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Building Your Brand Online

For your brand to succeed on the Internet in the long term, it is clear that strong brand-building skills are going to be required to survive and prosper. It is a question that is asked every day across the globe, from the largest of multinationals to the small local business: “How to create and manage a strong brand online?

Nowadays more than ever before, being a successful business owner is about making sure that your company name, identity, brand and even your personal brand (if you want to make it part of the attraction of doing business with you) can be found in every conceivable nook and cranny on the web.

An orange…is an orange….is an orange. Unless, of course, that orange happens to be a Sunkist, a name eighty percent of consumers know and trust. Russell L. Hamlin, CEO Sunkist Growers.

People buy brands, NOT products.

The rules of building a strong brand, as lay down through the years by many notable business people and entrepreneurs remain true in today’s Internet driven world. Take the time to read the superlative efforts of brand creation and management by Anita Roddick (Body Shop); Ray Kroc (McDonalds); Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company); James Dyson (Dyson), to name just four.

It is not necessarily harder to build a strong brand today as compared to the past eras of those mentioned above. It is however certainly a different landscape and set of challenges we face, where so much importance is placed on conquering the online space, let alone the burgeoning worlds of social media and mobile!

Winning Through Innovation
If you want to succeed, establish and grow your brand online you should strike out on new paths rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success. Marketing innovation on the Internet among brands is surprisingly low and a rare occurrence. Too many businesses play a safe game of ‘follow my competitor’, sheltering in the slipstream of those who are prepared to take risks. Think outside the box for marketing your brand online, what are my competitors NOT doing?

Creating and Leading in Niche Markets Online
While it is apparent that the Internet is a great leveller for smaller businesses to outsmart bigger players, too many SME’s and mid-size companies fail to create a niche for their brand where they can realistically compete or even dominate online. If we take ‘Search Engine Marketing’ as one illustration: if you are a small motor insurer desperately trying to drive traffic to your website by getting to the top of the Google index for the search ‘car insurance’ you are in essence throwing good search engine optimisation (SEO) money after bad. This strategy is either going to prove: A. Impossible or B. Takes so long so as not to be sustainable.

A far more realistic approach which will deliver results in the short term is to target ‘long tail’ search terms where the ferocity of competition is less and the chances of immediate success are greater. Be the most visible car insurer for the search term ‘hybrid car insurance’, or ‘simple car insurance’. From greater visibility you can attract higher numbers of unique visitors to your website; generate a larger following on social media; and build brand equity online through specialisation.

Building on Strengths
Being the leader online for a niche market means that you will know your customers inside out. The best exponents of this strategy know exactly what they are good at-and can get better at-as they introduce new products online, enter new but related markets, and evolve strategically to anticipate and capitalise upon the changing digital marketplace.

Value NOT Price
It’s not difficult is it? Everyone knows how to win online and succeed in business: Buy low, sell high. But, through history, many of the most successful high-growth businesses buy high and sell higher. In the digital age the winners will almost certainly compete by delivering products that provide SUPERIOR VALUE to customers rather than just costing less.

Remember, there is almost always somewhere online where you can buy a product sold on Amazon for less than it will cost you on Amazon. Do we go there? No, most consumers will buy from Amazon.

Summary
The traditional ways to build a brand utilised the mediums of TV; Print; and Radio advertising. In the opinion of many marketing experts: the biggest brands of tomorrow will be built online. This will be partly because the tools we have available to build brands online are going to get better and better, and partly because more and more advertising money is going to flow to digital.

The Internet provides us with both a unique set of challenges and opportunities for building a strong and lasting brand. Creating a strong brand online is about taking a longer term perspective (not getting side-tracked down the paths of online marketing gimmicks or fads); being genuinely innovative both in terms of what you offer and how you deliver it online; utilising the power of the Internet to build on your brand strengths; and creating a value-based proposition and not one solely centred on price.

Paul Brewster, May 2014