Increasingly clients are asking about 'branding' their product online. But, what is branding and how does a web developer promote a brand online?
The best definition I have heard for product branding was in a video clip on the Advertising Age. The clip was an interview with Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus of DDB Worldwide Communications Group. Reinhard gave a four point definition of branding. He defined a brand as:
The client's brand is based on their response to these points.
The developer doesn't create the brand. The developer must work with the client to better understand the brand. Then, it is up to the developer to create a website that reflects that brand.
Branding isn't just telling the site visitor about your client's brand, you must demonstrate the brand. The best way to explain what that means is to look at a site that does it right.
<href='http://shop.nordstrom.com/'>Nordstromhas been a retail store since 1901. For most of that time it was a regional shoe store but more recently has become a national retailer. While I have never shopped at Nordstrom's, I am well aware of the Nordstrom brand. Nordstrom has an unparallelled reputation for Exceptional Service. Yet they only mention this once on their website, on the Contact Us page:
From the beginning, John's [Nordstrom] business philosophy was based on exceptional service, selection, quality and value.
By focusing on the customer. Nordstrom's site is extremely easy to navigated; their colours are rich not harsh; and the images are sharp with only a few images on each of the landing pages. On the catalogue pages, they let the customer select the number of images per page. Thousands of items are no more than two or three clicks away.
If that all there was to branding online, everyone would do it. However, again referring to the Nordstom's site, look at some of the details. Items that are, in many respects, subliminal. For example, there is no shopping cart - there a shopping bag. A simple message that instantly separates them from low cost retailers. Another example, the plain, injunction to 'Sign In' is gone - replaced by a 'Welcome to Nordstrom. Would you like to sign in?'. From the favicon to the font type there are hundreds on small items that, while individually insignificant, give an overall impression of Nordstom brand "service, selection, quality and value".
Your client may not be another Nordstom, however you can make their website promote the brand. Make the brand part of your overall web design. From the site navigation, to the colours and graphics, be aware of the brand image. Keep the site 'on message'.
Finally, educate your client. They are really the only ones that can brand the site. All your work as a web developer and online marketing specialist will be for nothing if the client doesn't deliver what their brand promises.