Branding is one of the most important yet elusive elements of marketing. It is more than a fancy logo or a redesigned website, and cannot be summarised in a one-page ‘branding guidelines’ document.
Successful branding is in many ways intangible. Its success lies in the emotions a brand provokes in a consumer, in how it makes them feel when they recognise a logo or a brand name such as Amazon, Google, or Apple.
So, what are the secrets of successful e-commerce branding? We explain all in our latest article.
Narrow your Focus
When it comes to branding and marketing strategy more broadly, the temptation for a lot of businesses is to cast their net far and wide to appeal to as many potential customers as possible. After all, why would you want to overlook a section of the market who could be interested in your product?
However, the reality is that the opposite is the best approach, particularly when it comes to branding. A company’s brand is at its strongest when it narrowly focused, and aligns perfectly with the core target market. Generally speaking, when a brand expands and tries to appeal to a broader market, it loses focus and becomes weaker as a result.
The success of Subway is a good example of this. In America and in the UK there are many cafes, delis and sandwich shops that provide a pretty varied core offering of quick, cheap lunch food. Subway, founded in 1965 by Fred DeLuca, was successful by stripping back this offering to its essence, and providing many variations of just one sandwich – the sub.
By developing a singular focus, e-commerce brands can follow the example of the likes of Subway, and ensure that their brand identity is clear, strong and hyper-focussed.
Be First or Innovate
One of the paradoxes of branding is that while advertising can be useful for maintaining brand visibility once established, it is not generally successful for brand building.
It is publicity rather than advertising which determines successful brand building, and there is no better way to gain publicity than to be the first to market in your category. Brands that are the first to market a specific product receive press coverage that helps to build up a long-lasting brand/product association in the mind of their target customers.
At the other end of the scale, marketing a new brand in a saturated market is unlikely to achieve any significant gains, as consumers will already have developed mental associations between the leading brand in that market with existing products.
A far better approach is to narrow your focus into a subset of the market, establish a presence there, and expand further down the line once your brand is strong enough.
Identify your Brand with a Concept
The most memorable brands, e-commerce or otherwise, are successful in building up an association with a single concept which defines them in the mind of the general public.
In the car industry, for example, Bentley is associated with ‘luxury’, Volvo with ‘safety’, and Toyota with ‘reliability’.
In the UK, Primark has bucked the trend of terminal retail decline at least partially by clearly associating its brand with ‘value’. The same is true of the likes of Aldi and Lidl who have disrupted the food and grocery market so successfully in recent years.
Rather than trying to articulate all the best features of your brand in your marketing, aim to make yourself synonymous with a concept that evokes the essence of your brand.
Authority and Trust Determines Brand Perception
Brands take root in the mind when they are able to identify themselves with feelings of trust and authority.
One easy way to do this is to make a claim on leadership in your market category. As we explained earlier in this article, however, this is much easier to do if your brand is able to pioneer a new market category, rather than entering an already saturated market.
Another way to invoke feelings of authority and trust is to align yourself with the concept of ‘quality’. The key here is that consumers perceive your brand as holding the concept of quality. In reality, it is not always the case the most high-quality brands and products become synonymous with this concept.
A famous example of this is the long-standing brand war between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Coca-Cola is widely considered to be the superior product, and to be of a higher level of quality than Pepsi. However, blind taste tests have frequently revealed that consumers prefer the supposedly lower quality Pepsi offering. The preference for Coke over Pepsi in the minds of many consumers is simply a question of brand perception and not an indication of the quality of the product itself.
So, what can e-commerce businesses learn when it comes to branding their products?
The most important takeaway is that perception is everything when it comes to successful branding. If you want to create a brand that cuts through the noise and distinguishes you from the competition, you will have to narrow your focus and to innovate or disrupt your market category.
Your brand message should be clear and concise, and, if possible, should identify your brand with a concept which can be easily invoked in the mind of the consumer.
Finally, you should aim to foster feelings of authority and trust in your brand. Once again, perception is everything here, and it is not always necessary for a brand to have the best product in the market to be considered high-quality and trust-worthy.
For expert assistance with reaching your target audience online, contact digital advertising specialists Clark St. James on 01603 343477 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team delivers a scalable return on investment for e-commerce companies across the major search and social media advertising channels.