What is Branding Strategy & 6-Step Strategy for Online Brands

Branding strategy is the blueprint for your brand’s success. It has all the components
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Published on
October 13, 2023

Imagine you want to build the next Tiffany’s based out of India. 

You know what kind of brand you want to establish. Now it’s time to define a roadmap to reach there. Branding strategy is that roadmap. 

Branding strategy is the blueprint for your brand’s success. It has all the components such as:

  1. First steps: visual elements, tone of voice, brand suite
  2. Final goal: brand’s identity
  3. Strategy to reach the goal: messaging, elements, frequency, channels, and so on. 

Building a brand impacts the brand awareness, brand equity and positively influences brand sentiment. 

Terminologies in Branding

However, before we dive deeper into building an online brand, don’t you want to know what these hi-fi words mean in the first place? Let’s cover it in a gist.

Brand awareness - making sure people know and remember your brand. Brands do this by keeping a unique voice and messaging throughout their communication channels.

Brand equity - reputation your brand has earned overtime, or the value of goodwill that people put in your brand. If you are in a cafe business with strong brand equity, it means your customers will choose you consistently over your competitors.

Brand sentiment - how people feel about your brand. When they hear about you and go gaga, great! However, the opposite can kill a brand’s business. Remember the stories of airline passengers pissing on co-passengers and crew members? That’s terrible news for that airline's brand image, and it garners negative sentiment.

Brand image - what people think of you. Are you a hip & woke gen Z brand or are you a value for money, homely brand for Indian middle class families?

Brand identity - what you think of your brand. You may think you are a Myntra (your brand identity) while you may be a Meesho (your brand image). Though essentially they sell the same things, their entire personality is different. But if there’s a huge disconnect in your brand identity and brand image, there’s a ton of work to do.

Perfect. Now that we have a little idea of the terminology, let’s dive right in. 

Branding vs. Advertising: An idea

Branding vs. advertising

Branding and advertising are two separate things. When you pay for promotion, to attract customers and conversion, it’s called advertising. On the other hand, when you earn a reputation for who you are with your consistent efforts, leading people to find you and buy from you, and keep buying from you instead of your competitors, that’s branding. 

And since brand is the personality, the personality stays consistent even throughout ad campaigns, across all platforms. 

Advertising is directly tied to immediate marketing goals such as increasing awareness, lead generation, retargeting, acquisition. Branding indirectly meets the marketing objectives, but it certainly does. 

For example, let’s take the airline pissing story. That led to negative public sentiment for the airline company. 

Over the next few weeks a video went viral of the same airlines but this time with a heartwarming scene. A man proposes to his lady on the flight. Was this a coincidence or all part of changing the public sentiment? We’ll leave the decision on you. But it certainly changed the public’s sentiment back to positive.

Objective accomplished. 

This brings us to Brand objectives!

Branding strategy can be as directly tied to marketing goals such as increasing market share or as ethos based as boosting customer loyalty to the brand. Various kinds of brand objectives that you can set for your online presence or your client’s are:

Increasing brand awareness: 

Associated KPIs:

  • Social media impressions
  • Website traffic
  • Brand mentions in online conversations
  • Reach & engagement on social media platforms

Increasing audience reach: reaching new potential customers

Associated KPIs:

  • Growth in social media followers
  • Increase in website visitors
  • New subscribers of email
  • Increase in app downloads

Improving Brand Perception: improving brand sentiment score

Associated KPIs:

  • Online reviews & ratings
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Sentiment analysis on social media platforms

Customer loyalty & retention:

Associated KPIs:

  • Repeat purchase rate
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Engagement with customer loyalty programs/reward programs

Online Brand Authority:

Associated KPIs:

  • Number of social media mentions
  • Guest post blog opportunities
  • Guest podcast opportunities
  • Increase in number of backlinks on website

Increasing Sale

Associated KPIs:

  • Conversion rate
  • Average order value
  • Online sales revenue

Market share growth

Associated KPIs:

  • Market share
  • Social media following comparison
  • Website traffic comparison
  • Online customer reviews comparison

A step by step Online brand building strategy:

1. Understanding one’s own brand & building a brand suite

It starts with getting a firm grip on what your brand is all about, or what you want to build your brand as. Once you have an idea, you can proceed with building your brand suite.

To build a brand suite, you need the following things:

  • Brand name
  • Logo
  • Color palette 
  • Tone of voice
  • Brand identity
  • Language
  • Brand values

Taking an example of Zomato, their brand name is of course Zomato. Whether Zomaito or Zomaato, it’s overall mean the same thing to all of us, and that’s its brand image.

Here’s the logo and it’s brand color is what we all can see here:

And just as any other brand, the use of brand color only begins with the logo and runs far and wide at all places like app, social media creatives, the uniform of its service providers and even the tapes for packing the food. 

Breaking down the other brand elements of Zomato, with its social media and phone notifications you can see how quirky Zomato's language is. Its tone of voice is young, witty & fun. 

2. Identifying target audience & their psychography

Zomato’s messaging targets the youth, even more so, targets the food lovers. Wait… that’s way too broad to identify the target audience. Let’s make it more specific:

  • Urban millennials
  • Working professionals
  • Food bloggers
  • Influencers 
  • Students

Certainly this seems better, but a successful branding strategy needs more clarity. That is why we should dig deeper & ask who the target audience is based on their psychography:

  • Adventurous peeps who love to explore new food
  • Tech savvy and digitally engaged folks
  • Digitally connected people who are influenced with online trends and activities
  • Convenience seeking people who may be away from home / too lazy to cook / or burns things when they try to cook. 

You never know, but I can clearly imagine these people ordering food from Zomato. 

When you’re building an online brand, understanding your audience is the first step. Only after this can you brainstorm on content that your audience may like.

3. Identifying competitors in the market & studying them

Zomato’s direct competitor is Swiggy. No wonder they are always at each other’s neck with creativity but no matter how distinct both these brands are, we see the similarities in their content, right?

When you enter the online branding chase, a thorough look at your competitors will tell you:

  • What they are doing to build online brand
  • What is working for them
  • What did not work for them
  • Which online platforms are they on
  • What is their strategy for each of the platforms

This sets the foundation for which online platforms you include in your branding strategy, and take inspiration from what’s working for your competitors. There’s no hard and fast rule to follow your competitors, after all you need to stay a step ahead in the race and constantly experiment to grow uniquely as well.

4. Finalizing channels of communication

If you’re excited about your online brand and it’s your first time creating an online brand, you may make a mistake most beginners make. You may want to grab as many digital platforms as possible. 

Rookie mistake! 

Instead it is advisable to take only 3 channels at most, where your target audience is, and focus on these channels. After all 7 channels is a failing branding strategy to start your online branding with.

Focus should be lesser channels, higher impact. 

Channels of online branding:

  • Web (Website, Reddit, Quora)
  • Email 
  • Social (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube)

Once you have finalized the channels for your branding strategy, next comes defining your content format. For example, let’s say your target audience is gen Z and Instagram is your top branding channel. Instagram offers content formats such as image, carousal, short video (reels), long video, and infographics. But not all content will have the same impact. 

As of 2023, creating reels is the top method of being discovered on Instagram. Then using the trending audio in the reel, too, helps in discoverability. For any platform you choose, you must go through the best practices and build a content strategy in line with that platform and your brand.

Since we are talking about content strategy, you must now that few elements play a huge role in a brand’s messaging on these platforms.

5. Building messaging strategy for an online brand

A brand is so much more than just a name, logo, and tagline. It’s a personality in itself with experiences, perceptions, and relationships that customers have with a business. 

Messaging with no North star or a defined framework will not create a BRAND. So, what are the attributes of messaging for creating your BRAND?

1. Differentiation

What is unique about your product or service that sets you apart from your competitors. This is what your potential customers should remember you by.

For example, Volvo focuses on safety in a world full of car/automobile brands. What’s that unique thing for your brand?

2. Consistency

Decided on what your brand looks like or feels like? Second thing is to stay consistent with communicating the qualities of your brand. And not to forget, starting from the colors used in the imagery to the language used and the tone of the message, everything is included in messaging. 

Think of Spotify, not only are they consistent with their theme & messaging but even with all experimentations like your collated annual playlist at the end of the year, the design of even a button doesn’t feel out of place. 

3. Authenticity

With so many digital channels, brands are sharing the behind-the-screens of how their products are made. They are sharing the challenges, and little anecdotes of daily operations. When a brand is transparent, honest and socially responsible, it’s easier for people to trust them. This brings a feeling of authenticity from the brand that can build a unique 1:1 connect with the customers. 

4. Relevance

Relevance is crucial in any marketing strategy. If you’re not relevant to your target audience, how will they even notice you? A fashion brand will talk about fashion, hacks, latest trends, what influencers are wearing and so on. They won’t talk about cars, right? But sometimes brands run the risk of talking about things that are outdated or nobody cares about anymore.

Amul has its longest campaign running with the Amul girl animated image and guess what! With moment marketing they never go out of talks.

Amul's longest campaign

Note: Moment marketing is a branding strategy. In this, a brand takes the most recent talk-of-the-town subject and gives it a creative spin suiting the brand and releases that content while the topic is still hot.

5. Emotion

Samsung ads released in India (you can find on Youtube) touch the ethos of people, while the 5 Star ads are always hilarious. Emotion creates a sense of connection for people with the brand, which in turn drives loyalty from the customers. 

Coca Cola’s “share a coke” evokes a feeling of happiness and nostalgia. 

It’s a strong emotion that creates a connection with customers.

6. Monitor, measure and adjust your online reputation

Online reputation is supereasy to track then there is no reason why you should let negative reviews take over and tarnish your brand image. A positive online reputation is critical to your brand's success. A timely meeting with your team and scrapping internet mentions of your brand can help you calculate a brand sentiment score, respond promptly and professionally to negative feedback, and use positive feedback to showcase your brand's strengths.

Trends in brand marketing & branding strategy

1. Personalization

Nobody wants to feel like a bot on the internet. Humanized + personalized messaging strategy has proved to work with today’s audience online, whether on social media platforms, blogs or emails. A report by Elipson seconds this. It was found that 80% of customers are most likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences.

2. Authenticity

A lady who strongly vouches for women empowerment is more likely to buy from a brand which provides employment to women. This is the result of the brand promoting its hiring practices transparently online. Even the brands sharing their experiences and in-company nuances online are highly likely to build authenticity online. 

A report by Stackla says that 90% of consumers value authenticity as important when deciding which brands to support.

3. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) has become the go-to for so many brands. When implemented right, the UGC can bring skyrocketed visibility for your brand that you may never have imagined. One example is Swiggy’s WITASA campaign. Have you watched our Instagram reel where we break it down for you that why WITASA Campaign is an excellent example of branding? And you’ll also find how they leveraged UGC for a superhit branding campaign.

4. Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing was $13.8 billion in 2021 already, as reported by Influencer Marketing Hub. Influencers have a warm & loyal audience available to them. And nowadays we also look for products and services based on what the influencers are using. That is why influencer marketing works out so well for most of the brands.

Parting words…

Branding is a long term process and solely having branding strategy does not ensure a successful branding. But if you really want to nail branding and communications online then you must learn from an expert. Digital branding and communications program by SkillCamper is a complete hands-on program for beginners to go from scratch and to being Digital branding wizard. Let’s explore if this is something you need!

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