Although there are still plenty of companies that keep their branding efforts entirely offline, your products or services will have a difficult time attracting the right customers without some form of online branding.
Simply put, branding strategy matters, both online and offline.
But how do you ensure that your online and offline efforts are in sync and do not contradict each other?
Key Differences Between Offline and Online Branding
Before outlining the necessary steps to take in order to ensure consistency across all branding platforms you are using, it is worthwhile to look at a few critical differences between online and offline branding.
Use of typeface
One area where online branding differs from offline branding is in the use of fonts and typefaces.
Offline, it would help if you used a serif typeface. This type of font makes it easy for customers to read your message and distinguish letters and upper and lowercase versions of some letters.
Online, fonts don't matter as much. The main reason behind this is because most consumers use their smart devices to view content. Furthermore, many people tend to scan online content rather than take a deep dive.
Language and tone
With so many platforms available online, from chat to social media, companies should be careful in their use of language and tone.
The main thing to remember is to keep the language and tone consistent across the platforms used for online branding. However, this is not a rigid rule. You also have to take into account the context.
User-generated content is exclusive to online branding and may include testimonials and videos or photographs of customers.
If you are planning to use user-generated content for your branding efforts, you need to make sure that this type of content is consistent with your offline efforts.
Maintaining Brand Consistency Across All Channels
These differences are minor. What is crucial to remember is that you need to make sure that you maintain consistency across the different platforms you use in order to send the same messages.
But how exactly do you do that?
Consistency in your online and offline HQs
Unless you conduct your business solely online, one of the first things that you need to pay attention to is achieving consistency in both your online and offline headquarters.
Offline, your business signage should match the design and theme that you use on your website and social media accounts. If there is a disconnect between what people see online and offline, your customers can get confused.
And the same thing applies online. Across all your digital assets, from the company website to social media accounts, your customers should see consistency.
Use of a single brand voice
Another critical challenge that your brand will face when aligning online and offline branding is maintaining a unique brand voice across different online and offline platforms.
Early on, you should decide whether you should use a casual or formal tone in your content. Take note that when you write something down, it will look more formal than you actually intend to.
After deciding on the tone, it is now time to look at the different channels of communications available for your brand. These include email, social media, web copy, and online and offline advertisements. Although you may need to tweak your messaging in each of these platforms and market segments, it is vital to keep your modification of the tone and language to a minimum.
How do you achieve that goal? The most straightforward trick that you can apply is to use the same persona for all your campaigns. Tweak the messaging based on the platform but remain faithful to the original message. The last thing you want to do is to confuse potential customers with conflicting messaging.
Maintain consistency in the use of fonts and other visual assets
Your brand logo is one of your most potent branding assets. A well-made logo can increase recognition. But a logo is not just a symbol. What makes logos powerful is their ability to make your brand recognizable and put your products or services in the mind of your target audience.
As such, you should ensure that you use it consistently across different platforms, whether online or offline.
The same thing applies to your brand's fonts, palette, and imagery. Inconsistent use of these assets can only lead to confusion in the part of your target customers.
The simplest way to ensure consistency in the use of these assets is to create a brand bible that outlines the proper use of these, whether you are working with an internal team or a team of outside consultants.
Change with caution
Some changes in branding are inevitable, especially if your company has been around for quite some time.
When it comes to branding, implementing changes should be done conservatively and gradually. Broad sweeping changes in online or offline branding can catch your customers off-guard, leaving them confused.
If you need to refresh or update something, the first thing that you need to do is to inform your customers and explain the reasons behind these changes.
Even better, make your customers active participants by engaging with them and soliciting their feedback.
Failure to implement these simple but effective strategies can leave your customers feeling left out, especially if you already have a long-standing relationship with them.
Finally, you need to make sure that you update your branding assets across the different platforms that you use to maintain consistency.
Consistency is key
It is easy to understand the allure of online marketing. In some platforms, it costs practically nothing to build an online presence. In a few minutes, you can set up your brand's social media accounts. Other platforms, like search engine optimization, cost lower than traditional marketing platforms.
However, it would be best if you did not think of online branding as separate and different from offline branding. Both are part and parcel of the larger equation that is your brand. Both deserve the same amount of investment in terms of your resources, effort, and attention.
Hasan Fadlallah is a Serial Entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of Brand Lounge, the region's leading and award-winning branding consultancy, whose role is to help organizations align their businesses behind an idea that will deliver success time and again. With over 20 years of professional consulting experience, today he advises businesses throughout the Gulf and Africa on brand development and in 2014 was recognized by the World Brand Congress who awarded him the prestigious Brand Leadership award in Brand Excellence.