Branding has truly become a buzz word these days. It’s catchy, it sounds, strategic and it’s hard to define. It’s the perfect marketing tool. But in the world of the web, branding has also become a crucial part of business. Granted, it’s always been a powerful tactic. Looking at major companies like Coca-Cola and Nike who have seen decades of prosperity you can see how important branding has been in their success. From name recognition and brand associations to iconic memorability, these companies have mastered brand strategy. But what is it exactly that makes branding work? There’s a lot of psychology involved but when you come down to it, there are a few things a brand needs to thrive.

Visibility

Perhaps the most important part of branding is getting your name, message and logo into the public eye. There are a lot of ways to do that, from flyers to flying banners. But however you do it, the key is to make sure you can ingratiate your brand into the collective consciousness of your potential customers. It is that awareness that truly signifies a brand.

One of the least expensive and most effective ways to spread your brand imagery and message is through the internet. Disseminating your brand online is not all that different than the techniques used off-line. Conventional methods like buying print or TV ads, sponsoring charity events, or sending mass mailings translate in many of the same ways onto the web. Buying advertising space on websites is much like having a billboard. Issuing press releases is easier than ever and doesn’t demand a contact at your local paper. Supporting good causes is simple, and can require even less time and money. Ranking well in search engines and capitalizing on the power of social media, can be as productive as direct advertising and word of mouth. Only in the modern age, word of mouth often takes the form of a Tweet, or a Status Update. The benefit now is that as opposed to hoping people are talking about you, you actually get to watch the conversations happen. If you do it right, you can also contribute, direct and even initiate the dialogue surrounding your brand.

The point is, to take your logo and brand message beyond your own site. Extend your reach by working with other websites, bloggers, charities and community groups along with issuing press releases and finding opportunities around the net to place your brand in front of users. Without visibility, your business may exist, but your brand does not.

Perception

The web can be a highly powerful medium for increasing the visibility of your brand, but it works best when that image comes with a positive perception. Most of us discover at some point in our lives that perception is reality, regardless of what the truth may be. So even with the best intentions, a negative reputation can undermine you. Look at a major website like MySpace. In its glory days it was a thriving, social media platform that garnered tens of millions of visitors every day. But while many users migrated to other platforms for usability reasons, still others vacated because the perception was that the community was dying out. Now, with some re-branding and re-focusing MySpace is regaining popularity as a hub for social entertainment, focusing on music, movies and games as opposed to simply networking. The point is, what the public believes is as important to your branding as what you believe.

Knowing how you want to be perceived is absolutely essential to branding. What kinds of words do you want synonymous with your company name? Trust? Heart? Innovation? Having these goals in mind, can help you actively take steps create the perception you want. Without these guide posts, you may be allowing the public to define you. If you want trust to be a key component in your image, prove yourself trust worthy. Use testimonials; maintain the utmost in confidentiality, honor everything you print and say. That way even dissatisfied customers will have to concede that you stayed true to your word. If you want to be an innovator in your field, then create! Build new tools, or improve on existing ones. Step forward as a thought leader in your industry, by contributing to major blogs and news sites. If you want to be a brand with a heart, get involved in worthwhile causes and associate yourself with other groups that are trying to improve the world. You can become any kind of entity that you want to be, all it takes is planning, consistency, and thoughtful execution. Your efforts to put your best foot forward will determine how your brand is perceived.

Sustainability

A brand is destined to fail if does not have a long-term plan to maintain a positive image, and consistently execute their promises. The crux of creating a sustainable brand is to set goals you can achieve and utilize strategies which can be pro-longed. It’s not always wise for a brand to jump on the latest band wagon. You never know when something is going to go south and cause you to scramble. Think about big brands and celebrity endorsements. Now, Wheaties may be able to survive a Michael Phelps bong-hit disaster, but would a smaller company be able to dodge the bullet so easily? Once you back something, to turn around and disavow that person or thing, you discredit yourself, and your own judgment. So only surround yourself with causes and people that you can support, whole heartedly, for the long-haul.

Being sustainable also means, being regular and disciplined in your efforts. A bi-annual media blitz is only going to bring you attention twice a year. But to keep rolling out smaller measures regularly over the course of the year, can keep you building momentum at a steady pace. Granted there are ways to use the occasional major events to build loyalty and gain attention. Take Victoria Secret?s semi-annual sale. A few times a year they have a mega clearance. Customers live for and plan for this sale every year. But VS has been able to consistently create a monumental event that they build up to, for months before hand. This kind of promotion has been sustainable for them over the years, and has been successful each year in garnering excitement and crowds. Sustaining a brand’s message, perception and visibility means engaging in promotions, marketing strategies and actions that can be repeated with an un-wavering clarity.

Brands can utilize the net for branding in a number of ways. But if you don’t have visibility, sustainability and a positive perception you’re really just another generic, forgettable company. Getting your name and icons into people minds, creating good will surrounding your name and sustaining that over time is the core of branding, everything else is up to you, and is limited only by the extent of your ingenuity and creativity.