Branding tips for your business on and off-line

Much of our marketing is online now and we’re getting the hang of managing our brand across the Internet, or at least I’m sure we’d like to think so. The challenge is managing your brand on and offline, consistently.

Back to basics for a minute, what is a brand? It’s not just a logo as we might commonly think but an identity such as a logo is certainly what links our brand to the outside world. What’s more interesting is what happens when people see your logo as all of the associations they make with it really define your brand. These are things such as emotional response – what do you feel when you see the logo of a well known brand, such as Coca Cola for example? Chances are, when you think of and see this “brand” a succession of thoughts occur, based on what you believe their products and services to be, how you feel about them, quality and what you think they promise you as a customer. This is most likely based on past experience, and the general perception you have of the Coca Cola business ethos and service.

So the logo is the link or reminder to all of those things which makes it important, but perhaps not as important as the way you interact and associate with your customers and the outside world.

Assuming you have some sort of visual identity such as a logo and a corporate style, they still represent your brand and there are some golden rules on and offline for making sure that these are consistent.

Off-line. In many ways this is easier because you tend to have a lot of control:

  • Make sure all stationery has your logo displayed in the correct way, using the right colours and fonts. Depending on how many of you there are, you may need written guidelines to keep this correct.
  • Every touch-point with your organisation should be consistent, particularly your customer service
  • Do you know where your brand is displayed? It pays to check that others are not using your identity as an endorsement or affiliation where you have not agreed such an arrangement. And where you do have an agreement, a responsible team member should check it’s used properly.
  • If you have social media pages such as on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, make sure their addresses (the urls) appear on your contact details, for example on your business card email signature.

Online, this can be more of a challenge as brand “mentions” are faster and potentially global. Using social media for business, such as Facebook and Twitter is great and means we can reach our target audience in more ways than before.

If you’re not already, search these media to find out if anybody is talking about you or your business. You can usually search within the network, like Twitter Search or else set up a Google Alert. These are all free but well worth doing to make sure you’re the first to know.

Communication is also now more often 2 way (also good) but there are a few golden rules:

  • Your website is quite straightforward as you should have control over the copy and design, which will match your other offline marketing material
  • Make sure you get there first! Create your own business pages so you have an official channel to respond to conversations about you as well as promote what you’re doing. this is far easier to control and highlights that you’re up-to-date and open as an organisation – all traits of marketing effectively on the Internet
  • Social media, particularly if there is more than one person in your business benefits from a strategy and agreed style. As you expand or if you leave social networking to other members of the team, a social media policy may be appropriate. In fact, Mashable produced a great blog on just this topic last year, highlighting how Kodak, Intel and IBM manage their social media.
  • What you do online will hang around far longer than anything offline. For this reason, it pays to communicate professionally at all times and remember that your working life is more likely to cross over with your personal social networking, as everything is searchable online. Well, not quite everything as we know there are privacy polices and security measures (particularly on social networking sites) – but how often is that in the news?!

Finally, we’ve put together some of our own golden rules for social media which you might also find useful.

About the Author: Karen McNulty is a Chartered Marketer, trainer and speaker and runs her own marketing business, Marketing Picture. She is also co-founder of online business planning websites MarketingPlanWiz and BusinessPlanWiz.

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