Corporate Internet Branding ? Branding Your Business Online

Let me tell you a story about Pete and a pizza. After a long day of fighting uncooperative pipes and fixtures, Pete P. Lumber, of Pete's DuperRooter, was looking forward to a nice, hot, decidedly Atkins-disapproved pizza - the stuff of which dreams are made. The week before, Pete was doing a bathroom remodel at Bob's historical Chicago bungalow. The house had only one bathroom, so Pete had to complete the project as fast as possible. Due to a series of unfortunate events, some of which involved a repeated, forceful application of a rather large hammer, Pete stayed much longer than he initially anticipated. To bungalow owner Bob's delight, Pete completed the remodel the same day.

Bob decided to take Pete out to dinner to show his appreciation. Bob knew that Pete liked pizza, so he took him to the MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium across the street. The restaurant was small, unassuming, and had the charming aura of a hole-in-the-wall. And it had the best pizza that Pete has ever tasted. Just the memory of that pizza he shared with Bob made Pete's stomach growl. The crust was browned just right. The sauce had the perfect balance of tomato sauce and spices. And the toppings....there were over 20 toppings to chose from.

It's no wonder that this week, Pete was looking forward to having pizza delivered from MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium. By the time Pete got home and was ready to pick up the phone, he could almost taste it. But, (these stories never seem to end well, do they?) he realized that he didn't have the pizza place's phone number. Pete didn't remember the name of the place either - the sign above the door had been tiny and hard to read.

Even if Pete had been paying attention, he would have had a hard time figuring out what the name was, since most vowels fell off the neon sign sometime around the Roosevelt administration (Teddy, in case you were wondering). It gets worse. As he and Bob were leaving, Pete had asked Kate, the hostess, for a take-out menu. She apologized profusely and said that they ran out four months ago and nobody bothered to reorder new ones.

The phone book turned out to be useless - remember, Pete couldn't recall the name of the pizza place. Scanning the restaurant pages didn't ring a bell either. The only thing Pete could recall was the approximate address (across from Bob's bungalow). Pete was too tired to go out and drive again, since he had just returned home. To add insult to injury, the weather person on Channel 5 news was gleefully pointing to the latest Doppler radar and cheerfully informing his audience that yet another 15 inches of snow were going to fall in the next hour.

That sealed it. Pete, who almost never surrendered, gave up. He ordered pizza from his usual joint, OKPizzaParlor. Pizza there was nothing to write home about. However, the proprietors always stocked a four-year supply of take-out menus and business cards. As an added twist, they gave out 4x6 magnets with "OKPizzaParlor" emblazoned on them with three inch high neon green letters with every order. Pete's fridge was plastered with at least 20 of these.

OKPizzaParlor also sent their customers coupons and specialized promotional flyers. OKPizzaParlor even sent their customers a free 16 inch thin crust pizza coupons for their birthdays. Finally, all advertising materials prominently featured OKPizzaParlor's contact information.

The MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium, didn't get an order that night, even though Pete vastly preferred their pizza, and desperately wanted to order from them. MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium committed one of the cardinal sins of marketing: they didn't bother with branding. The proprietors figured that their superior product would speak for itself, and decided not to waste their money on pointless advertising. Little did the MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium owners realize that skipping branding is like leaving the cheese off the pizza!

Don't make the same mistake. Here are a few ideas you can use to make sure your marketing plan doesn't follow in MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium's footsteps and to remind your customers of your business long after they leave your store or web site:

* Create and maintain consistent corperate branding. A logo, font and a color scheme are the three crucial elements of an online image. Once created, use the same color scheme, logo, and font everywhere else - on your brochures, business cards, newsletters, and signatures. Menus, magnets, employee t-shirts, name tags should all be consistent with your brand.

* Don't dilute your brand. Having a web site and business cards with an inconsistent look and feel will confuse your customers.

* Reinforce the corporate branding in all communications. Every mode of communication should provide information about your business. This includes letters, invoices, e-mail, and so on. At the very least, include the business name, web site address and e-mail address.

* Use a signature with every e-mail. How many emails do you send in a single day? Wesend around 75 on a typical business day. This translates into 75 opportunities to remind customers about our brand every single day. Keep the signature short: your business tagline and URL or a link to your latest blog entry will do. The point is to do this consistently, early, and often.

Make sure that your business is the first thing that pops into your customers' minds when they need products or services you provide. Make your brand memorable, and take advantage of every change to reinforce it. Not every customer is going to be like Pete, who drove out to the MostDeliciousPizzaEmporium the next day, and wrote down their name and phone number. Incidentally, that day he came home with 6 pizzas.

Biana Babinsky is the online business expert who has helped many business owners attract more web site customers, bring in more online publicity and increase the bottom line. Visit to subscribe to her newsletter full of marketing tips and ideas and join her online business coaching program at

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