A great brand website and a great brand go hand in hand – because these days, many customers prefer to learn about brands from the brands themselves, not from retailers. Likewise, an increasing number of customers prefer to buy directly from the brand’s own website, not from a retailer’s site. So brand websites increasingly need an effective online sales component.
Yet brand websites still need to focus on the job of telling a great brand story. Here are some of the key things a great brand website needs to do to make a brand iconic.
1. Tell a great brand story
People respond to stories. And if your brand has the right story – a story that is authentic and resonates with your target audience – then this is likely to increase their engagement with and loyalty to your brand.
What is the right story for your brand? That depends very much on what values you want the brand to convey. Is it steeped in appeals to the real or imagined past, like Jack Daniel’s or Mainland? Or is it a story about a better, more sustainable future – the sort of story that Tesla or Patagonia or Little Yellow Bird want to tell?
Once a company has decided on its brand, the job of the brand website is to communicate that brand in a believable, relatable way to potential customers. All elements of the website need to work together to reinforce the brand: web design, web content, and web development.
Contrast Jack Daniel’s folksy, down-home way of selling its whisky – even the page where you need to supply your age is folksy – with the sleek, futuristic lines of the Tesla website. Look at how Mainland makes a story that started in 1954 look as though it stretches back into the mists of time, or how the stories on Little Yellow Bird’s blog reinforce the company’s brand values.
What’s the story of your own brand? What audience are you trying to reach with that story? Answering those questions should go a long way towards helping you work out the appropriate look, feel, and content for your brand website.
2. Talk in the language that fits your brand
I don’t care about shoes. Actually, that’s not true – I care that shoes keep my feet dry, don’t make my feet too hot and don’t pinch my toes or chafe my heels. But I don’t care about shoe brands in the slightest, even though lots of people do.
Yet even I, Mr Indifferent-To-Shoe-Brands, absolutely loved the Nike “Nothing beats a Londoner” advert that came out in February 2018:
That’s because – no matter how carefully crafted it was by the advertising agency that put it together – it looks and feels authentic to modern London – and it’s fun.
In fact, it may have been a little too successful in capturing London, because there was a considerable backlash to it from the rest of the UK.
(Disclaimer: I have spent a grand total of 2 weeks of my life in London, and that was 20 years ago.)
But the lesson here for your brand is that it needs to talk in the language that fits your brand. Is your brand hip, young and trendy? Then that’s the language your brand needs to speak.
Is your brand a watchword for refinement and distinction? Then you need to speak to your customers and potential customers in a way that reinforces those values of your brand.
3. Figure out how to deal with inconvenient truths
If you’ve told a great brand story in the right language, then you have probably gone a long way to doing this already. But a couple of the sites discussed above show how there is still extra work to do.
As mentioned above, Jack Daniel’s brand is heavily wrapped in nostalgia. But nostalgia for what? The American South. And that creates a problem for the brand that it tries to address through its website content.
Given that the Jack Daniel’s distillery is in Lynchburg, Tennessee, it can hardly escape the question of where it stands on the South’s history of slavery – especially given the USA’s sharp political divisions on the legacy of slavery. The brand has now embraced the fact that a former slave was its first master distiller – but that acknowledgement didn’t come until after the brand had been publicly shamed on the matter.
Patagonia’s claim to be a sustainable, ethical clothing brand has also come under attack – to take two examples, from Greenpeace for its use of toxic chemicals, and from an internal audit of labour practices at its suppliers. Given that Patagonia’s CEO has been very willing to take aim at the company’s competitors for engaging in greenwash, Patagonia may be putting its brand at risk by failing to live up to its own high standards.
How does the company’s website address such concerns? By doubling down on its commitment to both good environmental practice and environmental activism. For this to work, the company needs to be able to show clear, measurable positive benefits from the activism it engages in and the environment practices it follows – and those benefits need to outweigh the harms.
4. Make your brand memorable
What’s the best way to memorise something? Repetition.
And that goes for your brand website too. Once your company has decided on its brand, key brand elements should be repeated across your online presence, including your website, to reinforce a consistent, memorable brand image.
That goes for key messages on your website as well. If your company has a key tagline, that tagline should appear in appropriate places all around your site.
But memories aren’t just laid down by repetition. There is also a strong connection between emotional impact and memorability. If you don’t believe me, believe the research:
Emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes in humans, including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. Emotion has a particularly strong influence on attention, especially modulating the selectivity of attention as well as motivating action and behavior.
(From Tyng, C. M. et al., “The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory”, Frontiers in Psychology (24 August 2017), retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454/full)
That means your brand and your brand website need to…
5. Evoke emotion
Your brand needs to make visitors to your website feel, not just think. That way, they are more likely to remember your brand, and more likely – if your site does its job well – to associate it with positive emotions and to be loyal to it.
Most brand websites do need to back up the emotions they seek to evoke with facts and figures – but the facts and figures don’t have to be front and centre, and may even detract from the user experience.
Instead, a great brand website will lead with images and text that evoke emotion in your target audience. Perhaps that emotion is nostalgia, perhaps it’s excitement, perhaps it’s even a less positive emotion such as anger – but whatever it is, that emotion will help make your brand website memorable.
A great brand website can make a huge difference to your business. But getting it right can take a lot of thought about your industry, and good advice can be crucial. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.