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Personality gives power to the page

by Grant Shippey

If you think back about the times in your life that really stand out, the moments you remember are the extremes of funny and sad. You don’t remember the bland moments. Yet most Web sites tend to be bland, almost to the point of insignificance.

You’ve probably come across them a thousand times – the What-Was-That-All-About sites scattered around the web. And more often than not you leave a site like that wondering why it was built in the first place. Perhaps the target audience seemed unclear, or the content didn’t really appear to make sense.

Strategically, setting up a web site seems like a good place to start when you want to promote your brand on the Internet. The problem is, those who issue the directive to build a web site often fail to consider the nature of their business objectives, who they are targeting, and what their communication goals should be via the web. Basically, they forget what their brand is all about.

In today’s market, if you are to succeed online, brand consistency is critical. The most marginal inconsistency can result in a complete breakdown of brand trust. This is especially important at points of customer touch and through all manner of customer contact and communication, including – and especially – the Web.

Smart companies recognise this, and thus create a brand that is all about uniform, unmistakable recognition. But it’s not just about having a consistent brand image – it’s also about having a unique online brand personality.

People you like or admire are people you believe have unique personalities. You like them for their humour, their temperament, their actions, or even opinions – the qualities that show who they are. It’s these personality traits that make them distinct from others.

In this regard, brands are very much like people. They reflect opinions, have their individual and distinctive appearances, and express a unique point of view. Strong and confident brands have strong personalities, and this should always be reflected, because brands that are distinctive or consistently reflect the same values remain prominent in our minds.

One way to establish a unique brand personality is through humour, which makes up an especially important aspect of one’s personality, and adds another dimension to brands. If you are smart, you will recognize this – and use it to your advantage. Humour can be used effectively in attending to error messages, for example. If a visitor clicks on a broken link, offer a branded message and use humour to defuse the situation.

Like humour, you could also consider irony as a personality branding technique. Why not take good-natured shots at established values, you might be surprised at how much goodwill and respect can be engendered with a nudge and a wink? For example, I’ve heard that Virgin Airlines has its own way of telling customers the rules – it’s luggage-size stands explain in a friendly font, “The size of your bag has a limit . but the size of your ego can’t be too large!”

Just remember, as your brand grows, you will need to consider how you want to nurture your brand’s personality and make sure it retains its uniqueness.

Ultimately, building your brand on the web is about so much more than controlling colours, fonts, the design of your site, and the language of your press releases. Although creating – and sticking to – a consistent image is of grave importance, online brand building also encompasses everything that affects the emotional tie between your brand and your customers. The more emotional the ties attached to products, the stronger the brand loyalty you can generate.

After all, personal and emotional ties with your brand are the foundation of loyal relationships between you and your customers. And isn’t that what effective branding is all about?

Regular columnist Grant Shippey heads up Amorphous New Media, a digital communications group focused on the provision of new media services and traditional marketing. He can be contacted on Tel. (011) 380-6500

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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