Nowadays, most organisations and businesses have a web presence in some shape or form, yet many still fail to utilise it to its maximum potential or integrate it sufficiently with their other communications. In this post, we look at why it is important to approach the design, functionality and structure of your site and social media strategy with one eye squarely on your brand. We consider the importance of first impressions, visual and intangible elements, and give some tips for a successful, brand-led digital personality.

You must ask yourself - what elements of our brand identity and personality are important and how can we best achieve consistency across both the physical and digital environments?

Understanding your brand means understanding your business.

A brand is not always commercial. Charities and even universities have brands, which they must establish in order to position themselves in their marketplace and differentiate from those with a similar offering or vision.

Successful brands consist of a number of cohesive layers that come together to form a holistic identity. The name, logo and other visual elements of a brand are symbolic of its emotional and behavioral traits, which act to differentiate, increase awareness and engender trust and loyalty. Increasingly, brands are being considered as experiential interfaces that take the consumer on an emotional journey in which they can invest.

The following intangible elements of a brand help to guide all the activities of an organisation:

  • Vision: A simple statement of intent, the inspiration for your organisation.
  • Values: The belief system that guides your organisation’s approach, it’s behaviours, and how it connects with customers and stakeholders.
  • Mission: An expansion on what the company will do, less lofty than vision, more particular in what they intend to do and what they promise to clients/stakeholders.

Firmly defining these elements in advance of a major project like a new website and digital strategy will result in a final product that reflects the organisation, helps meet its objectives and forms part of a consistent customer experience.

Brands act as interfaces between consumers and products, services or organisational goals, and a website should be a digital representation of this.

First impressions count.

Research has shown that website visitors make a judgement about its quality in less than a twentieth of a second. More importantly, it suggests that this first-impression is likely to persist regardless of the quality of content or subsequent improvements. It’s important to quickly establish the personality and purpose of your site, social media channel, or any other piece of communication in the mind of the visitor.

How do you look?

The way a website looks is directly linked to the personality that a user will attach to that organisation, whether this is one of responsibility, adventure, or traditional values, etc. Research suggests that successful aesthetics and imagery can dramatically increase user engagement. So, those elements that are emphasised, CTAs, structure and format all contribute to a brand’s personality. For example, our client Benromach’s website reflects the distillery’s organic, hand-crafted approach to whisky making, with it’s use of stylised, hand-drawn elements and subtle, earthy tones, as well as the bespoke timeline to illustrate the company’s history and values.

How do you sound?

As important as what you say is how you say it. The tone of voice of your communications and website is as important when engaging your audiences as the type and quality of content. Consideration should be given to whether a website and other digital channels should have their own tone and personality and how they fit with existing brand guidelines. While as a general rule it is good to promote consistency across all communications, some organisations may consider slightly different tones of voice and personalities for different digital channels, depending on the target audience.

What are you all about?

The ‘About Us’ page is the place to detail what’s different about your organisation, what drives it forward and the promises you’re making to your audiences. For some organisations, such as in the non-profit, environmental, or leisure sectors, detailing on the ‘About Us’ page the brand values and mission might be encouraged. However, this content should be reflected throughout your site, as well as across offline communications, so that visitors to your site can instantly recognise what your company stands for and aspires to. Our pro bono project with the Kieran Maxwell Fund illustrates how successful a cross-channel digital strategy can be for a brand.

The user journey should be simple and intuitive, and this begins with the homepage or landing page. The user needs to be able to understand from the offset the site’s personality, what the offer or message is and what they are expected to do next. Considering your audiences and their needs, in line with your objectives, will inform the layout and design of your website. As with any piece of marketing communications, your message must be clear, relevant and timely.

Equally, if the organisation has sub-divisions or sub-brands the site architecture and navigation might need to reflect this. If a brand has multiple audiences or stakeholders, a website should make it as easy as possible for those audiences to reach the content that is relevant to them. This may involve specific landing pages, distinct site areas, secure login platforms, or simple, targeted CTAs. The website we designed for ENABLE Scotland, ‘Make the Move’, utilises accessible pictorial menus that quickly and intuitively allow the visitor to access content that is relevant to them, as well as visually appealing to a younger target audience.

Multiple touch points, single vision.

Social channels are increasingly becoming the locus of customer service, and an essential tool for reputation management. Organisations can maximise on these channels to make new connections with audiences, whilst maintaining and strengthening their brand identity. Your web presence must compete with other brands from across the globe for users’ attention and engagement. Placing your brand at the centre of the development of your website and digital strategy will help to differentiate your business, and increase emotional engagement, just as it would offline.

A company’s website, Twitter or Facebook page are fast becoming the first exposure a potential customer has to a brand. You must make sure you make this count - communicating the right messages to the right audiences and establishing a strong brand image that is representative of your values.

Top tips:

  • Define your brand proposition - both the aesthetic and intangible elements.
  • Cultivate a personality for your website and social channels that is consistent with your brand image.
  • Speak with a tone that is appropriate to this personality and consistent.
  • Treat your website as an interface for your brand that helps users to achieve specific goals.
  • Take an integrated and holistic approach to all marketing activities.