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Digital branding – more than just window dressing

With the constant presence of mobile and digital devices in our lives, a customer’s first experience of your brand can vary from a print advert to a Twitter campaign. This means that branding needs to evolve further than it has before, and be more than just looks.

Colourful buttons

Branding has continuously evolved since the beginning of the industrial revolution – from simply the stamp of a manufacturer’s name on a product, to carefully considered logos, to comprehensive visual toolkits. This evolution has been driven by the market place, becoming ever more complicated and competitive.

What does digital branding consist of?

It is now as much about the way an organisation talks as it is about the way it looks, sounds or moves. In order to build a successful brand it must be perceived as consistent across every platform. If a viewer sees a TV advert, with a URL at its conclusion (or a hashtag), they would expect to be taken to a web page that connects to the core idea and personality of the advert. Dumping your viewer unceremoniously on a generic home page is a sure fire way to lose click-throughs – it demonstrates a lack of consideration for your customer, who has after all, gone out of their way to visit your site.

We can give a viewer a better sense of a brand in a digital environment by using approaches similar to those already seen in the retail sector. An in-store experience isn’t defined by just the graphics applied to the window display, and your online experience shouldn’t be any different. Every element of a store’s design is considered, from the materials used to create the furniture; the uniform of the staff; the product; the tone of voice used by staff; and the layout of the store. All of these things help to give the customer a sense of what the brand has to offer, and whether they can be trusted.

What are some examples of effective digital branding?

Starbucks, for instance, has specific rules for where their counters can be positioned within a store: always close to the door, preferably to the side, ensuring that you can see it and join the queue as soon as you step in. This consideration to customer experience is as important to their perception of the brand as placing a logo on all the products.

Design within a digital space must begin to factor in the same considerations. Placing a logo at the top left of the page and adding a background pattern as the only attempt to convey your brand is very much 20th Century best practice, and will make your site feel dated and unappealing. As Marc Hemeon of Medium points out, a key example of the evolution of brand online is the increasing popularity of customised buttons.

Buttons are slowly becoming as important a part of a designer’s toolkit as holding devices or straplines. This is a logical progression of branding, as buttons usually indicate the focal point of a web page. They’re where the action takes place and you’ll remember them if they’re distinct. If you’re not sure about this, try Marc’s test and see how many you can get right. There can’t be too many that are unfamiliar with Amazon’s 1-click buy button these days.

Branding your website’s buttons is only the first small step to successfully conveying your brand in a digital space, with so many areas still left untapped. Consider how your website moves, feels and integrates with social media. How successfully does it sync up with your existing campaigns? And, of course, do those channels show the same care and consideration as the rest of your brand?

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