There are two parts to effectively branding your business online. The first is about how you look. I call this your “symbols.” The second, and often overlooked, part of branding your business online is how you make your clients feel. I call this your “stories.”
Let’s take a look at how these two branding pieces work together to make a successful business.
How the Big Guys Do It
When you think of Baskin-Robbins, those pink spoons undoubtedly come to mind. When you think of Pillsbury, an image of that dough boy can’t help but jump into your head. Same goes for that big red and white circle that defines the Target store.
But, when you hear “Baskin-Robbins,” “Pillsbury,” or “Target,” more than just a symbol comes to mind. There’s also a feeling. You like the business, you don’t like it, or you feel no connection at all with it.
You get that feeling based on the stories the business is telling you. And those stories are just as much a part of the business’s branding as the symbols are.
In the winter, Baskin-Robbins has “Family Night” every Tuesday night. They sell $1.50 ice cream cones on Family Night. Surely they do it to increase sales during the slow months. But there’s also a branding story behind it. And that story says, “Baskin-Robbins is a place where the average family can come together to enjoy a delicious treat for a great price.”
Another example of a company that tells a good branding story is Trader Joe’s, which is a popular alternative grocery store here in St. Louis and beyond. At any time you walk in the store, you will see employees that never would have been hired elsewhere.
Maybe it’s the long hair, the tattoos, the multiple piercings or the off-beat clothes. There’s something about many of their employees that screams “I’m different.” Yet they are all super-friendly and helpful in a way that no other grocery store equals.
What story is Trader Joe’s telling here? It’s okay if you’re different. Be who you are and feel good about it when you come shop here. In fact, we’ll work to make sure you feel goodabout being “weird.”
This story appeals to Trader Joe’s shoppers, who are looking for alternatives to traditional grocery store offerings.
When you think of Target, you may have good, or bad, feelings about their sometimes controversial commitment to charitable giving. You probably have an opinion about their decision not to allow the Salvation Army bell ringers in front of their stores. And about their perhaps inadvertent support for a charity that opposed same-sex marriage.
But, What Does This Have to Do With You?
I know, you have an online business. And, you’re just one person (or at most a few people). What lessons can you take about branding your business online from the way big businesses do their branding?
The answer is, “lots.” My online business never really took off until I realized that the rules of profitable operation are basically the same, whether you’re online or offline.
So the lesson I want you to take today from these big offline business branding techniques is this:
When it comes to branding your business online, your stories are more important than your symbols.
You probably know you need to look consistent across your blog and all of your social media platforms. That consistency may involve a unique color scheme, a unique cartoon characterization of you, and/or a unique logo.
When people see these unique symbols that represent you, they should recognize they’re in your territory before they even see your name.
And, just like big business branding, your audience must not only recognize you when they see you, they must also feel good when they see your symbols. The way to make them do this is through the second piece of your branding, which is your stories.
People spend thousands of dollars on web design to look good, but the forgotten piece in branding your business online is that you must also feel good to your market. If your audience doesn’t feel like they know you, relate to you, and trust you, they’re not likely to buy from you. Instead, they’ll go to the one who does make them feel this way.
So make it a point to share your stories with your audience. They’ll remember how you got started, how you overcame your struggles, and what motivates you to run your business. They’ll relate to the stories about your family, your fun times, and outside interests that are important to you. And they’ll want to do business with you.
I’d love to hear how you use stories in branding your business online. Do you have stories about how your stories have helped your branding? If you don’t use stories in your branding, what ideas do you now have for implementing this crucial piece into your business?