a distinctive and easily recognizable customer experience that is repeatable interaction after interaction, transaction after transaction. Online successful brand names are also numerous. When you think of Google, you have an instantaneous vision of a Google search page, its familiar structure on the search page and the fast, reliable and relevant results ? the most trusted source of information for most of us online. We got to know Google through this unique and outstanding customer experience.

We BENEFITED ? this is what substance is all about. We all got to know Google, not by the logo or the stock price, not even by it going public ? only by achieving fast, reliable results that saves us a lot of time in the process. Google became a verb ? we don't search anymore ? we Google! As with Google, household names such as Ebay, Amazon, Priceline, Travelocity and Yahoo all provide that unique, satisfying and even pleasurable customer experience that keeps us going back with great loyalty. We know what to expect and we like what we expect.

These names are only a portion of the first brand names that were born on the web. There will be many more in the years ahead ? they will all provide a unique experience that will appeal to a large common area of interest engendering confidence, reliability, peace of mind and other clearly positive feelings. Substance is really achieved through excellent planning and execution.

Think this through ? before you can plan and execute, you need to have the following key elements: 1. Commitment to your customer 2. Vision of your business and how it will benefit customers 3. PASSION Either you have these or you don't. ONLY with them can you generate the thoughts, the processes, the "extra miles" effort needed to truly stand out, make an impression and generate discussion amongst those in your target audience, whether it be the general public or those in a specific industry or business.

When we talk Online Branding, the first place we start is with your website. All of the elements of your website are important, even critical, when establishing an online brand. Just consider the following and this is just for starters: 1. Home Page ? are first impressions important? 2. Content ? is it about you or is it about the visitor? Is it engaging, interesting, well written? Is it RELEVANT? Would you come back for more? Do you provide a reason for someone to come back for more? Great content does all of these things. 3.

Navigation ? do the links and the paths in and around the site make sense, follow a rational pattern? 4. Do you make it easy to be contacted by email, by phone or fax? 5. Do you make customer service readily available? Do you make it obvious that you are here for "them?" 6. Is your shopping cart an easy and sensible process? 7. Do you offer assurances, guarantees and warrantees? 8. Do you offer free information in the form of newsletters, RSS feeds, blogs, etc.

All of this is all well and good ? however you also need to make it easy for your site to be FOUND ON THE WEB ? that means Google and the other major search engines. This means Internet Marketing including Search Engine Optimization [hot link] and Sponsored Search Advertizing [hot link]. YOUR NAME DOES HAVE TO ACTUALLY APPEAR to those searching using keywords that directly relate to your business. SEO [hot link] and Sponsored or Paid Search [hot link] requires dedicated, professionals with proven track records and demonstrable results to achieve the visibility you need so that searcher can find you and gain the customer experience you have uniquely created through your website.

So online branding is clearly about execution. Style only becomes important once you have created and crafted a unique and meaningful user experience through great execution. Great execution, in my opinion, is not possible without vision, commitment and PASSION.

Still think you need style and hype before great execution? Consider the case of and just to name two. These guys confused "brand-awareness" through traditional advertizing ? do you remember the 2 million dollar 30 second super bowl ads? They blew much of their venture capital so that 100 million people will see their 30 second ad. These companies, literally hundreds of them, went the way of the Edsel and the Nehru jacket ? they didn't execute for the customer ? they threw their money at the issue.

Just plain doesn't work. As if you needed more convincing consider Amazon. We don't call it Amazon.

com anymore. Amazon has become a marketing giant. They didn't advertise their name change, no hype, no effort to change the name.

The marketplace did it for them. became Amazon because the marketplace has a "first name relationship" with them.

This is all thanks to the vision, the commitment and the passion of Jeff Bezos and those on his team that share these common values. So online branding is a realistic opportunity for those passionate, committed souls with a vision and a genuine understanding of what they offer their customers. With these raw elements from within, the design, implementation and the visible online presence of a website become only natural as part of the overall company strategy. Create a unique feel and experience that is shared by your visitors and you will become an online brand. is an Search Engine Marketing Company with primary focus on Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME's). offers a rich consultative approach that our clients find refreshing. We actually listen to our clients to learn exactly what their problems and objectives are. Through a proven process, we collaborate with our clients to truly understand where they are and where they want to be next month, next year, and in 5 years. Online Branding - Style or Substance?.


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