Pick two customers. Have them visit your Web site and walk through the main pages. Starting with the home page, ask your customers to name five core values they immediately perceive on the page. Then, get them to explore the page carefully: to read the text and examine the contents. Now, ask them to reconsider the five values they thought the page represented at first glance.
Repeat the procedure with every one of your site’s main pages. I’ll bet the results of this exercise prompt some major changes.
Why is this exercise important? Since you launched your site (maybe five years ago?), your business circumstances have changed. Perhaps your original Web page manager is no longer with you; perhaps several departmental heads have moved on. May be your staff is entirely different from those who were around when the site launched; may be all sorts of people and circumstances and cultures have had input. You’re likely to have lost control of your site and its brand values.
Sure, your site might very well fulfill the requirements for corporate information dissemination. But, hey, meeting those criteria doesn’t mean you’re successfully communicating your brand’s values. Your content might go nowhere near creating the perceptions you want your customers to have of your brand.
Being focused on the values your site communicates is crucial for three reasons:
- It’s not healthy for brand-building if your home page reflects one set of brand values and page two communicates another. Consistency is the key to brand survival. The more consistent your brand exposure, the more trustworthy it is. Most sites change direction a number of times over just a couple of pages. Result: The consumer loses trust in your brand. If a person you knew was unpredictable in mood and behavior you’d be wary of him, and perhaps grant him little credence. You’d be unlikely to trust him.
- The fewer values your brand represents, the stronger your brand is. Some of the strongest brands in the world represent only four or five values, but everyone — consumers on the outside and staff on the inside — knows exactly what those values are. Brands wanting to be everything to everybody become weak. Consolidate your values. Concentrate on ensuring they are consistently communicated from one Web page to the next.
- Secure click-and-mortar synergy between all your other marketing activities. Have you ever visited a site totally different from the rest of the marketing around the brand? I have. There’s nothing more confusing.
Be clear about your brand’s values. Ensure your panel of test consumers perceives your brand exactly the way you want them to when they visit your site. You’ll be much more likely to achieve synergy between your site and the rest of your communications.
This holds true, of course, only if you’ve used those same brand values to inform your offline communication materials. Is your brand’s value platform in use and in synch across all your communication channels? If not, it’s time to fine-tune your branding machine.
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