Terranet readers may remember a series of recent articles on the importance of web branding, and the post below is something of a follow-on discussion. Business expert Julianna Davies jumps in to offer tips and advice about how the Internet space should — and alternatively should not — be used when marketing new products and services. Julianna spends a lot of time analyzing graduate business programs and the types of training that go on there. She recently evaluated 2012’s best MBA schools by ranking, and is very interested in the many ways in which new graduates are finding success in online ventures.
Branding Tips from Some of the Top MBA Programs
Branding is one of the most important steps in starting a new business, though too often, inexperienced entrepreneurs fail to utilize their resources to build an effective brand. Assuming their product or services will speak for themselves, entrepreneurs pass up an important opportunity to communicate and build a valuable relationship with their audience. Fortunately, various experienced marketing professionals have shared their own insights into what constitute “branding best practices,” and which techniques have proven less successful.
Today, there are more options for branding than ever before, and they continue to evolve rapidly. For this reason, Brian Solis, author of The End of Business as Usual, stresses the importance of designing an effective channel strategy. In utilizing online and particularly social media venues, Solis recommends companies “evaluate the main brand, sub brands, and notable personalities that require a “follow worthy” or “likable” presence. If there are other accounts that exist beyond the initial strategy, assess their value as a standalone channel and its current state.” In this way, entrepreneurs can develop an organized framework in which each element is uniquely supported and meeting the needs of its audience.
Recently, the University of Pennsylvania’s famous Wharton School of Business has worked to redefine its own brand by amping up the “Knowledge for…” tagline, focusing on themes such as “Knowledge for Life,” “Knowledge for Global Impact,” and “Knowledge for Action.” The school utilized local Philadelphia agency Karma to design infographics that use quantitative and qualitative data to depict the impact of a Wharton education. Tim Westerbeck, a business school branding expert referred to Wharton’s effort as “a sensible attempt to draw an even closer association with the idea in the mind of the marketplace.”
Wharton’s branding has largely drawn on the associations the public makes about the school based on its rich history, a choice many branding experts would likely applaud. Much of branding is simply a matter of building trust among consumers, and when changes occur that do not appear to be a logical extension of what came before, that trust can be shaken. Axle Davids, writer for branding site Distility, writes that “when the brand is a big part of people’s lives, continuity is king.” At times when a change is needed or a brand is simply not working, Davids suggests to business leaders “change your brand so the audience sees evolution, not revolution.”
Although effective branding techniques can give a company an significant lead over competitors, only one misstep can undo years of successful branding. Kathy Baughman, president of social engagement and marketing company ComBlu, asserts that one of the most “egregious” practices for companies building their online presence is to allow “hopelessly outdated content” to remain posted on their sites. “When a brand doesn’t care enough to update a blog post or share some great new content with its members, it’s time to get out of the community business,” says Baughman, who offered American Express as a recent culprit. Similarly, companies frequently incorporate a banner dedicated to new content on their site, which can be helpful if it is updated regularly with new content; however, when a company fails to ever update the section, the attempt to portray one’s company as forward thinking and active has had the opposite effect on browsers.
In most cases, the purpose of a company or product logo is to convey a message in the simplest way possible. Yet, ironically, a common branding mistake is to overcomplicate a logo or visual. ”Logos should be the simplest thing that works,” says Davids. “For example, if a name says ‘GAP,’ you don’t need to actually draw a gap. If a name says ‘Tide,’ you don’t need to show the sea.” Davids asserts that “logos should be landscape rectangular to fit the human field of view. Square or round logs will always be smaller and therefore less viewed than rectangular competitors.”
Perhaps the most important element of branding for entrepreneurs to keep in mind is that branding isn’t simply an introduction to one’s products or services, but an ongoing conversation with desired consumers. While some might be daunted by the prospect of branding as an ongoing dialogue, it can be utilized as an opportunity to get a sense of the evolving interests and desires of a target audience. Through consistent and effective branding, entrepreneurs can communicate what they are offering to consumers while also receiving valuable feedback from their target demographics.