Web presence is nowadays essential part of the branding process. That’s because the Web is equally a:
- Communication medium that conveys image. To take advantage of the inherent strengths of the Web — potentially endless depth and two-way communication — sites must provide content and function that support Brand Image. For example, to back up Apple’s claim to “lead the industry in innovation,” its site must describe the innovative aspects of Apple products and provide standout function like a best-in-class configurator. To reinforce multichannel marketing campaigns, sites also need elements like language, imagery, typography, and layout to be consistent with both the intent of the positioning and the style of ads in other media.
- Delivery channel that enables action. Sites don’t just appear before customers the way television ads do. If a customer sees a home page, it’s because she typed a URL or clicked a link — and that means she arrived with goals like finding specific information, making a purchase or getting service. To avoid frustrating and annoying her — a bad way to build brand — sites must supply the content and function she needs to achieve her goals. For example, customers looking for a low-cost American Express card need content that includes annual fees and APR plus function that lets them apply online. Sites also need navigation that makes it easy to find the content, and they need presentation that makes it easy to consume the content.
The Web’s dual role as an image and action-oriented medium challenges the best of firms. To fulfill the online potential of their brands, Web decision-makers should:
- Build usable sites that won’t frustrate and annoy customers. To design sites that deliver great Brand Action, follow the principles of Scenario Design: Know your users, know their goals, and then use that knowledge to help build streamlined paths from the home page to the goal.
- Create a “brand persona.” User personas — which represent a customer segment as a single human with a name, face, attitudes, and goals — make it easy for companies to focus on the most important needs of their most important customers. To help Web teams focus on the top aspects of their brand positioning, teams should create a parallel document summarizing the key image attributes they need to communicate online. This brand persona shouldn’t try to copy the user persona format by turning the brand into a faux human. Instead, it should borrow relevant elements like a narrative description of the firm’s mission, vision, and values to set context, a logo in lieu of a face, the tagline from the current campaign instead of a user quote, and bulleted lists of the most important benefits, personality characteristics, and desired behaviors.
- Make Brand Image permeate the site. Companies should check every page of their sites during creative reviews — and on an ongoing basis — to ensure that brand positioning attributes are there and that, more importantly, no elements that contradict the positioning are there.
- Conduct full Brand Image reviews on a quarterly basis. Evaluating site Brand Image is a straightforward job. Start with a relevant user goal to direct reviewers to the parts of the site they’ll check and a brand persona to remind them what they’re checking for. Then have reviewers attempt to complete the user goal while checking how well each page supports the positioning summarized by the brand persona. Borrow the Brand Image evaluation criteria from this report, then check your closest competitors against brand personas you derive for them by reading how they describe themselves on their site, in their press releases, and in their annual reports.
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