How to Build a Brand Online: A Systematic Guide to Success
Knowing how to build a brand online is a key skill in the modern internet world. Learn a scientific approach and stop over thinking it. This guide will give you a complete understanding.
So you want to know how to build a brand online?
Building a brand online for yourself is extremely wise. An asset to carry you through life.
Building a brand online for others is a high-income skill. A skill to pay the bills no doubt.
Today's article is a monster jam. 5000 words that may in fact change your life and career.
To fully comprehend what it means to build a brand has given me everything great that life has to offer.
Clients want to hire me. My content and creations get maximum returns. I feel like I'm living my purpose.
If you'd like to feel the same, then please read this earnestly. This is not some buzz-feed article to be skimmed.
OK;LG Brand Builders.
So What is Brand Building?
Brand building is the act of growing a brand’s awareness, developing a deeper level of engagement and enhancing the relationship between brand and customer through trust and certainty.
Let us first remember where the idea of brand originated — a 'Brand' has always been a stamp of quality.
People used to 'brand' their cows to let people know what kind of cow they were, how they were bred etc.
Then people started to “brand” their clothing/wares so that people would remember the type of quality they had purchased.
If you bought off-brand wares you were taking a risk in terms of the quality assurance.
Now every product and service comes with a brand.
But today, brand means much more than just quality assurance.
Brand is now a differentiator in a complex and noisy marketplace.
This brand means cool. This brand means spiritual. This brand means eco-friendly.
Prior to 2010, most companies developed their brand by attaching themselves to prominent figures and celebrities.
Think Nike. Think Marvel. Think Vitamin Water.
They also developed their brand through highly aesthetic advertisements that had little to no sales component or ‘pitch’.
Think Coca-Cola. Think Apple. Think Chanel.
Companies also created brand through exclusivity.
Think Louis Vuitton. Think Grey Goose. Think Ferrari.
Notice how "brand" typically increases the value of a company or product. Brand isn't to be ignored.
However, that was all based on a completely physical world, prior to the internet era.
Now the majority of people get their experiences and perceptions via digital means, ie The Internet and Social Media.
What does that mean for a marketer? For a new company trying to establish themselves? For anyone who wants to build a business online?
It means we have to rethink how we differentiate ourselves, how we communicate value and quality.
It means we have to rethink what it means to be a trusted brand.
It means we have to rethink the celebrities and personas we choose to help promote our company.
It means we have to rethink how we express our aesthetic brand components.
It means we have to rethink what it means to be exclusive in a global and digital environment.
Let’s keep this simple and straightforward. In the 2020’s, brand is and will be built through non-physical, unconstrained, content experiences.
Content is a broad term for the digital experiences we have online.
The web pages we read.
The instagram photos we like.
The tweets we scroll and many others.
If we think about content just a few decades ago, we think of the News, live sports and dramatic movies.
Content today is much more varied, unique and nuanced.
But with the prevalence of the smart phone and the world-wide adoption of 4-7 social media platforms, ‘brand’ is now primary driven via content.
In case you aren’t aware of those platforms they are:
- Tik Tok
- And Linkedin
These platforms are where most humans spend the majority of their time online.
You might also include some of the niche audio platforms such as:
- And iTunes.
Because brand often carries a visceral feeling, its easier to think of brand-content having a visual component and not just audio. But brand can absolutely be built through audio.
Let’s get back to brand being built through content.
Content is text, images, audio and video distributed publicly on one of those 7-10 platforms.
In the current state of social media, video is by far the biggest consumable online.
Content, and especially video, now costs a fraction of what it once was to produce. We can even create full-length movies on our smart-devices with unlimited shots, edits and exports.
But just because it’s cheaper it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to build a brand.
In fact, it might just be harder for some industries simply due to the massive influx of new companies being born by the ever more entrepreneurial generations. Your grandfather did not consider building a brand. It’s likely your mother or father did not either. They likely worked for one though.
But here you are.
Thinking and asking about how to build a brand online.
How Do We Measure Brand?
In order to develop some practical metrics, we should now consider what brand means to the relevant market participants: The company whose brand is in question. Their customers, their competitors and potentially their industry as a whole.
The reason why brand matters is because consumers have choice. A classic marketing paradigm.
When a consumer has a choice between two brands selling an identical product — a pair of denim jeans, a 4-door sedan, a bag of coffee beans; how will they make their decision?
They will choose the brand they know, like and trust the most. Simple as.
But what is it that causes them to 'know', ‘like’ or 'trust' the brand in the first place?
A great brand will make their customers feel something bigger than the product or service itself. This feeling when produced repeatedly through multiple purchases over time is called ‘affinity’. This suggests they have a preference for one brand over another despite product similarities.
Once a consumer has an affinity with a brand it may be difficult to change that. Competitors may find themselves advertising to a brick wall.
But brand affinity is quite difficult to measure practically speaking. It may be observed with ease, but finding any measurement with precision will be a challenge.
The fact is, it isn’t easy to measure a brand with any clear metric. And that’s why so many marketers and businesses avoid brand altogether.
If an ROI cannot be stated, it is not a worthy endeavour for the business’ bottom line.
Of course, this is not the right mindset, but at least it’s an honest one.
But let’s not give up quite yet.
Ignoring affinity for a moment, let’s just consider brand in terms of competition.
If we measure the social media following of one brand versus another we could say that the brand with more followers is bigger. Again, simple as.
The problem with using followers as a single metric is that you can buy followers. You can have followers that are bots or dead accounts.
So the best way to adjust this measurement is to also consider engagement rates.
If one brand has 50 000 followers and each instagram post gets 2000 likes…
And another brand has 100 000 followers and each instagram post gets 2500 likes…
Who has the bigger brand?
The answer is not clear, but one could argue that the brand with 50 000 followers has a slightly higher engagement rate.
Thus, the affinity for that brand on average is higher than the brand with 100 000 followers. But likes aren’t everything either. A large following carries plenty of clout along with it.
Here’s the answer you really want: stop trying to measure your brand and just enhance it as much as possible, forever and always.
Brand building is not about metrics. It’s about an invisible (but very real) connection between a business and a customer.
Save your ROI calculations for the sales department.
When a business is trying to define itself amidst a competitive marketplace, not everything can be about ROI or even ROI positive.
Do you think Coke is worried about how much is spent on billboards throughout the 90’s?
Do you think Disney is worried about how much it spent on movies in the 2000’s?
Do you think Victoria’s Secret is counting pennies when it hires the world’s hottest models for its yearly fashion show?
Sometimes you have to invest into brand not knowing exactly what you’ll get out of it.
And if you can’t adopt that mindset, you just may not be ready for the catwalk.
How to Build a Brand from Scratch Systematically
I believe I’m one of the first in the world to talk and write about systematic brand building.
In past decades, what I’m about to share with you may not have been possible.
Some brands were winners and some brands were losers. Campaigns often fell flat and out-right failed.
There was no sure-fire way of building your brand.
But today, I believe things have changed.
I believe no matter what company we run, we can effectively build affinity with our customers in a practical and repeatable way.
I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again, the cost of content production has become negligible and that is what allows us to make such reliable progress as we build our brand. Even the tiniest gain will come out as a net-positive effect.
If you are a marketer, an online business owner or a ‘brand builder’ as we call ourselves at Rich+Niche, you’ve picked a good article to read and you’ve made it through the introduction.
The rest of this article will help you understand what it takes to systematically build brand in the highly-competitive, noisy, digital eco-system we all compete in.
Our goal as Brand Builders is to get consumers to know, like and trust the company behind the Brand.
The most surefire way to create this immeasurable brand affinity is by ensuring that each step of the customer journey is a high-quality one that meets and ideally exceeds the expectations of the customer.
The process of brand building begins with the mission of generating awareness in the consumer’s mind.
Until people know about a brand, they cannot buy from a brand or begin to form a brand-customer relationship.
Awareness is the first stage of any buyer’s journey.
So we are all on the same page lets review the four stages of the buyer’s journey:
Every customer must begin at the awareness stage before anything else happens.
But you’d be amazed at what a little awareness does for the company’s bottom line.
If you understand funnels, then you know that some % of those aware of your brand will ultimately convert, so more awareness almost always leads to more sales.
But how do we generate this 'awareness'? How do we make consumers know about us when there are so many companies out there.
At this time there is no better (and potentially no other) way to gain awareness other than creating and publishing online content.
Whether its paid media or organically driven -- brand is built through content.
The key is to make the right content, with the right message and get it front of consumers at the right time.
If brand is built through content, then we should make content that generates awareness first and foremost.
Since the arrival of Google, awareness has been generated on search engines.
A consumer is seeking a solution to their problem and enters a keyword into the search engine.
They are returned a set of webpages which leads to instant awareness of several brands listed in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).
Thus SEO (search engine optimization), is a great source of reliable awareness and why it has become the massive industry it is today.
SEO exists not only on Google, but also YouTube, Facebook and many others who attempt to organize the millions of content pieces on the internet or specifically uploaded to their platform.
Every brand should be seeking some form of SEO prominence.
SEO isn’t just about awareness and getting to know of a brand.
If you are ranking in the top-3 you will immediately garner some trust as well. This is the nature of SEO.
The top-3 listings take most of the search traffic and that has been proven over and over again.
That trust may not last long, if the experience on the other side of the click is below par, but if that is the case, it’s unlikely to maintain a top 3 ranking for long. Google is watching to see how you react to the listings they provide and if your immediate response is to bounce out, they will likely drop that result further down the SERPs.
Before we navigate away from SEO, let’s talk about ‘Backlinks’.
A backlink is when one webpage hyper-links to another webpage. Google believes this to be a very valuable indication of quality and trust.
If a website is willing to send people away via an external link, it must be a high-quality resource. And interestingly enough, a page that has zero backlinks may itself not be that trust-worthy in Google’s eyes as it has not provided and high-quality links to back up the claims on the page.
But we are not talking about Google’s trust rating, we are looking to see what makes consumers trust a brand.
A consumer will appreciate a high-quality backlink when used appropriately. When a person ‘refers’ another website through a backlink you can often assume you are heading to a great resources or one of high-relevance.
So acquiring and earning backlinks is undoubtedly a high-impact brand building exercise.
Let’s make a major conclusion….
SEO is a huge part of systematically building brand.
In order to have success in SEO, you must create great content.
SEO rankings will be determined by the quality of the content but also the competitiveness of the keyword at hand.
Which brings us to another conclusion…
It’s easier to build brand when you are in a smaller, less competitive niche.
So where possible, focus on long-tail keywords. Get specific and when possible write for a specific niche.
Like they always say: the riches are in the niches. I’m so sure of this ever-lasting paradigm, I bet my domain name on it.
If you want to rank your articles or videos there is a simple process to go through.
Pick a keyword you want to rank for and make the search yourself.
Take a look at the competition. What are they creating and writing about that led them to an active top ranking.
Ask yourself: how can I create something that is more in-depth, more engaging and more actionable.
Your goal is to survey the land, assess the buildings and build a bigger one.
This is called the ‘Skyscraper Technique’. It works very, very well in the SEO world.
If you ask an SEO expert they will tell you that top ranking articles typically have 1700+ words whereas the average article only has 400-700 words on the page. Length does matter here if you plan on snagging a top-3 ranking.
Length matters because it translates to a longer 'time-on-page' which is the opposite of an immediate bounce-back to the SERPs. One of Google’s many ranking factors.
So the first way you can systematically build your brand is by continuously writing long-form articles using the skyscraper technique.
This will lead to an increase of traffic which translates into consumers knowing the brand and in many cases liking and trusting the brand if the article is on point.
If you want to be a bit more modern, apply this exact same concept to YouTube videos.
How to Build a Brand on Social Media through Engaging Content
Some of the more prominent brand building activities we see today are happening on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.
When we ask ourselves, what is the difference between the TV and the Internet — the first thing that should come to mind is interactivity.
You cannot interact with your TV, but you can have incredibly diverse interactions online.
Liking, disliking, commenting, sharing, polls, quizzes — these elements give the internet a big 1-up on the television screen.
I personally haven’t watched TV since 2013, but I’m hearing that those who do, are often on their phones simultaneously.
By allowing consumers this level of interactivity we can make them a part of the marketing experience.
When done right, massive brand affinity can be built.
In terms of the customer journey we can get consumers interested and considering a product or service in a much more exciting way.
The key is to avoid posting to show, but instead posting to engage.
The way we can do this systematically is by being very selective in what we post and how we post it. Some call this strategy.
By having a solid strategy before we make our first picture or video, we can get so much more from our content online.
It’s important to realize that brand connection, affinity and trust are ultimately built after a purchase and a successful delivery leaving the customer satisfied despite the dollars leaving their wallet. So while it is important to creating engaging social content, it is a means to an end.
But ask yourself this…
Would you rather buy from a brand you just discovered through an ad on Facebook or from an Instagram account who has been engaging you for the past 6 weeks on a relevant topic?
Coming back to what we post and how we post it…
Let’s return to this concept of a niche.
A niche is a small segment of an industry or a small segment of an audience.
A niche is going to be specific rather than vague.
When we want people to know, like and trust us, we begin to realize that if we create content for a niche, it’s much easier to obtain these elusive brand elements.
By constraining our content to a niche we are more likely to engage our consumers because our message will be much more specific.
Were Air Jordan Nike Shoes marketed to the entire world? No, they were marketed to sneaker heads and basketball fanatics.
Were Lamborghini’s built for the mass market? No, they were built for car aficionados with padded bank accounts.
Was Bulletproof Coffee created for every person looking for a caffeine buzz? No, it was created for healthy people who also cared about enhanced productivity.
Every brand should have a niche audience to focus their brand building efforts on. In fact, every brand should have a muse.
A muse is a fictional character that represents the ideal customer for our brand.
A muse allows us to get very specific about how we market.
Having a muse in mind allows us to orient our marketing efforts in a way that will likely lead the customer to know, like and trust the brand.
Having a muse in mind means knowing which platforms they enjoy the most and which medium they prefer.
Having a muse means a more targeted message at every step of the customer journey.
So turn your niche audience into a muse and always think of them as you develop your marketing campaigns.
Because the internet is so vast and global, niche audiences are still large enough to provide substantial revenues.
By focusing on a niche, and better yet a muse, we are guaranteed to hit the mark with our brand building efforts must more systematically.
If you make engaging social content for a muse, your content will yield a high number of consumers who know, like and trust your brand because every word you say, every picture you make, every video you post will seemingly be just for them.
An important nuance about social media based brand building
Once you’ve been around long enough, you realize that a brand’s social media following has a mix of both buyers and non-buyers, true fans and quasi-fans.
And frankly, most people don’t follow a brand on social media until after the first or second purchase has been made.
It makes sense, otherwise we’d be following every brand we are simply aware of instead of brands who have already satisfied our expectations on the full buyer’s journey.
And this is where you should realize that brand building is not just about the first purchase, it’s about creating a return buyer for multiple purchases over time.
Even thought people are willing to buy from brand’s they’ve just learned about and don’t necessarily trust...
Any company will tell you, the first purchase is nice to have, but the holy grail is LTV - Life Time Value.
Creating a larger life time value means more marketing budget bandwidth. We can spend more to acquire a customer if we know that our brand is likely to create an affinity which leads to many more purchases in the long run.
Social Media cannot provide any clear ROI but is undoubtedly critical and necessary in the modern online business world.
With social media a single post can bring massive awareness.
With social media a single post can generating immense interest in a new product/service.
With social media a single post can drive deep desire or consideration for a product/service.
With social media a single post can trigger immediate action to buy.
But which post?
Virality is never guaranteed nor is massive engagement; but with enough commitment, consistency and clarity we can create and post content that slowly, surely, and systematically builds our brand.
There is no social media account in this world that trends down in followers when following a strong brand strategy.
There is no social media account in this world that trends down in engagement when consistency is deployed through frequency and message.
Create and post social media content, you will see clear increases in awareness, interest, consideration and action.
Even if the result comes slowly, because of the low cost to create this content, there is almost no downside in making social media content a key part of your brand building activities.
How to Build a Brand though 5-Star Experiences
As mentioned in the previous section, the deepest brand connections are built after multiple purchases by the customer.
Customer life time value is a great indicator of a company’s ability to build brand affinity and trust. A repeat purchase may be the purest form of these indicators.
Why would someone make a repeat purchase If they don’t “like” a brand.
When we think of the "know, like and trust" concept, and specifically like, we can potentially measure this through customer reviews.
Customers will only give 5-star reviews to brands they like. The review has nothing to do with knowing the brand. Trust may be involved, but trust will not prompt a great review the way like does.
So how does a brand go about systematically generating 5-star reviews.
It’s strangely easy actually.
You provide a great product or service That’s it!
Now you’re asking, well how do I know if I have a great product or service?
If we are going to use a 1-5 star review scale and our goal is to get 5 stars how can we make that happen without fail?
It’s so simple. You aim for 7 stars, 9 stars or 11 stars.
What 11 stars?!
Look, the fact is, that it doesn’t take that much to get a 5-star review from a customer.
Sometimes they expect something special for that review, but in many cases a 5-star review merely means no disappointments. Pure satisfaction for the money spent.
But if you can aim for 7, 9 or 11 stars and go above and beyond all expectations, a 5-star review becomes obligatory by the consumer.
So here is how you can "generate" a 7/9/11-star review.
Start with 1-star…what would cause a customer to leave a 1-star review?
This is the worst result. A complete failure by the company to delivery any sense of satisfaction.
I bet more than 50% of brand's out there have never really sat down to contemplate what would cause a 1-star review. But this is a mistake.
Getting clear on the cause and effect of review outcomes is a high-value business activity.
Now,move to a 2-star review…what would cause a customer to leave a 2-star review?
Why is it 2-stars? Not 1 or 3 stars?
If you can start to predict what cause (the product or service delivery) leads to which effect (the # of stars) you will then be able to assure you provide the minimum requirements for a 4 and ideally a 5-star review.
And remember, the review is simply a reflection of the customers experience, which is what we are striving for, the high-quality experience, not the review.
So as you move up the ladder 1-star, 2-star, and all the way to 5-stars you begin to see what will dissatisfy and satisfy your customer.
But this exercise asks you to go beyond 5-stars.
What does a 6-star experience look like?
What does a 7-star experience look like?
Keep going. Design something incredible for your customers. Think above and beyond.
Have them wishing they can leave you 7 and 8 star reviews each and every time they experience something from your brand.
Experience transcends the product or service itself.
How does a customer feel when they open your product’s box?
How does a customer feel when they get your service’s final deliverable?
Feelings are important to creating 5+ reviews.
In fact, one might argue, feelings might be all that matter.
The most important feeling? Status.
If you ask people why they buy or don’t buy from a brand, it’s about status.
They might not realize it, but it’s true.
Will this make me look smart or dumb?
Will this make me look beautiful or ugly?
Will this make me look generous or greedy?
Status is a universal social signal we all tend to abide by.
If you want to improve your reviews, then raise the 'status' of your customer.
Give them an emotional buying experience, but follow it up with logical satisfaction.
Ensure they feel wise upon making a purchase not foolish.
Will your customer rush to social media to share their experience? Only if they feel their status has been raised.
Building Brand is a Systemic process that is hard to quantify but when broken down, becomes a straight-forward set of activities that anyone can do.
Solve your customers problems through long-form articles, use the skyscraper technique.
Connect with your existing customers and soon to be customers by focusing on a muse and consistently publishing content on social media platforms.
Understand why your customer’s leave 5-star reviews and aim for at least 7-stars with your product’s design and delivery.
When you do these 3 marketing activities consistently you will see that your brand grows systematically and your customers will know, like and trust it.
What About the Art of Brand Building?
In part one, we focused on a very systematic approach to brand building and if that’s all you take away from this piece, that would suffice.
But I would be remiss to not mention the artistic side of brand.
Humans are visually-inclined creatures.
Our eyes allow us to see a wide range of colours and focal lengths.
And even though we can follow a systematic approach to this idea of brand building by creating high quality articles, videos and images, what we place into those mediums and messages will ultimately play a pivotal role.
How does one make the creative and artistic choices that will lead a brand to being known liked and trusted?
Why does one image exude more trust than another?
Why does one video go viral while millions of other do not?
I have a surprise answer for you: You can’t predict this. You can only test and optimize.
Big companies will often use private testing groups before they go live with anything. They don’t automatically come up with the perfect, logo, product names and colors. They don’t wake up with perfect aesthetic matches for their audiences desires. They test!
And you can test too, but you’ll probably have to test in a live-environment.
But the great thing about social media is you can publish AND delete things.
You can test on one platforms before moving to the others.
You can write an article and if it doesn’t rank you can adjust it!
So before we go to far, let’s understand that the art is not as important as you think.
It is only important to get better over time.
The fact is unless you are deep into commodity products where everything is the same, you really don’t have to worry about your brand identity or aesthetics.
The much, much more important element is what you offer, what you sell and does it do its job to solve the problems people have.
Does it lead to status increases instead of status losses.
When you drink Grey Goose in a fancy club, is it the bottle's label that gives you the status increase or the high-price point (Exclusivity)?
When you drive a Toyota is it the TV commercials that give you a status increase or the low-price point (Value)?
When you are sitting in an all-inclusive resort in Mexico is it the travel agent’s marketing brochure that gives you the status increase or the photo at the pool (lifestyle)?
What you sell matters more than the look of what you are selling in the marketing materials.
The price point you choose is more important that then filters your brand uses on Instagram.
These artistic components and aesthetics do matter when your competitors has the same product at the same price because it provides a sense of differentiation, but we are really over-thinking things here.
Focus on clean design and clear messages.
Simple is good. Complex is risk.
There are only so many good fonts.
There are only so many reasonable color palettes.
There are only so many useable Lightroom presets and viable Adobe Premiere Text animations.
Pick the art and aesthetics that best conveys your values and your value. Don’t overthink it!
The most important visual element in brand building
Slightly different than aesthetics and brand identity...
I would like to mention one concept called Mental Movies.
If you want to focus your content, copy and creatives on one thing, it could be the idea of providing your prospect with a mental movie on how their life will improve with your product/service. How their day-to-day will be transformed. How their status will increase.
The way you can do this is be using descriptive copy of these future-casted mental movies. You can create a video featuring a muse-character enjoying the fruits of their purchase. You can share testimonials of existing customers who have received the full benefits of your product or service.
Mental movies can be very impactful and accelerate the customers buying journey.
Now that you understand how to build a brand online go do it.
The mistake we all make is we think too much. We worry whether our brand will be accepted by the market.
You must go into the fire and feel the heat of the market.
You cannot just think about brand building, you must actually build it.
Try to think of this process as many small wins and not one big bang.
One update to the website.
One Instagram post.
And never let the momentum die.
You are a Brand Builder and….
Your future is freedom.