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6 ways to build a strong online brand

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1. Have a simple and memorable logo (and use it everywhere)

Many years ago I ordered one of the very first Apple products. When it arrived, I noticed a sticker, which I had no recollection of ordering. This, as it turns out, was one of the very first branding efforts of Apple – a simple logo.

What strikes me now, many years later is how simple it was: an apple with a bite out of it – genius. Apple’s marketing department had realised the importance of sacrificing some expense in order to create a lasting memory of their brand to be used time and time again.

2. Have a statement of purpose and stick to it

Many of the biggest and most influential brands have statements of purpose. Nike’s infamous ‘JUST DO IT’ trademark, BMW’s ‘the ultimate driving machine’ tagline and Disneyland’s self-styling as ‘the happiest pace on earth’.

Simple and effective statements such as these give everyone in the organisation from the CEO to the most junior staff a specific goal to aim for and a promise to fulfil.

But these are only statements. You must strive to ensure that you and your company abide by this statement in every interaction you have with

3. Start from within

Great brands are built within great corporate cultures.

A good friend of mine worked for The Walt Disney Company during the years of the dot com boom. On his first day he was presented with Disney branded gifts – an elegant coffee mug, a stress ball and they let him choose from several Disney posters, most of which featured Mickey Mouse.

These gifts weren’t expensive, but they were exclusive to Disney employees – collectors’ items, effectively – and my friend has held onto them to this day. Great branding starts from within. Create your own version of the Disney hiring ritual and indoctrinate your new employees with the images and values of your brand.

4. Affiliate programs

Most companies have limited resources to build their brands.

An affiliate network can magnify your branding efforts hugely. An affiliate is a 3rd party website which agrees to promote your goods and services to their audience in exchange for some form of compensation. This usually takes the form of a bounty in the event that the affiliate draws a paying customer to your site.

In the early days of the internet – while dinosaurs still roamed the earth – a company virtually single-handedly created the model for affiliate programs. That company was Amazon.com.

At one time, it was impossible to go anywhere online without seeing some sort of branding or advertising for Amazon. Granted, this was and is a company with extremely deep pockets, but it demonstrates that this is a method that truly works.

If you need ideas about which websites to approach, you can investigate affiliate consolidation sites like Commission Junction or LinkShare. Remember that even if your affiliates aren’t selling a great amount of your product – they are putting your brand in front of potential buyers.

5. Engage using Twitter

Think of Twitter as your own personal internet radio station – and all your customers as the listeners. Using 140 characters (or fewer) you can broadcast your brand message as frequently as you wish.

Additionally, you can create a Twitter homepage for your business complete with logo, colour palette branding and contact information such as website URL, email addresses and phone numbers.

Not only can you alert your top customers and prospects of special offers, you can also hear back from customers engaged with your brand. If customer service is part of your brand value proposition, then Twitter is a must. 

6. Reputation management and customer review sites

In recent years no other brand building mechanism has come to the fore like the use of customer review sites.

Studies have shown that customers will often research your brand and reputation via this channel in order to make purchase decisions. This trend is so powerful that Google has begun to incorporate customer review site data into its search listings.

This is due to the strong effect of ‘WOM’ = word of mouth: the internet equivalent of bumping into a friend and asking about a great store is your brand’s reputation on Facebook and targeted review sites.

Search the internet for your own brand name and see what comes up. Further, encourage your best customers to tell others about their experiences.

Daniel Foster is founder and technical director of 34SP.com

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