When you hear someone say Bic, what pops into your mind? I'd be willing to bet you get an image of a lighter in your mind. What if you hear the word zippo? I'll again bet you get an image of a lighter in your mind - but a very different type of lighter. What if instead of a word I showed you a picture of a large yellow M? Would you think of McDonalds? I still am guessing you would.
The reason you think of specific products and services when you hear a word or see an image is because of branding. A lot of people really don’t understand branding at all and seem to think branding is about making sales. This is absolutely not true. Branding is really nothing more or less than building an association between a company, product, service, or individual and a word, phrase, logo, picture or image. It’s not about making sales at all.
In fact a lot of people use brands to stay away from certain products or services. We can see this a lot when it comes to the gasoline industry. Many people see the british petrolium logo BP and avoid the gas station, many others consider Mobile to be generic cheap gas and they avoid mobile gas stations. Brand association allows people to know if they are buying coca-cola or if they are buying pepsi. Pepsi drinkers see the coca-cola brand and they stay away from it where as coca-cola drinkers see the pepsi brand and they stay away from it. The point is, a brand is not always just about making sales. Rather its about the association to the products and the company that has branded an image or term.
When Nike first created their logo, they didn’t set out to use their logo to make sales. They didn’t expect people to see their logo and go running to the stores for their shoes and clothing. Rather they wanted to make it so that over a long term people would associate their logo to their product. They wanted their product to be so good that people would look for the brand in the future to buy other quality products they made. This means when they started branding, they did not expect people to instantly know the brand and associate it with a quality product. That is something that they knew would come years later.
That’s the real purpose of a brand – long term association. This is something that confuses a lot of people, especially when it comes to internet marketing. People seem to think branding is nothing more or less than adding a company logo to a website, or more common lately is the practice of putting their face on their website. This is completely untrue.
Building a brand involves associating an image, name or picture with a website but its not so simple as just adding a picture to your pages. If someone only visits your website once or twice – having a picture on your page does nothing. That person will not remember you or what it is you do online. They have no reason to trust you and your picture doesn’t give them a reason.
When it comes to building a brand, you need to have the same people seeing your name, image, or logo everywhere they look. You want the same people coming to your site time and time again so they get familiar with your brand. Seeing it one time is not enough. Its about seeing it hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of times. Its about seeing your brand on your site, in your advertising, and in their social networks.
You can see with my site, every page is branded with my photo. Not only are all my pages branded, but so are my banner ads as well as my splash pages. When someone see’s my ads, they see my picture, and sooner or later they are going to associate that picture with my name. At that point what I do with my name is entirely up to me. My goal is to make it so that when people see my picture or read my name they think “Bruce Bates, that’s one of the honest and legitimate marketers who is well versed in all area’s of marketing and he runs some great services and gives some great advice.”
That’s what I expect and that is my reason for branding. This over the long term means people will eventually be buying services and products I recommend – however that’s not going to happen until people recognize my brand and associate it with high quality marketer.
This is the reason I like surf exchange marketing so much. Surf exchange marketing is mostly useless to make sales from. People who use surf exchanges are other marketers with a product to sell or a service to recommend. They care about one thing and one thing only, getting traffic to their own sites. However that aside, what I know for sure is that people repeatedly return to surf exchanges and they visit sites day in and day out. That gives me a great place to begin branding.
This for me means everyday I can show my face to the same people over and over. Again I don’t expect they are going to run out and buy from me based on this alone. Rather what I expect is that they will keep seeing my face over and over again, and then eventually they will reach out to me on social networks and they will begin interacting with me. They will know I am a marketer and therefore a good target to connect with.
After they get to know me more, that is when my branding becomes effective. At that point even without sitting down and talking with me, if they see my face on a webpage, they will know its a good product to buy, service to use, or website to learn from. I don’t have to actively try to “sell them” on anything. They know from previous interactions what to expect. That’s when branding has real potential.
Now that you understand what branding is let me give you a few pointers when branding things online.
- Use a company logo or a personal photo for branding. Do not use clipart, images found on the internet, common words, or any thing that you can not register as a trademark. Its almost always easiest to use a picture of yourself as this is the only image that in court you can prove to be yours that no one else is allowed to use. Any other image, can be challenged (unless its a registered trademark). There is always a chance someone claims they made your artwork and you stole it from them. This is why company logo’s or personal photo’s are always preferred.
- Always add your brand image to your marketing materials. Be it splash pages, banners, websites, product pages, or anything else you need to add your branding image to everything. Do not use premade splash pages and banners ever. Create custom graphics that allow you to include your image. This also gives each thing you market a customized one of a kind look that is always identified as you.
- Focus on getting your brand seen over and over – not on sales. This means using sites where people frequent day in and day out. Exchange based marketing sites work great for this. Traffic exchanges, safelists, and text ad exchanges are my preferred methods for building a brand and they work VERY well at getting recognition.
- Use the same branding image everywhere. Make sure you are using the same image for branding as you use for social networks. You want people to see your image on social networks and associate it with your products and services. Don’t use different images and avatars all over the place.
- Interact everywhere. This is the real key – interaction. For example if you are using specific surf exchanges, find out if the owner of the surf exchange also has a blog, a skype group, a linkedin group, and start interacting with others in those places. Use the chatboxes inside surf exchanges. Doing this allows you to interact with the same people who are viewing your branding image time and time again.
- Select programs that allow you to additionally brand yourself.
When it comes to using surf exchanges, they are not all made equally. Some of these surf exchanges give you major boosts of branding. Some are full blown social networks like easy hits 4 u which gives you a social profile (mine can be found here) with a means of contacting you or connecting with you on other social networks. Others allow personal branding on their site as well as let others leave you comments and feedback about your pages. My favorite of these types of sites is called ThumbVu and you can view my profile and see what others are saying by clicking here.
I highly recommend if you are interested in branding you check out the services I mentioned. If you are new to branding, the advice you will get from ThumbVu is absolutely unmatched. Sometimes people can be harsh but overall if you keep tweaking your pages and following the advice given on this site, you will build great branding practices while also getting to know others.
After you have learned about branding practices, there is no better interactive site than easy hits 4 u. In fact I would go so far as to say this site can sork just as well as linkedin for generating leads. Its all about making connections with others, and then contacting them and building a relationship.
So now its your turn. Are you fluent with branding methods? If so what have you found that works really well? Any specific sites you can share with me? If you are not branding are you going to consider it after reading this article? Perhaps you are trying to brand but now understand it a bit more? I’d love to hear about anything you have to share that involves branding yourself.