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Why a unique and meaningful identity is essential for all successful online businesses

Brand AccentsBrand ColoursBrand CultureBrand EchoesBrand IdentityBrand MemorabilityBrand NamingBrand ProfileBrand RecallBrand ResonanceBrand StraplineBrandingDesign AccentsLogoPositioning StatementpublishingStrap LineStrapline+-

As business moves increasingly online, there is ever more competition - way beyond traditional local / national / continental borders. For many businesses - being online means you are competing for customers against diverse businesses located far far away from your own. There are numerous ways in which you can forge a stronger market position; way before you start thinking about promotional activities, SEO keywords and PPC campaigns, you should be thinking about the ideal brand experience you need to create for your intended customers.


Nearly all companies will have numerous competitors - both direct and related - all competing for overlapping budget allocations. In this modern age, budget boundaries are fluid, whilst overall budget limits are fixed. This means you are often competing in related categories which you might not consider to be strictly competitive but end up being so. In any scenario, you need to make your company stand out, be relevant to intended customers, and be memorable - so that prospective and actual customers can easily find their way back to you again and again in a meaningful and easily replicable manner.


The key and most immediate means by which businesses can define themselves are brand logos and their associated attributes. Get the logo treatment correct, and you already have a leg up on most of your competitors. Where you are competing with businesses with strong brand propositions, you need to use additional attributes in order to elevate and differentiate your brand.


Key components of brand identity




Unique - Meaningful - Relatable - Memorable - Traceable.


What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually - there’s an added reason why Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Flickr, Twitter et al. are so easily successful and others less so, and it’s quite a bit to do with their names. Twitter in particular follows a great naming convention - Twitter / Tweets is entirely understandable, relatable and relevant. It often helps to have a shortish moniker as this aids memorability and relatability. For a customer to understand what a new business is about largely from their name, means there is less work for the logo / brand mark to do. Brevity also is key to memorability - the shorter the name is, the easier it is to reproduce and type into a browser. There’s a proliferation of some quite long-winded very similar names on the Internet, which lead to some very long domains / URLs - and much confusion. There is often an advantage of having the key product / service in a relatable name - as this leads to stronger SEO, but it should not necessarily be used at the expense of memorability and recall. Whenever I’m involved in a naming exercise, a key component is finding the shortest possible relevant name for which a key domain still exists. You should always Search for your intended name on Google to see what’s out there and what associations / search results already exist for that term. In most instances it’s easier to create an entirely new name, which does not already have a wealth of vague web references attributed to it. There are lots of naming tricks too such as phonetic abbreviation - which can lead to brand names like flickr, tumblr and even comrz - the downside of these is reproducibility - as many will get the spelling wrong when typing into a browser - these types of names though can give you something quite catchy and quite unique though.




A Classic logo for me consists of a uniquely styled text name (in unique font) accompanied by a complementary visual brand marker or ident. A great example of this is in publishing - where a book spine provides a limited area to accommodate your brand marker, and thus a strong ident helps you stand out on the shop-floor or domestic book shelf. A well chosen ident gives you added impact, personality and memorability - even though I occasionally mix up Penguin and Puffin publishers. A brand’s logo is there to connect with the brand’s target audience to underline the brand values that said brand aspires to. A great logo is about giving customers additional confidence when purchasing goods and services represented by said brand mark. It starts out as a unique identifier for a brand, but when channelled properly, evolves very much into a quality stamp - like the Apple logo for instance. Get further insight on Logo creation from my earlier ’The Anatomy of a Perfect Logo’ post.




The use of colour can be critical for all manner of reasons - it helps make your brand stand out from the herd and can help define your customer experience. At a most basic level colours can denote quality - with jewel colours, metallics, and black and white used to emphasize high quality, whilst primary and pastel colours are often used to indicate ’budget’, ’value’ and ’basic’. Colours can have political and social ramifications too - across different global cultures - so that ideally different variations need to exist for differing usage occasions. The correct colour choice can aid in the impact and memorability of your brand, and can assist greatly with the brand familiarisation process. When designing a user interface for a brand with strong colours, you typically need to tone down and neutralise for an optimised customer experience. The vast majority of websites are predominantly white / light grey to encourage extended customer sessions online - bright colours would be used for accents only. We often talk about Mall vs Cineplex - where shopping malls are brightly lit spaces, and cinemas (media play-back) are dim / dark. The same characteristics can be applied online with media sites able to work well with predominantly black, while retail sites need to be light. You can refer to my earlier piece on ’The Science of Brand Colours’ for some of the key colour associations / uses.


Strapline / Positioning Statements


Most new businesses benefit from having a strapline to help define / differentiate their business. For all businesses it helps your intended customers if they fully understand what it is you represent. If you are competing with other like companies you need to differentiate why the customer would prefer to shop from you. If you are launching an entirely new business concept, then it is equally important that the customers understand what you are about. A great strapline serves to elevate your business and underline your key values. Straplines also tend to have an evolutionary life-cycle where they start off as defining / positioning statements, then becoming comparative / competitive, and finally having lifestyle aspirations - e.g. L’Oreal’s ’Because You’re Worth It’. Get more insights on straplines from my earlier ’The art of the Positional Strapline’ piece.


Design Accents / Brand Echoes / Brand Culture


This is actually three different things really - firstly it is extrapolating your brand identifiers and utilising them within the design of your website - this could be colour accents, logo shape characteristics (square / angular / rounded), or even subtle button echoes extrapolated from the main ident form-factor. You need to be careful that your pictorial echoes are not too close to the ident or they can undermine the brand equity. The second factor is underlining the logo brand values in the site design itself - using complementary brand colours, textures and fonts which all work together to create the best environment and experience for the customers. There’s far too many websites out there where the logo is totally incongruent with the design and looks like it’s been plonked onto something overly generic. The right colour choices can be key to formulating the most optimal overall brand experience. The final element of this is in the language of the site - the key signage / section headings etc. and how these connect back to the core brand markers. You can be sure that you’ve got the formula right when everything flows together in a seamless, complementary whole - just like the best examples of architecture. For further advices on matching your visual appeal to your brand you should read my earlier ’The Brand Culture of a Business’ article.

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