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Brand Theory

6 questions to ask yourself when building a brand-focused, inbound-friendly website

By | Brand Communications, Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

Websites have changed. People have changed. Consumers run on information and websites are their fuel. They search. They learn. They search some more. Before they even talk to a sales rep, they’re 60% through the buying decision according to Gartner.

With buyers in the driver’s seat, what does that mean if you’re designing or upgrading your website? A lot. It means you’ve got to build a brand-focused, inbound marketing-friendly website, with all of the content your prospects are surfing for. So ask these 6 questions to make sure you’re capturing, converting, and cultivating customers.

1. WHO’S MY TARGET AUDIENCE?
It’s amazing how much we focus in on target audiences when we create brand strategies and marketing communications, yet seem to make a website more general to attract more people. It’s imperative to clearly define the prospects you want to attract because they’ll be interested in what you have to offer. Use buyer personas to really understand their mindsets, motivations, and pain points. That way, you can start creating pages, content, and offers that appeal specifically to them.

2. DOES MY WEBSITE REFLECT OUR BRAND?
Your website is the hub for all of your communications and the center of your brand experience. It’s the first place everyone goes to when they want information. So make sure it’s a sterling representation of your brand’s mission, vision, and values. And every page should reflect your positioning, purpose, brand story, brand face, and brand voice. This can be a difficult task if you’re struggling with your brand. But it’s all in a day’s work if your brand is fully defined and well articulated.

3. ARE MY PAGES BUILT FOR THE BUYER JOURNEY?
People don’t buy right away so they certainly don’t want to be sold right away. It’s a process—of turning browsers into visitors into leads into customers into brand ambassadors. That means you need to develop a variety of content that’s right for each step of the buyer journey. Someone looking for information doesn’t want “BUY NOW!” shoved in their face. They want information that is useful in their decision process, stuff that helps them learn why there is a need for your product or service. The right content, from e-books to whitepapers to webinars, nurtures your prospect through the buyer journey.

Looking for a deeper dive? Download our Inbound Marketing Primer from our sister company TRUSTinbound Marketing Group.

4. IS MY SEO REALLY O?
Optimizing your SEO doesn’t start with search words. It starts with the right content. Like meaningful pages that appeal to your buyer persona. Pages filled with meaningful information. After you’ve got that, you can optimize your copy, page URLs, page titles and meta descriptions with keywords based on what they’re looking for. Think about what prospects going through the buyer journey would use for real-world search terms – the kind of stuff they type into a Google search window. That’s how you optimize your SEO for real people, not search engines.

5. IS MY NAVIGATION IDIOT-PROOF?
People aren’t stupid, but navigation sure can be. Think about it, you go through all the trouble to get your website on the first page of a Google search, only to lose your prospect in your maze of menus and drop downs. They’ll drop out and go right back to Google. So make sure your prospects can get to where they want to go with the least number of clicks.

6. IS MY WEBSITE MOBILE FRIENDLY?
It’s absolutely mandatory that your website has a responsive design that looks awesome on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Why? Because your prospects are mobile. In fact, according to a recent study, roughly 56% of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. And all of those people want websites that are easy to view and understand.

Meaningful branding and compelling information is the way into the hearts and minds of your prospects. And your website is your digital hub for it all.

So make each page work hard—turning prospects into loyal brand advocates.

The Moment of Truth

By | Brand Culture, Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

You’re delicately crafting or recrafting your corporate brand.

Or carefully launching or relaunching a product brand.

Where do you begin? How do you articulate the USP, the point of distinction, the differentiating factor?

Whether you reside in the old school camp of Al Ries’ and Jack Trout’s classic Positioning; or the new school of story branding, purpose branding or Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, it can leave you staring at a blank sheet of paper.

So where do you really start? What’s the catalyst for everything you want to capture?

It’s the Moment of Truth—that split second when your target audience touches your brand.

Imagine that interaction in slow motion. Person to corporate entity. Human to product. What happens? Physically, emotionally, viscerally? What does that moment look like? Sound like? Feel like? Get all of your brand stakeholders—from product marketing and sales to service and support people—in a room and talk about it. Write everything down you can think of. Scour existing research. Conduct focus groups and watch carefully. Look for the patterns, the similarities and the themes that emerge.

It doesn’t matter whether you make industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals or colas, the truth about your brand is in that moment. It’s how your customer or prospect authentically reacts. What’s on their face. On their mind. In their heart. What they say [and don’t say] to you and each other. How they interact with your product when no one is looking.

What’s the essence of the entire moment? Delight? Trust? Confidence? Truth? Happiness? Relief? Family? Wow? A better world? This is just the spark you need for your positioning, purpose or brand story. Once you’ve got that, everything else is easy.

Start with the Moment of Truth. Within it is everything you’re seeking.

Love that new shuttle bus smell!

By | Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

“Is that a dryer sheet I smell?”

That’s what I asked myself as I sat on a rental car shuttle bus, going from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to a massive off-site car rental depot. Very interesting, I thought. Fragrance branding. And it worked on me. It made my ride much more pleasant than, say, the odor of gas fumes and sweaty tourists.

Sensory appeal is human appeal. And it attracts people to your brand. A nice fragrance on the shuttle bus was unexpected. And I’ll remember it—because smell is one of our strongest senses, processed by the most reptilian part of our brain. A certain smell can bring back a flood of memories. Maybe it’s the fragrance of lilacs in the spring. Apples in the fall. Or Juicy Fruit gum after school.

Ever walk through the casinos in Vegas? Some smell good. Some smell, um, like casinos. But open the doors at the Venetian, and you’re flooded with a signature fragrance. Your reaction is immediate and visceral. Most of the casinos use fragrancing systems, but the Venetian really stands out.

Obviously, smell plays a critical roll in perfumes, colognes, health and beauty products, and food and beverage brands. Retailers and car manufacturers have discovered the power of fragrance branding, too. (That new car smell? Yep, it’s bottled.) But it’s where you don’t expect it that it can have the biggest impact. Your office for example. Why shouldn’t the whole building smell like the C-Suite? Or what about the computer you’re reading this blog on? Why couldn’t it have a cool, techy smell infused in the plastic? And what’s the deal with wall paint? Couldn’t it have a nice lingering fragrance after the paint smell goes away? Fragrances could be matched to colors. Mocha really would smell like Mocha!

When you’re developing your brands, don’t miss out on what could be a key differentiating factor. It’s right under your nose.

If Sales is a sprint and Marketing is a marathon, then Branding is a triathlon.

By | Brand Strategy, Brand Theory, Corporate Identity, Product Identity | No Comments

If you’re responsible for corporate or product branding, you have to be in it for the long run. The very long run. Look at brands that are leaders in their categories [Coca-Cola, FedEx, IBM, GE, McDonald’s, Toyota, Google, Amazon, and Apple] and it’s clear they’ve been winning their triathlons for years, decades, even centuries.

The Sales function understands the role of marketing and the value of branding. But it can all go out the window when the numbers aren’t being hit. Bringing in the quarter can mean selling out the brand. That can erode everything Marketing and Branding is trying to do.

The Marketing function is more medium-term focused. But pressure to launch new products, break into markets, appeal to more target audiences and deal with corporate expectations can create too much brand stretch that stings with a resounding snap!

The Branding function, on the other hand, takes the long view because a brand has to stand the test of time. [See brand examples above.] It’s a grueling race to build long-term brand value despite the ups and downs of quarterly sales goals and yearly marketing plans. The race is won by being meaningful, differentiated, relevant and adaptable—year after year. And like triathletes, brand stakeholders do many things well, while always keeping their eye on the prize. They overcome obstacles, beat the competition, bob and weave through economic bears and bulls, and never lose confidence, stamina or focus.

Are you ready for the triathlon of your career? It’s worth the race.

5 Things Harry Potter Can Teach Your Brand

By | Brand Strategy, Brand Theory | No Comments

It’s estimated that the Harry Potter brand is valued at $15 billion dollars. In fact, the record-breaking series of books and films have made J.K. Rowling the first billionaire from writing.

So what branding lessons can we learn from the young wizard of Hogwarts?

1. Always tell a great story.

Your brand isn’t just a company or a product. It’s a story that never ends. Brand storytelling should cast a spell–capturing the hearts and minds of your target audience. Like any great story, your brand needs structure, plot, and resolution. With a narrative rich in emotion, connectivity, and credibility. Sure, you have a logo and a tagline, but what makes your brand compelling and authentic? What does it feel like? What does it believe? What’s its purpose?

2. Create your own world.

What makes J.K. Rowling a genius is that she created a complex and magical world of wizardry, with its own society, customs, characters, and language. Your brand should do the same to add authenticity and depth. You can create a unique world for your brand in many ways. Your website. Your tradeshow booth. The way you package and brand your R&D and support programs. The unique terminology you coin for features and benefits. What’s your Quidditch?

3. Stay true to your brand.

Harry Potter is true to himself. More importantly, the Harry Potter franchise is true to itself. Every aspect of the brand works together, from the books to the films to the Universal Studio’s attraction, to the recent release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There’s nothing out of place. No weird brand proliferations like Harry Potter Shoes or Harry Potter Coffee. Don’t be a Muggle. Keep a keen focus, and avoid products and services that aren’t “on brand.”

4. Be a fighter.

Harry Potter is a little guy, but he’s scrappy. He has passion, purpose and a sense of destiny. We all have our Voldermorts, but we can never back down. Be aggressive, fast on your feet, and think three chess moves ahead. For your target audience, always make it a fight of good against evil. And always, always, do the right thing. Remember, people love the underdog. You don’t have to be the biggest, You just have to be the best.

5. Keep your audience wanting more.

In 2007, The Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final volume in the Harry Potter series, became the fastest-selling book in history with more than 11 million copies sold worldwide in just 24 hours. Wouldn’t you love those kinds of numbers for your next product release? You can, by using the 4 points above to keep your target audience loving your brand. And by leveraging inbound branding to create a rich experience that delivers on different levels. Maximize your website, blogs, social media, and SEO. And be a wizard when it comes providing tons of meaningful content and contact points.

“Stupendous Brandus!”