Most brand custodians recognize the power of the web as a tool for branding. The versatility that technology provides, the ease of operation that the web offers, the immense amount of relevant information that the can be communicated simply yet impact fully gives brand custodians good reasons to set up websites for their brands.
Identity and personality can be conjured up through simple effects. Something as simple as the voice of the celebrity endorsing the brand welcoming the site visitor to the site could itself have a powerful impact on the site visitor. Offline design elements and brand properties carried online can provide a familiar and welcoming feel to the site. Nike.com is a good example of how a brand can communicate brand image and personality powerful through their website.
It is not always essential to have a hi-techno scream blast effect on site visitors. Research indicates that there are many surfers who are not very technology friendly. A complicated hi-tech site may leave the visitor bewildered and not too happy about the online brand experience. Giving the visitor options to view the site in basic or hi effect form would be a much-appreciated feature.
Research indicates that most brands derive their equity from their differentiation from competition. Whether it is price differentiation or even image differentiation –differentiation can easily be emphasized powerful through brand websites. Some websites give elaborate explanations of how their brand offers significant economies to their consumers while other brands use websites to explain the brand’s tradition of quality to create image based differentiation.
Every brand has a unique set of values that form its very essence. Knowing the brand’s values and the direction of its charter is important to anyone who wishes to have an enduring relationship with the brand. The website gives interested visitors an opportunity to understand these values better and the opportunity to forge a more meaningful relationship with the brand’s constituents. Many site visitors visit brand sites to know about the brand-its antecedents, its vision, etc. Irrespective of whether site visitors want to know about the brand or not-it is always reassuring to have an ‘About Us’ section as this indicates transparency and openness.
A large number of people visiting brand websites do so in order to understand whether the brand is relevant to them or not. Consumers need to be educated on the different categories of products that can serve their needs in the context in which they are planning to use your brand. A consumer who is looking at a brand of brand of paint may not know that he actually needs distemper for that particular application and not paint itself. A brand may lose out on a sale by providing such information but it can earn appreciation and positive WOM through this route that in time can bring in more sales.
Many prospective consumers want to know the product specifications of brands. Knowing the tolerance levels for industrial products, side effects for healthcare formulations, presence of a specific ingredient for edible products, etc is critical for decision-making. Equally important for a brand is communicating the king of tests conducted for product quality and the brand’s performance on these parameters. Websites give brands a good opportunity to share this kind of information that helps prospects/ consumers develop a better appreciation of the brand.
Giving tips on the best way to use the brand is a good way of convincing consumers about the brand’s commitment to its consumers. Maintenance tips too help in terms of reassuring consumers of the brand’s intent to play fair with the consumer.
Informing consumers of more uses for the brand helps to increase brand usage and consequently drives higher sales. Web pages with such forms of relevant information add tremendously to providing a positive brand experience online.
Brand heritage also builds greater familiarity with the brand. If a brand can talk of its past—who started it, how it started and how it evolved over the years then consumers get a sense of the brand’s history and a more appreciative perspective of the brand.
Brand extensions, forthcoming events, celebrities coming on brand need to be up on the site. While it may seem obvious that this information should be carried on the website, it is disappointing to see that many big brands do not remember to include this information online until it is stale.
Consumers derive great satisfaction in using brands that celebrities use. Many brands have witnessed interested incidents that have gone on to become the brand’s folklore. Brand custodians should use the brand website to communicate interesting brand tales to their prospects / consumers. The presence of photographs speaks a lot of the credibility and friendliness of a brand. Photographs of the company headquarters and some key people add to the interest value of the site. A common fault many big brands commit is asking site visitors for email ids without having a definite plan of how to use these in the near future. Often brands do not want to miss out on collecting email ids of visitors who gave their site, but do not realize that site visitors who give their email id normally do so expecting something in return albeit a simple newsletter. Not receiving anything in return for giving the brand permission to intrude into their life can cause rancor. Asking for email ids only makes sense if the brand has a ready plan of what to do with these ids in the near future. Asking for suggestions is a sign of showing that the brand is not bigger than its well wishers. A ‘suggestions’ section provides an interactive component to the website and can be of great value with the insights and advice that it elicits. Good suggestions can be rewarded with a simple gift and all suggestions should be rewarded with a mail thanking the contributor for the suggestion. The feedback section of most sites often the feedback either not responded to in a timely manner or just plain ignored. Unanswered complaints/ queries can cause enormous irritation. This can be prevented through a simple line that states the time frame by which the brand’s representative will reply. Brands that have a careers section need to be discreet in way they handle this section. People responding to the careers can feel slighted if they do not receive any response for a while or ever. Auto response through bots is not a great way of providing response either. Applicants can be touchy and getting an dehumanized auto response can rub them the wrong way. It is important to be sure before setting up this section whether the HR department has the interest and energy to handle online applications or not. A good website offers something for all its audience. Giving prospective business associates an opportunity to communicate with the brand makes for common sense marketing. Similarly a section that provides information/contact details for investors/media people is a part of every well thought out website.
Testing the website is critical to the success of the website in achieving the brand objectives set for it. Five criticaltests help in understanding how well the site functions.
A site catering to international audiences needs to take into consideration the varying bandwidth levels prevailing across countries and see that the speed is acceptable to a majority of its visitors. Visitors can use different browsers and so ensuring that the site can be accessed through all the main browsers is important. It is important to understand the nature of the brand experience site visitors get when visiting the site. Matching the site experience gives critical pointers for modifying the site. Studying whether the site is communicating the brand’s intent is important as intent is a critical aspect in influencing consumer trust. Websites by virtue of their ability to communicate enormous amounts of information at a low cost are in a very good position to communicate brand intent. Knowing whether the site is fulfilling this objective is critical. The key differentiators between brands are the values that these brands stand for. The values that a brand stands for from the basis of the relationship that the brand has with its customers. The brand’s website needs to communicate these values unequivocally and gauging consumer response to the website on the parameter of values communication is an important aspect of understanding whether the website will work for the brand.
Setting up a good website is only half the task. Poor maintenance, non-working links, grammatical mistakes, irregular updates, non-responses to consumer mails are but some of the many faux pas that several big brands are guilty of. Proper delineation of responsibility amongst the team responsible for the site, attention to detail and commitment to meeting deadlines to issues such as site updates, response to mails etc are the important facets of making a brand’s website work for the brand.
The decision to set up a website for a brand is a strategic decision and requires commitment and attention to make the effort successful. Like any other strategic initiative – the website requires adequate management time and resources to yield the requisite benefits. A website backed by insufficient resources could be counterproductive to the brand. As the saying goes ‘The bigger the weapon the more dangerous it is when it backfires.’