Last week I was driving down the freeway and saw the truck pictured above. It is a prime example of branding gone wrong.
The problem with the branding is that it does not clearly communicate what the brand represents. It has a cartoon image of the Pink Panther. A slogan saying “Think Pink, Go Green.” A logo for a heating and air company, a logo for Williams Corning, and several other sayings and logos included for adornment.
This truck is branded like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Random ornaments are tossed on for aesthetics with no particular order, purpose, or common design. Each ornament has a unique look-and-feel.
The result of this shotgun approach to branding is a customer leaving with only one thought… “Huh. Wonder what company THAT is!” (And then probably a snide remark about the pink truck).
Imagine if cattle were branded the same way as this truck was branded. It would be dyed a random color, and then several brands from several different farmers would be applied in random spots all over the cow. Then there would be ear tags with various sayings on it and numbers that belong to several cattle companies.
What would that accomplish? Nothing, of course! The purpose of branding is to clearly show the source of a product or service. Obviously, a cow would only have a brand from one ranch and have one ear tag with the number for that cow. Any other message would serve no purpose and confuse the ranchers.
What Does a Brand Accomplish?
Branding does two things: (1) Provides a memorable visual mark by which customers can identify a product or service with your company, and (2) Provides visual cues to potential customers about the way the company presents itself.
One of my favorite clothing brands is Under Armour. The distinctive logo on any piece of clothing indicates not only the company that it comes from, but the styling of the logo indicates that it is a brand that portrays itself as being “cool” or “athletic.” You only need to see the design to know that it belongs on athletic clothing.
My Best Tip for Branding a Website or Blog
Bloggers do not need to become branding experts to become successful online. However, I have seen enough websites with confusing branding that it is worth dedicating a moment to learning a few principles of excellent online branding so that your website does not become a virtual pink truck.
Bloggers should live by one rule of branding: reduce everything you do to one brand.
WordPress themes maker WooThemes is an excellent example of online branding. The ninja logo and word “Woo” work together well to convey a message of authority and agility in their products. That is the feeling they want customers to have. As the company grew into the powerhouse it is today, it used this singular brand to market all its offerings: WooThemes, WooCanvas, WooCommerce, etc.
In the online world with hundreds or thousands of competitors in a particular space, you simply cannot afford thinning out the recognition of your brand by using multiple names for your brands. I follow a blog in the fishing niche that has a website name with a graphic-type logo, an unrelated name for its podcast, an unrelated name for its products, and the branding on its Youtube videos has a different look-and-feel than the rest of the company’s marketing. The result of this branding disaster is that a viewer on Youtube may follow the business and then not realize when browsing through podcasts that the show comes from a source he knows and trusts.
The Branding Process
Take your brand today and whittle it down to a single message. One graphic, one name, and possibly one slogan IF your business name and logo does not already convey exactly what the business does. You may choose to further simplify this process by not even using a graphic in your branding. You may want to simply use a text-based graphic if the word does not need a visual depiction to clarify the business purpose and style.
Now that you have chosen the key message, decide how it will be styled. I recommend choosing a key color and an accent color that will be used in designing your videos, website, business cards, etc. Also, choose one adjective to describe the way you want the message to make people feel.
That is your brand. Now that you have it, stick it in the fire and mark everything you do with it. Making customers see this brand regularly on everything you do means they are more likely to remember it and associate future content you create with the same source. This creates loyalty and brand recognition.
My website Improve Photography has a consistent brand message. The logo is a graphic of a person taking a picture. The name is Improve Photography. The colors are red and gold. The adjective I want the brand to convey is helpful. If you go to my site, you see that one unified brand everywhere you go.
Even the font I chose for the logo is connected to how I want people to see the brand as being helpful. I chose a bold font with hard serifs much like would be used in a logo for a university–somewhere you would be helped in learning.
Go and Do
There should be few pieces of content you produce that will not have this brand clearly marked on it. It should certainly be on your website, on the images on your site that may get posted to Pinterest, on your Podcast artwork, as a watermark on your Youtube videos, on your letterhead, on your invoices, as a sticker on the back of your laptop, on your business card, on the wall behind you where you’ll record videos, etc.
The action item I suggest for any blogger today is this: Develop your one single brand, and then drive it into the ground. Any time you even consider leaving off your brand or using a different message, remember the pink cow.