Before you go nuts trying to rank for keywords and optimize your website for the search engines, make sure you dial in your brand. Your brand should guide you through every decision you make as you weave your business through the web. Putting in the legwork to get your brand content organized is a necessary first step. Don't dive into the deep end of search engine optimization (and spend a lot of time and money) before you know exactly how to express and organize your brand. Focus on having some great content to optimize.
Ok, so a bunch of Brand Directors are cringing right now by my misuse of their logos (my apologies - but there is a point). Even though I've cropped the heck out of these brand logos, you certainly recognize each of them and likely use their products (and if you haven't driven a BMW, you are missing out on "The Ultimate Driving Machine"). And though these symbols represent some great brands, a brand is not a logo. Your logo is NOT your brand.
Some branding agencies say that your brand is your promise. Some say it's your voice. I say, it's your feel.
Everyone likes good feel. If your website is selling toys to children, maybe your brand should feel fun and energetic? If you're selling life insurance to aging adults, you might want to feel a little conservative (and trustworthy, definitely trustworthy). No matter what you do, don't just jump into SEO without a well-laid plan for your brand voice.
Google is looking for good, relevant content (stuff that's going to help and reward their end-users). They don't want to fill up their search engine with links to duplicate content, or pages that aren't rewarding their customers for using their search engine. The creme rises to the top.
Focus on writing descriptive copy that connects with the end-user and clearly answers their questions, even before they have one. Show them, don't tell them.
1. Establish Your Brand Voice
Before tackling all of the important SEO stuff, like Meta Titles, Descriptions, Product Descriptions, Keywords, ALT Tags, structure and all that fun stuff, it's important to define your brand voice.
Think of five people in your life that all have very different personalities and ways of speaking to you. You Dad might be a goofball and constantly telling bad dad jokes. You know when one is coming. Or your Doctor might be a super serious person that always tells it to you straight, in a calm and collective way. Your friend might be super bubbly, always energetic and down to party. All of these people have unique personalities, and the way they communicate is with their voice. Brands are very similar. They have a voice. And when this voice is emulated and reverberated throughout an organization's brand, customers can feel it. They get a sense of the brands personality and either connect with it, or keep looking.
Being a local Seattleite, with offices just a Tom Brady's throw from Starbucks corporate headquarters, I'm very familiar with the Starbucks Brand Voice (and their Grande Soy Latte). Without having to look at their Brand Guidelines (and I swear, I found the link and still haven't read it yet), I already have a feeling what it might sound like (we'll see how far off I am in a second). I immediately expect that their brand voice must be friendly, helpful, timely, and accurate. After all, my experiences and expectations are always met. But how do they communicate their Brand Voice to their employees, customers, and everyone that hears from them, and keep it all straight?
Starbucks defines themselves as being functional, meaning helpful. They believe that being functional is the same as being clear and organized, and that all of that clarity and organization brings focus to the product itself. Yes, there is a joy felt when my name is called out and my special drink is waiting there just for me (and I expect to get that same feeling every time). The entire process of getting my latte into my hand is friendly, clear and organized (even when the line is long and the drive through is packed).
Not only are they functional, they are also expressive. Picture a Starbucks ad in your mind, or start paying closer attention to their brand voice when you hear it or read it. Their expressive copy in designed to remind customers that a fresh cup of coffee is just what you need right now to make you smile and feel good. And not only do they inspire you with clear, concise words that cut to the chase, they show you. Whether they are telling a passionate story about coffee, or just letting you know that your favorite Holiday drink is back, they do it in an interesting way, using very few words. Make your words count (and make sure to blend your relevant keywords into your brand voice when performing SEO).
2. Define Your Brand Values
After you've figured out your voice and the personality of your brand, it's time to define your brand values. When you come to a crossroads and you need to make a tough decision about your brand, and really figure out where you stand, you'll need to fallback on your values. Your brand values become a constant reminder of what's important to your business and your customers, and they will guide you to take action.
Brand Values are the core of your brand, and the heart of your company - the principles that matter most to you and what drives your thoughts, words and actions.
Be authentic. Be real. Be yourself. Nobody likes a snake-oil salesman, a "yes man", or somebody that simply tells them what they want to hear. Figure out what you stand for and don't be afraid to share it with the world. Own your brand values.
Your brand values may evolve and become superseded by new values, especially as the world changes. Today, we've seen a big shift in how values are playing a major role in directing a companies direction, culture and financial resources. Let's take Google for example. Their customers are always the priority. Google Brand Values are laser-focused commitments:
Serving their customers is at the heart of everything they do.
They seek to improve the lives of as many people as possible.
Google does things that have a positive impact on the entire world.
They strive to provide people with great information.
They protect their users with industry-leading security and data protection.
Google aims to build a world where progress, equitable outcomes, diversity and inclusion can be realities both inside and outside the workplace.
It's clear to see that Google's brand values continue to shape their company, and the people that the brand touches. What is the number one priority of your business? Is it to serve your customers? If not, it should be, and at all costs to theirAnd if so, how far will you go? What does it mean to serve your specific customers? Do you know their needs? Have you surveyed them? Are there things you need to know in order to serve them better? When you go to make your next decision, one that might effect your pocket book, will the customer take priority? Create brand values that you believe in with all of your heart and soul. Make sure your employees are aligned with the companies brand values and show them what it means. Lead by example. Define your brand values.
3. State Your Brand Promise
You've got your tone of brand established. You know your values and what you believe in. The whole gang is on board. But what does your brand promise? How will you measure yourself against your brand values? You'll do this by making a promise to yourself and to your customer. And you'll do everything in your power to keep that promise.
In other words, you say what you do, and do what you say.
There's nothing but good feels when a brand delivers on their promise. Speaking from personal experience, I really resonate with this next example. When I was in my twenties I bought my first BMW. We still have a couple. Why? BMW delivers on their brand promise. A brand is the sum of its parts - the sum of its products, its customers, and its impact on the world. And since your brand touches everything in your world, your brand promise must adapt to the world around it.
Here's how BMW defines their brand promise, in their own words:
BMW IS DEDICATED ONLY TO THE DRIVER.
BMW’s passionate promise for the future is born from the unique history of reinvention. BMW doesn't just build cars. The brand’s innovations and exceptional design create emotion, enthusiasm, fascination and thrills.
With the requirements to shift all new automotive manufacturing to electric vehicles by 2035, every automotive manufacture is shifting gears. The entire automotive industry is pivoting. Companies, like BMW, are implementing strategies that will not only allow them to operate, but also allow them to uphold their new brand promises. Through their innovation and exceptional design, BMW promises to deliver us thrills, and hopes to create emotions of fascination in us that power our enthusiasm when we drive their vehicles. I'm counting on it, and I believe they will deliver.
When it comes to developing your brand promise, don't take it lightly. Making promises is easy, but keeping them can be challenging. Ensure that your promises are achievable and take the necessary actions within every department to ensure the promises you make are being upheld.
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