Practical Ways to Transfer Your Brand to Your Website
Like a person who blows hot and cold, if you can't get a handle on what an organisation stands for, it's difficult to relate to them. Your customers need to be able to work you out quickly, and a consistent brand image is the key.
Everything your company produces, including your website, should be a reflection of your brand. Without consistency across communication channels, nothing adds up, and you turn a lot of potential customers off.
As the first encounter many customers have with your business, your website hasn't got long to get your message across, draw people in and make them want to get to know you better. So here's a few things to consider as you transfer your brand to your website.
If it's not consistent, it's not a brand
Take John Lewis. Their first-class in-store shopping experience helped to reinvent going out to the shops at a time when it seemed shopping from the couch was ready to kill the high street altogether.
These days the John Lewis website is gorgeous too, but for a good few years, the online experience lagged far behind the stores. For a company that went the extra mile in everything offline, typos and broken links jarred with an otherwise quality brand image.
To make complete sense to your audience, your website shouldn't just look like you, it has to feel like you.
So, if fun is your thing, put fun at the heart of dealing with you. If you're a place to find bargains, a no-nonsense cut to the chase website will be more appropriate than one full of luxurious imagery.
Know your core message and personality
Before you start to develop your site, you need to be clear on two things:
- Your core message
- Your brand personality
Your core message communicates what you do and why you do it (how you benefit your customers). If done well it will give people a good idea of how you feel about what you do too, which is a good indicator to them of whether you share the same attitudes.
You need a personality if you want people to like you. Whether they're people, animals, sofas or pens, we decide whether we like absolutely everything through a process of ascribing personality traits to them. If your organisation doesn't clearly express its positive traits, people will assign it with negative ones.
To help you come up with a message and personality, check out why branding is vital to small business success.
Here's four ways to inject your brand into your website.
1) Make your core message the headline on your homepage
It's your core message. It needs to be up there in flashing lights, right at the top of your homepage. These sites do it particularly well:
Having your core message at the top of your homepage isn't just good for your customers, it helps you focus on it too.
2) Use fonts, logos and colour palettes to communicate personality
If you've already got a strong offline image, complete with colour palettes and brand guidelines, move it wholesale online.
If you haven't, your website is an opportunity to create a visual image that you should be able to use offline too. Think about taking on a visual brand designer, because there's a lot more to framing a concept in fonts and colours than you or I could ever know. If you need a logo, professional help is essential. You can spot an amateur logo a mile off.
The other day a friend told me she was going to Zurich, a place I've never been. I realised I had a picture in my head of a clean, no-nonsense place where everyone looks very smart. Why? Because this strong logo and brand image had crept into my subconscious:
Zurich Insurance's image is so strong it has created an identity for an entire city.
Austere fonts suit an austere, serious business. Serif fonts are friendlier and slightly easier to read. Sans serif fonts are sharper, cleaner and more technical.
A flowery website could inadvertently put off half of your potential customers. Different colours convey different ideas and moods, so avoid anything that could even subconsciously give the wrong impression of who you are.
It can be hard to tell whether the visual identity of your website represent your core message, especially when it's your own business, so ask around, or ask an expert.
3) Always speak your language
Tone of voice communicates the personality and values of your business. The way you describe what you do tells your audience what is most important about it to you.
If more than one person will write for your website (or even if it's just you), define and document the personality traits in your tone of voice. Use examples to demonstrate exactly what you do and don't mean by subjective terms like 'fun' or 'professional'.
Here's a very detailed example of tone of voice document published by Leeds University. It tells an engaging story about the impact of the words you use and persuades its readers to learn and use the tone of voice it describes.
Like building a visual identity, developing a complete tone of voice an is complex and best left to a tone of voice expert. Nevertheless, it's still essential to put together basic tone of voice guidelines for your small business, to avoid jarring content that sometimes jokes and sometimes blinds with science.
4) Take care with your imagery
Images say so much about you and what you provide. An image is instantly absorbed whereas words have to be taken in one at a time. If your images are boring and uninspiring, so is your website and so is your business.
Your images must be of a high quality, well shot, and in high resolution. No excuses. If you don't pay attention to detail on your website, you project a slap-dash attitude to your image and your work.
Make a strategic decision on the theme or type of images you want to use on your website, and (you guessed it) be consistent. Stand out if you can, especially if you're in an already-saturated market.
Stock imagery is a great place to find images, although you risk using images that are already being used elsewhere, which can rob your site of its authenticity. Pictures of people are more engaging than pictures without people. Eyes looking at the camera grabs the attention. If you use images of people, make sure they look like real customers of your business. Be diverse. A bunch of white dudes might look pretty normal to you, but it will subtly turn off people who don't share that phenotype — and there's a lot of us about.
Here's a useful post about sourcing free images.
Make sure your online marketing reflects your brand too
Now you've made all that effort to create a site that tells a visually consistent story about your business, make sure everything you do to drive traffic to it also serves your core message and replicates the visual elements and tone of voice of your site.
A strong, consistent image is integral to your success. Pay attention to it, get it right, and get help where you need it.