When Brands Collide: Avoiding the Online/Offline Disparity


You aren’t imagining it – it’s not your mother’s (brand) world anymore. Brand-building has been irreversibly transformed due to digital communication. Traditional branding rules are no longer sufficient in an age where new content is created and shared every millisecond. But that doesn’t mean your offline strategies should be abandoned, either. It’s simply time to synergize your on- and offline brands.

It’s a digital world, baby

When you launched your brand, you most likely had a logo designed with a catchy tagline, along with a set of brand identity controls including colors and type style. That brand was probably then shared with your clients and prospects via an identity package (letterhead, envelopes, and business cards) and related materials like pocket folders and “swag” (t-shirts, mugs, pens, etc.). Add a brochure and other printed materials to the mix, and you were literally in business.

While these offline strategies are still linchpin pieces of a solid brand, they cannot stand alone any longer. The world has gone digital.

Along with connecting your offline brand to your business website with the same look and feel, it is critical to use similarly branded e-mail templates and signatures, e-letterhead, and interactive brochures for your business communications. Visual repetition must be established to effectively create a brand that is recognizable and memorable – and, most importantly, resonates with your target market.

Harnessing the social circle

When considering how to ensure proper transfer of your brand between on- and offline mediums, remember that every single strategy should be branded. This is especially important when it comes to online strategies, as they can quickly become hard to manage because of the sheer number of possibilities.

We’ve all seen multiple-personality brands before: a company sporting a colorful brochure with an inspiring message, but with a website that doesn’t look anything like it and doesn’t convey the same feel. Or, an amazingly branded, engaging Facebook page that links to a company website that is staid and lifeless. Then there are those who can’t seem to figure out their logo design, font type, and/or tagline and use a variety of old and new versions depending on how they feel that day.

How can you avoid the easy trap of having an inconsistent brand? Once your website is solidly branded, your social media accounts should be the next step in establishing your online brand presence. From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram – and the hundreds of social media sites in between – your accounts should bear the same logo, color scheme, look, and “voice.” Your messaging is an integral part of your brand, so identify how you want to communicate with your social circle and be consistent.

Ads, ads everywhere

When developing advertising campaigns, connect the theme, design, and messaging with your overarching brand. Make sure components designed for print (newspapers, magazines, etc.), direct mail, and other offline strategies are similar to those used in any and all of your online advertising mediums, including Google AdWords, social media, and search.

When one of your prospective clients sees any of your ads, they should recognize it because the colors, slogan, fonts, and other elements are consistent between them.

It can feel easier to create a cohesive advertising campaign because it is focused, time-limited, and controllable. But if you use the same approach with your entire marketing strategy to better communicate and control your brand, you will find success.

Super stars

A brand must be continually and carefully developed so that every marketing tactic and strategy is inherently tied to it. Think of the major international brands we recognize in a nanosecond: McDonald’s (golden arches/red and yellow), Apple (apple icon/black and white), Google (primary colors), Coca-Cola’s (cursive font/red and white), and Nike’s (swoosh and slogan, “Just do it.”). Notably, all of these recently made the top of Forbes’ World’s Most Valuable Brands list.

What do they have in common (besides multi-million advertising campaigns)? Brand consistency. No matter what marketing, advertising, public relations, social media, and print strategies they utilize, they all bear the same brand impressions.

It’s not just corporations that can execute effective branding. Start noticing small businesses in your community and how they brand themselves. There are probably some local branding stars that can provide insight and ideas for your own branding efforts. What makes their brands work? Become a brand observer and branding will become part of the fabric of your day – and soon your business will reap the benefits



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