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The Ultimate Guide to Brand Management for Online Marketers

| Posted in category Branding Online Press Releases Search Engine Optimization Social Media

brand logos


"Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image."

David Ogilvy




What is a brand? It is a visual, auditory or conceptual image (or all these things at once) that people associate with your product or service.

For instance, when one sees the red Coca Cola logo or hears the Coca Cola signature tune, such things like the taste of the beverage, its texture and color spontaneously spring to mind.

The brand also helps your product or service stand out in the market, but whether you achieve this or not depends on how well-researched and ingenious your branding strategy is.

In short, brand management lies in creating and maintaining your brand's image in such a way that it is:

  • easily recognizable (this is achieved by being proactive and consistent with branding efforts)
  • positive (for this, smart reputation management is required)
  • sticky (this characteristic has to do with your brand’s uniqueness and memorability)

When done effectively, brand management helps you influence consumer’s purchasing decisions, build their loyalty and eventually increase sales.

Section I: The brand and its components

As was said above, the brand is an image that may consist of many parts, and it's really up to you which components you'd like to include.

Brand name

The process of choosing a brand name (also known as naming) is the key moment in starting a brand. While your logo, tagline or other brand components may evolve with time, the brand name is normally born and abolished together with the brand.

When it comes to brand naming, there are certain techniques brand specialists resort to.

Also, register a trademark! By owning the rights to the use of your brand name and logo you protect yourself from unauthorized use and likely discourage a competitor who may decide to piggyback on your branding components.

E.g., "Domex" got a brand name painfully resembling that of "Domestos". Unilever disputed it, and the trademark registration for Domex was declared invalid in 2003.

Three things to remember in respect to trademarks:

  • Trademark laws vary depending on the country/state.
  • Under most trademark laws, common names such as "flower" or "buy" cannot become trademarks.
  • Under some legislation, similar trademarks can co-exist if they operate in unrelated niches.

One more thing to consider when naming your brand (now that we’re in the digital era) is whether there is a domain name available for it. Likewise, see if you can easily register a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and other major online profiles using your future brand name.

For more information on choosing a domain name, please see our guide How to Choose a Domain Name with SEO in Mind. Part 1: Brand vs Keywords.

Brand logo and colors

This is where you can get really creative. However, color psychologists say that certain colors trigger particular response in people.

The Logo C° put together a nice infographic with brand examples and the colors those brands use:

According The Logo C°, the color red, for example, is best for sports, food and entertainment industries; while green is good for environmental, medicine and government brands.

Along with the logo and the colors, you can choose:

  • Additional brand colors,
  • Alternative logo representations
  •  A particular typeface(s) associated with your brand.

The more specific you are about each of these things, the more solid and non-confusing your brand will be.

Brand tagline

Also, choose a tagline for your brand. It’s a line of text that normally accompanies your brand name and logo. In fact, the three are often popularized together, in a bundle.

For example, can you guess McDonald’s tagline? Yes, the famous "I'm lovin' it"

Descriptive, catchy taglines aid brands to be more memorable. Great brand tagline examples:

Brand mission statement

The bigger number of positive signals people can associate with your brand, the better. So, crafting a great mission statement for your brand enriched your brand culture and helps you spark interest from like-minded people.

For instance, one of the best brand mission statements one comes across on the Internet is Google's "Ten things we know to be true" manifesto:

The great part about Google’s mission statement is that it appeals to a wide scope of people. Just think about - who would want to be thought of as "evil" or deal with a company that could be described as "evil"?

By the way, brand mission statement is terribly overlooked by many companies, while having one could enable your brand radiate integrity, tradition, reliability and many other things that arise from having (and adhering to!) a mission statement.

Section II: 5 Types of brands

Depending on what lies at the core of them, brands can be of various types. Marketers normally distinguish between personal vs. corporate brands, company (parent) brands vs. product brands, etc.

For practicality reasons, let us talk about 5 main types of brands a marketer is likely to deal with in their everyday life.

1. Company brand

Company brands are just that, brands behind corporate entities. If a company does not create separate brands for its products and/or product lines, then the corporate brand can be the same as its product/services brand.

Company brand examples: Pinterest, Netflix, etc.

What’s interesting, in September 2011, Netflix wanted to create a separate product brand for its in-mail DVD rental service (plus video games) called Qwikster. But because the plan had gotten a negative response from customers, it was subsequently cancelled.

2. Personal brand

Personal branding is crucial to one-man companies, celebrities or brands that use separate people to promote themselves. A personal brand often has the same aspects a corporate brand would have:

  • The name (e.g., Lana Del Rey was really born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant)
  • Signature outfit, hairstyle, etc.

  • Manifesto, etc.

There are certainly benefits as well as dangers in promoting a personal brand. The benefits include your brand having a face to it, a human touch and personality from day 1.

While challenges may include "putting all your eggs into one basket", the need to police your walk and talk around the clock, as well as the strain of protecting your personal brand image each time you are in public.

3. Product line

A product-line-as-a-brand is a popular phenomenon within bigger companies. Product-as-a-brand falls pretty much within the same category. For example, did you know that BonAqua, Burn, Fanta and Sprite were product brands of the Coca Cola company?

Depending on one's brand architecture (on how brands are connected in your single branding strategy), there may be very little or very strong association between, say, your company brand and your product brand.

For example, Procter & Gamble normally stresses that a certain product is made by them. While Fanta and Burn are marketed by Coca Cola mostly as separate products.

By the way, solid proof that brands themselves have value is the fact that many bigger companies keep the names and logos of the brands they acquire. For example, Google kept YouTube's old name and logo; Instagram pretty much remained Instagram after Facebook purchased it; and Flickr is still recognized by its own name after it became part of Yahoo!

4. Concept as a brand

Sometimes, the brand invents a concept or a unique product which it promotes as if it were a brand. For example, think Starbucks' Frappuccino, Seth Godin's Permission Marketing, etc.

Why would a brand do it? It’s a tactic that helps a company or an individual establish authority, exert the spirit of innovation and end up with yet another branding tool in their arsenal.

Thing is, new concepts and inventions often contain educational and life-organizing value in them. They are like freebies - people don't mind checking them out and adopting them if they are to people's liking.

5. One-off campaign as a brand

One good example of a promo campaign that’s marketed like a brand is the "Bing It On" initiative by Bing. The essence of the initiative is to see whether people prefer Bing's or Google's search results in a blind test.

If we look at it, we'll see the campaign has many, if not all, characteristics of a brand:

  • The name (which is actually a smart wordplay on "bring it on")
  • The logo and the typeface
  • The tagline ("Bing vs Google"), etc.
  • The mission statement (to find out whose results people prefer), etc.

Section III: A practical guide to brand management

And now we arrive at the most practical and actionable part of this guide: the exact steps you need to take to create and manage a brand consistently as part of your overall marketing efforts. Let us take a step-by-step approach, and start with the first thing you'd normally do when starting with a brand.

1. Get a brand book

At this point, we presume that you and your colleagues have already decided on the type of your brand, its name, its logo, its mission statement, etc.

The next thing to do would be to file all these visuals, audio and video materials (if applicable), taglines and mission statements into a comprehensive brand book.

Why is a brand book important to have? You can demonstrate it to:

  • New company employees
  • Partners and/or investors
  • Advertising folks you hire
  • Affiliate marketers and/or brand ambassadors

Not to mention that you can easily use it yourself in your daily promo routine.

For example, Skype has a really nice and clear-cut brand book, where you can see which versions of its logo are acceptable, what the concept behind the service is, etc. (Skype is currently owned by Microsoft Skype Division by the way).

2. Keep your branding consistent

Now, repeat after us: every marketing step you take should be in line with your brand's components (its tagline, its mission statement, etc.) In companies that employ brand managers, no promo campaign, no sale and no new product is launched without the brand specialist’s concern.

To be more specific, let's say you are a company that makes upscale Italian footwear. What can you do around Christmas when everyone has sales and lowers their prices?

If you simply offer all your in-store merchandise at, say, 35% off, this may have the following negative consequences:

  • People who'll visit your store during and after the sale will be unpleasantly surprised at how pricey your footwear is on a regular basis (since during the sale they barely looked at the original price)
  • The minimal price reduction you can afford will barely let a large number of people to purchase your merchandise anyway.
  • Some regular customers may feel fooled, because they just purchased your footwear at its normal price in October.

So, what can you do instead? You can pick one or two most popular items, offer them at whooping 60% off during the holiday season, which will have the opposite effect:

  • People will remember quite well that everything was rather expensive at your store (except for the few items on sale).
  • More people will be able to afford to purchase those reduced-price pieces, since the discount is bigger.
  • The image of your brand as an expensive (elite) footwear maker will be preserved and your regular customers will be happy.

3. Manage your online reputation

The Internet (and especially the mobile Web) has revolutionized the way brand news spreads and the way people interact with brands these days. If previously it was more about delivering your bran message to the masses, then nowadays it’s really about having a dialogue with key people (representatives of the masses) in each particular situation.

Online reputation management mostly consists in:

  • Monitoring search results in major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) and social media discussions for your brand name.

You can use tools like Google Alerts or BuzzBundle to do this faster and more effectively!

  • Joining key discussions and propelling positive sentiment about your brand.
  • Answering support questions (if these arise) in a timely manner - never ever ignore negative feedback!
  • Remember, each piece of negative feedback to your brand is an opportunity to assert its value if you tackle it with style 😉

For more online reputation management tips, read this 7-Step Guide to Web Reputation Management we put together some time ago.

4. Create branded content

Nowadays, many brands put forth content to cover the distance to the customer, if that distance exists. This tactic is used to hook up a consumer early in their buying cycle, at a point when the prospect is not even looking to use your product or service.

Flickr image by Ben+Sam

For example, a dentist's office may have a blog where they provide tips on how people can better take care of their teeth. Then, when the reader of this blog needs a dentist, they're likely to think of the company behind the blog, or the fact that the reader has heard of the brand may influence their choice f the service.

The challenge of this approach is that you can't really tout your own horn or advertise your brand in the educational piece of content. At the same time, it’s easier to make people hear out your message with a pamphlet that has no advertising intent than to make them watch your commercial or read your sales copy.

5. Make sure people can find you online

When someone looks for the information about your brand online, they should be able to find it easily and find just the right kind of information:

  • Ensure that your site ranks for your brand keywords in organic search (on Google, Bing, etc.)
  • Sometimes, it makes sense to buy paid search advertising if your site doesn’t show up for certain branded search terms organically

  • Remember that many people search on mobile these days. If you can, work out a solution that responds to the mobile users' needs (such as to quickly find your store hours or operation, locations, etc.) This can be achieved by creating a mobile site, a mobile app or by implementing responsive design on your desktop site.
  • Google now often provides immediate answers to searchers' questions (especially after Google Hummingbird) and can independently collect information about your brand (from Google Maps, Wikipedia, etc.) Search for your brand name on Google and make sure the information it provides is accurate/full.

6. Leverage social media to spread the word

Create as many social media profiles for your brand as you will be able to manage (or someone else will be able to do it for you). Don’t create a Pinterest account just to forget all about its existence the following day!

It is OK for a brand to be picky about which social media channels it uses. Take Apple; it barely has any social media presence. However, if you’re not the scale of Apple, leveraging social media (for brand promotion is a great idea.

  • Choose a search-friendly and a non-confusing name for each of your social media profiles

(here is how to pick one for Twitter)

  • Brand your social media channels with company logo, corporate colors, your tagline, etc.

Link-Assistant.Com' profile on Google+

  • Keep those social media profiles alive by posting links to valuable content, company news and having a conversation with current and prospective customers

 7. Don’t discount traditional media

And, last but not least, good old means of promoting brand sentiment still work.

  • Got company news? Write a press release about it
  • Take part in industry conferences, trade shows and expos
  • Look for partnership and sponsoring opportunities
  • Love your competitor: see if there are projects you can do together from which all parties would benefit

So, have you just gotten some fresh brand building and management ideas from this post? Or do you have your own expertise to share? Comments are welcome!

Image credit: pressureUA via iStockPhoto

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