From Branding to Online Branding, How to get started!

Have you seen the ads of Samsung that mocks iPhones & its latest features?
Written by
Neha
Published on
October 13, 2023

Before talking about online brands, do you know what a brand is?

Have you seen the ads of Samsung that mocks iPhones & its latest features?

Yet, iPhone users are as loyal to the brand as one can be.

Yes, loyal to the “brand”. Brand is more than just a company. When Samsung releases the same features much before iPhone does, and yet iPhone is chosen over Samsung, the sole reason is how it makes the buyer feel to own an iPhone.

iPhone vs Samsung, branding impact

As you see, brand is not the company, it is an emotional factor. It is how people perceive this company differently from the other companies practically selling the same thing.

Before answering what is an online brand, let’s answer what is a brand.

A brand is an intangible concept that helps people differentiate a product or service from others. 

If you see Zara and H&M in different lights, it’s because they both have a different brand image. They both have their own personality and a distinct appeal. 

Creating or communicating that personality through every element be it packaging, advertising, store layout, etc, is called branding.

What is online brand

We just discussed what a brand is. But an online brand?

With the e-commerce boom, many businesses don’t even need a brick and mortar store anymore. They sell online. While two companies can be selling toothbrushes, one company can build a brand of selling toothbrushes with unique designs that appeal to kids, while other can build a brand that appeals to the middle aged group with its utility.

This image can be projected by a business or a person on the internet through various online platforms. 

Various online channels for online branding

It is how people perceive you or your business when they search for you online.

A strong online brand can help you nail success by building trust with your audience, differentiate yourself from your competitors, and increase your online visibility. 

In this blog, we will explore the all you may want to know about online brand & branding:

  • What is online brand
  • Why branding is important
  • RACE Framework of online brand
  • How is Online Brand different from Brand
  • Brand Marketing
  • Elements of a Brand

3 Reasons why online branding is important

1. Builds Trust with Audience

Even before online marketing, people were mostly influenced by Word of mouth. The sole reason behind this trust was that someone else recommended the product. 

No wonder, trust can act as the secret sauce in the company’s success.

People are more likely to trust businesses that have a strong online presence. Sometimes the easiest way to build trust is to appear credible by keeping the appearances up to the mark. 

For brands it is often how their website looks and feels. Consistent social media presence too adds to the authority that the brands can build overtime.

Think of Zappos, the online shoe retailer. It is known for providing an excellent user experience, including their website design, customer service, and fast shipping. These factors together have helped build trust with their audience.

2. Boosted Visibility

To emerge as THE Authority figure into the digital space, the brands are bound to pick content marketing strategies and be consistent with it. 

Quality content with consistency wins the favor of the Search engines or digital channels chosen for marketing. Eventually it helps a brand rise above the competition on SERP and other channels, with active online presence. 

When looking for top quality information when you see Harvard or Forbes ranking on first page of SERP, it is no surprise, right?

This is because the brand they had outside of digital space also helped them reach the top on SERP.

3. Gives a reason to your customers to prefer you over your competitors

Is it the right time to compare KTM and a Bullet? (Yes, we are talking about the bikes)

One has active and sporty appeal to the people, while the other gives the appeal of a class. And how can we forget how the bullet has been tied to the image of “Ladakh trips”.

If you were to take a bike ride to Ladakh in 6 months and you are in the bike’s showroom today, you’d have higher chances of buying a Bullet. Isn’t it?

This is an example of well-established brand identity that helps a brand stand out among the competitors. 

But how can you enjoy all these benefits? Let me share a simple yet impactful technique for branding. RACE framework!

RACE Framework of online brand

Customers go through a series of stages in mind before making the purchase. The movement from one stage (say unaware of the problem itself) to finally making the purchase, the journey is called a customer journey. 

RACE is a framework of branding practices that is in sync with the customer journey. It lays down the steps a brand should take at different stages to move a customer from one stage towards conversion (making the purchase).

RACE is an acronym for each stage in this framework:

Reach, Act, Convert, and Engage.

Let me make it easier for you to understand and apply in real life:

1. Reach Stage: Building Brand Awareness

When Nestle came with Maggi in India nobody knew of Maggi. Nor were people accustomed to the idea of “instant” noodles. 

Then on Doordarshan, India had a family show which was a big hit: Hum Log. And Maggi was the sponsor of this show. Also, this was the first instance of a TV show being sponsored in India.

  • Maggi developed a brand positioning & clearly defined its unique value proposition and messaging as “2-min noodles” 
  • Maggi had a consistent color palette of yellow and red with its logo and its ads had a consistent theme
  • Though Maggi in its days built brand awareness with TV show sponsorship, for online branding, companies take the help of content marketing and social media marketing. Use of engaging content that presents the brand’s unique brand image & its USP works best for the companies.

Another example is Dollar Shave Club. It has built a strong brand identity and messaging that resonates with its target audience. Their branding is centered around the idea of convenience, value, and quality, which is reflected in their product offering, messaging, and visual identity.

2. Act Stage: Encouraging Engagement From Users

UGC (User generated content), content that asks for feedback or comments are all examples of how a company can engage the audience online. It helps them build a relationship by involving the other party.

User generated content for branding online

Apart from these big inputs, even if an internet user clicks on your CTA (Call to Action) button it’s an engagement. Hence, giving a great user experience to the audience on the website or social media that encourages them to navigate through your website is also one way of encouraging engagement.

Here are some practical steps to take in the Act stage:

- Develop a user-friendly website that reflects your brand's visual identity and messaging.

- Optimize your website for user engagement, including clear calls-to-action, easy navigation, and relevant content.

- Use targeted advertising and social media marketing that asks people to visit your website for value-adding content, freemium, checking out collections, etc. 

3. Convert Stage: Turning Visitors into Customers

The Convert stage is where we turn the website visitors into customers. It is unlikely to happen if the customer is coming across your brand for the first time. However, with repeat interactions or engagement a visitor is highly likely to be converted into a customer. 

A few steps that can help you nail the Convert stage are:

- Create a compelling offer that reflects your brand's unique value proposition.

- Use landing pages and lead magnets to capture visitor information, and turn them into leads.

- Use email marketing, WhatsApp marketing and retargeting to nurture leads and convert them into customers.

Example: Neil Patel is an awesome example of this stage. He has tons of lead generation content spread on his website and articles. And they even offer a “Trial” of his products like Ubersuggest that makes people more likely to buy subscriptions of his products. 

Once the visitor leaves behind email addresses, they receive newsletters with industry insights, tips and tricks. 

It shares a lot of value added content for free, and wins over the customers' trust. 

He has used and still continues to use multiple channels like SEO of his blogs, optimization of his Website, Youtube, and Email marketing to establish himself as an authoritative figure. 

4. Engage Stage: Building Customer Loyalty

The Engage stage of the RACE Framework is all about building customer loyalty. And I’m torn between choosing between Zomato & Starbucks to cite as an example for this stage.

Let’s take both and see how they implement strategies in Engage stage:

- Looking at Zomato Instagram account you can see it has developed a strong brand personality that reflects its brand's values and messaging.

- On social media they share even the awkward DMs they received from their followers, and they share quirky emails and notifications to their registered customers. The point I’m trying to make here is that in the Engage stage, you should use social media marketing and email marketing to build relationships with customers.

- Using personalized messaging and retargeting can help you leaps and bounds to form a 1:1 connection with your customer. This is where Starbucks comes in with writing our name on its coffee cups. And that one gesture encourages us to share it on Instagram. 

How is Online Brand different from Brand

1. By definition

Brand: It is a brand identity with all its attributes like logo, language, font, mission, vision, and all combined to form a personality that an audience can remember it by.

Online brand: It's the same as a brand, but as you would have guessed, it focuses on the online channels for brand building. Any company that has a brand in place, ensures to market the same through online channels as well. There are also many companies today who have started with the online branding itself, without first building a brand with traditional practices.

You’ll often come across such brands locally in your country which are killing it on TikTok, Youtube or Instagram.

Personal branding in fact is a perfect example to cite here as this has helped influencers build a following in millions with online branding alone.

2. Reach

Brand: Traditional branding relies on offline channels such as print, television, and billboards to reach audiences. 

Online Brand: It uses digital channels of content marketing and advertising such as social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) to reach audiences.

Having a traditional brand doesn’t suffice today. With the internet influencing and driving the purchase, online brands are a must considering the digital future.

In a recent survey it was found that 74% of consumers use social media to guide their purchasing decisions, making online branding an essential aspect of any modern brand strategy.

3. Metrics

Brand: Traditional branding efforts are difficult to track and measure, making it challenging to determine ROI. 

Online Brand: Offers clear data and metrics, including website traffic, engagement rates, conversion rates, and more. This helps in determining the ROI pretty effectively.

4. Interaction

Brand: Traditional methods of branding only offer one-way conversation. It is only brands communicating their message to customers through advertising and marketing. 

Online Brand: It offers a plethora of ways to be more interactive. Companies can engage with customers in real-time through social media, live chat, and other digital channels. 

Example: Remember Swiggy’s WITASA campaign? “Why Is This A Swiggy Ad” Campaign. This campaign spread like a wildfire and brought a tsunami of User generated content with #WITASA. We broke it down for you in an Instagram reel video. Check out why it was an incredible example of branding (& interaction)

Definition of brand marketing

If brand is the outcome of a relationship built between the company and the audience, then brand marketing is the process of building this relationship. Every branding campaign, even something as subtle as brand messages are all part of Brand marketing.

The purpose is always to get the audience to resonate with your brand while also separating you from your competitors. After all, your audience shouldn’t look at you the same way they look at your competitors.

Brand or no brand, what’s the big deal? 

  • Here’s the big deal -  59% of consumers prefer to buy products from brands they know and trust. It was a surprising (yet not surprising) result found in Nielsen’s recent study. 
  • If that wasn’t enough, it was also found that 21% of customers were ready to pay more for brands they trusted. 

Bonus that effective brand marketing can gift a company is a whopping boost in the company’s bottomline. A report by Interbrand, the world's leading brand consultancy, concludes that companies with strong brands outperform their competitors by 73% in terms of stock market returns. That’s mind-boggling. Isn’t it?

Elements of a brand

Coming up with a brand or final personality is a big leap. Take it one step at a time. Here are a few brand elements you can finalize as your first step into building a brand.

1. Brand Name

It can be something as unique as Mercedes to something as relevant to your product as Rage Coffee. Or you can name it after a person just like Louis Vuitton. 

2. Logo

A brand's logo serves the same role as a person’s face. Nike Air’s logo was to Nike what Michael Jordan’s face is in the world of Basketball. 

3. Tagline

"I'm Lovin' It" 

Hearing this one simple line you instantly remember McDonald’s. Perhaps, you will even remember this 10 or 20 years down the road.

This is how strong an impact a tagline can have on the customer’s mind. 

4. Brand Voice

Can a brand have a voice? Yes, it is reflective  across all communications of a brand based on icons, celebrities, words, font and color used for the brand. 

Dove, for example, uses lots of white and unfiltered imagery along with messages that empower and embrace one’s inner natural beauty.

5. Brand Colors

Starbucks green and white, McD’s yellow and red, Coca Cola’s red & white and LinkedIn’s __________.

You can complete this blank because you remember the brand color clearly. 

This is why brand colors are important. They make a brand 7 logo instantly recognizable and they also communicate the ethos associated with the brand. 

Coca-Cola's red and white colors show the brand's focus on happiness and joy.

6. Brand Packaging

How different can packaging be anyway? 

Think of Lays and Pringles and you’ll get your answer. But in an online brand, say for an online service provider, the packaging extends to the build and design of the website as well. From the tiniest icons, to the language used for the CTA’s and the button style of CTA, everything is a product package. Example? Uber app and InDrive, the built and design of both differs considerably. But in this case it is not limited to packaging but also it extends to the product design & features.

7. Brand Personality

When something as not-human as a company builds a brand, they can have as humanized personality as a real human. 

Don’t believe me? 

Think of Harley Davidson. Its rebellious and adventurous brand personality has helped the brand appeal to a loyal following of customers.

Parting words…

Understanding your audience before building your brand is a must. And once you have the elements of your brand in place, the next step is to complete your brand suite and a branding strategy ready which we are covering in the Part 2 of this article. We also have put together some case studies to help you visualize how branding looks in practice. 

Finally and importantly, content marketing is an online brand’s best friend that helps you gain organic traffic and customers. Considering you are a fresher to content marketing, we have A Complete Guide on Content Marketing in place for you to help you crack the nuts and bolts of content marketing for yourself or your clients. Or simply to cater to your learning & curiosity. Make sure to check out that article if you haven’t yet!

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