Every single time a visitor comes to your web site, a brand interaction occurs.
Whether their web site visit results in a brand building or brand eroding opportunity depends on your visitors’ experience on your site. For marketers to dismiss the Web as a direct response medium alone, or a glorified electronic brochure, and not understand the larger brand impact of these collective visits, is a huge mistake.
Because to customers and prospects, all brand interactions are not equal—and yet they all have a long-term impact on brand perception. Certain interactions are weighted more heavily than others. A quick glimpse at a poorly executed print ad or view of a broadcast ad can be quickly dismissed and the brand impact is not large from that single exposure. However, an unsuccessful visit to your web site is interactive and intentional on the visitor’s part, and thus can have a stronger negative branding impact. Imagine the result of one million unsuccessful web site visits per week on a brand over just a few months.
Visitors come to your site for a variety of reasons, from a variety of places. Let’s take a look at some different web site visits and the brand lessons we can take away:
Lesson One: How to erode your brand, tidal wave style
The opportunity: A potential customer on a mission finds you in a search engine. He doesn’t know your business, but assumes that since you are highly ranked he should get to know you. He clicks the link to your site. There is a split second of expectation and anticipation. “Maybe this is exactly the solution I need,” he thinks….
The visit: Whammo! He hits your site and instantly feels disappointed. Your web site has let him down. Poor design, no obviously relevant content. He makes a mental note never to come here again.
The brand buster: Brand erosion hits like a tsunami. The potential customer went from feeling neutral about you to feeling negative—in just one visit. You’ve just made your job a whole lot harder: it’s unlikely you’ll be able to undo the harm of this negative first impression. But if you learn from visits like this and take action to deliver what your visitors want and expect, hopefully you can stop eroding your brand click by click.
Lesson Two: How to kill offline brand awareness in a single click
The opportunity: Another customer on a mission. This time, though, she knows you. She assumes that since you are a known player in the field, your site will deliver value to her. So she types www.yourbrand.com into her browser.
The visit: She hits your site, and scratches her head. Your site is skimpy, confusing. It doesn’t seem to have what she wants, or what she figured you would offer online. She reflects on the situation: “These folks don’t understand what their web site should offer. I guess they’re not the players I thought they were. Hmm…who else might have what I am looking for?”
The brand buster: Though not quite as bad as Lesson One, this sort of thing doesn’t exactly give your brand a boost in the arm. Another mission not accomplished. While recovery is possible with swift action, understanding the basic reasons visitors come to your site (visitor scenarios) and measuring their success (visitor conversion) ensures that your site will allow them to complete their missions satisfactorily—growing your brand with each conversion.
Lesson Three: How to build and exploit your brand
The opportunity: A visitor comes to your site, either from a search engine or by typing www.yourbrand.com into his browser. He knows what he’s looking for. Will he find it?
The visit: Ahhh! The site is well designed and consistent with your offline brand use. A clear navigation system immediately leads him to what he’s looking for. He starts reading your web copy. You are answering his questions! Your calls-to-action ask if he wants targeted and interesting information. Of course he does! He clicks the link, sees a brief form and instinctively completes it, clicking “submit” cheerfully—also choosing to opt-in to your weekly newsletter. He gets access to advanced information and loses himself in your content. Time flies by. It’s been 23 minutes—he has to get to a meeting. But, he quickly sets up a favorites bookmark for this excellent site and closes his browser.
The brand builder: What just happened? A great brand building experience. You delivered consistent brand usage through your site’s graphics and design. You presented a site that delivered what he hoped for…and accomplished his mission. Relevant, useful and engaging—you created a bookmark-worthy site that he wants to return to again and again. When your newsletter goes out in three days, it will trigger a positive brand recollection, likely drawing him back for another visit. Boom! Brand loyalty is being built click by click.
Imagine this happening thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of times a week. The Web is powerful; its reach extensive. Online brand building is happening more than ever because it’s interactive. Potential customers are spending more time and getting more intimate with your brand online than through any other medium. Plus, they are selling themselves—no salesperson is working them over.
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