Welcome to the first lesson of our Think Like a Marketer class! Over the next two weeks, you’ll learn all about branding your blog for success and what it takes to keep readers coming back!
Lesson 1: Tips for Branding
What do you think of when someone says “brand”?
A logo like Apple’s?
A tagline like “just do it”?
A color like UPS’s brown?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you are right. About all of them. But the real answer goes deeper and is much more personal. Good branding is the reason you know you’ll get great service from Nordstrom or that you’ll have a blast on a Southwest flight. It’s the reason you think “safety” when someone says Volvo, not “car manufacturer.”
Branding Your Blog For Success
Your brand is your image. Put another way, it is how people perceive you and your blog. If I could say just two things about brands, it’s that they’re consistent and create an emotional connection.
Your readers probably don’t think that much about your blog’s brand. But branding works for that very reason. Good branding makes you devoted to a product, an evangelist for a service or a fan of a blog, mostly for reasons people don’t think too hard about. It’s that emotional connection and that consistency that keeps them coming back.
5 Essential Tips for Branding
Here are the elements of a well-branded blog:
1. A Clear Purpose
Let’s talk about purpose in regards to a famous brand you all know: Starbucks. Your first guess at their purpose might be that they want to sell more coffee (and other stuff). While that’s essentially true, it’s grander than that. Starbucks wants to be your “third place.” There’s home, there’s work and then… there’s Starbucks.
So, what are you trying to accomplish with your blog? Why are you blogging? Perhaps you want to entertain your readers with stories about your family. Or educate people about how easy it is to live on a budget. A clear purpose helps provide you direction in what you write, in what brands you choose to work with and in how you interact with readers.
2. Strong Name and Tagline
Think of your blog name and tagline like words on a billboard. Just by reading them, a new reader should get a sense of what your blog is about.
A good blog name is memorable. It’s catchy and unique… and people remember how to spell it after hearing the name once or twice. Most of you already have blogs, so don’t kick yourself if you don’t think your name is up to par. Instead, set your sights on creating a killer tagline.
A tagline reinforces not only your blog’s name, but also your blog’s purpose. In fact, you may find that your tagline is simply your purpose. Or your purpose can just be a starting point. Your tagline doesn’t need to be ultra clever; it just needs to tell the reader what they’ll get out of visiting your blog.
Let’s run through a few examples of great blog names and tag lines.
Bakerella plays off the familiar name Cinderella, making it not only clever, but also easy to remember. The tagline is super simple and to the point: sweet inspiration and fun baking ideas.
No fancy, shmancy words. No off-the-wall nonsense. Just simple and easy-to-understand.
Two words: Scary Mommy. In an instant, moms feel connected to her because we’ve all been that “scary mommy” before. Her tagline? An Honest Take on Motherhood; the Good, the Bad and the Scary. It tells you exactly what to expect from her blog.
Brené’s name IS her blog name. She’s built a brand around her name and even adds “Ph.D” as a way to build trust. Now, look at her header. It’s calming, right? Fits perfectly with her tagline: authenticity, belonging, courage, compassion, connection.
It describes everything she stands for in five simple words.
Head over to Copyblogger for more help with creating a tagline you can be proud of.
3. Solid Visual Identity
In about three seconds of landing on your blog, most readers make the decision to either stick around or to hit the dreaded “back” button.
The fonts, the colors, the graphics. All of this ties into your brand’s visual identity. Does your site match what you want your brand to be? For example, if you blog about simple home-cooked meals, your blog’s design should be simple and clean, not cluttered with ads or excessive buttons.
Take extra careful consideration of your header: it’s the most important design element on your blog. Why? It’s a powerhouse that holds your blog name, tagline and visual identity all in one spot. Talk about pressure to get it right! As you work through the homework at the end of today’s lesson, decide if your header needs some refining (or a drop-kick into space). If so, here are few design resources to get you started on something fresh:
- Photography and Illustration: Free Commercial and Stock Photography Sites
- Fonts: 40+ Excellent Freefonts for Professional Design
- Color inspiration: Colourlovers and Kuler from Adobe (Even if you don’t have Adobe design software, you can use this site as color inspiration instead of downloading the palettes.)
4. Defined Writing Style
People come to your blog because of your voice. The words you use, the way you tell a story, the way you make them laugh or the detail you give in your recipes all draw people in.
Your writing is a critical part in crafting your brand. The topics you write about should obviously point back to your brand. But what about the non-obvious stuff?
- Tone: Don’t try to fake it. Just look at the natural patterns of your current posts. Are you casual? More serious? Light-hearted? Keep your tone consistent throughout your posts. It doesn’t mean you can’t write a happy post one day and a gloomy one the next. But generally, stay true to your tone.
- Formatting: Do you have a certain format to your writing? I’ve seen bloggers who mainly write short posts. Some write in all lowercase. Some use lots of bullets or subheadings. And some read almost like a poem (like Nie Nie Dialogues).
Maybe you even have a certain format you follow when you post tutorials or recipes. Or a way that you title your posts. While you may think that no one cares about this sort of thing, readers find comfort in consistency (even if they don’t realize it).
Big brands are sticklers for consistency, too. They create brand manuals that spell out tone, brand colors, formatting and more. In fact, Skype’s brand guidelines are almost 100 pages long (albeit with lots of pictures). Ack! Don’t worry though. You don’t need a mega, crazy brand guideline. Just keep your formatting style consistent.
5. Consistency Across Social Media
Are you jenny4321 on Twitter, skydiver2 on StumbleUpon, and have a blog called A Day in My Life? Stay consistent across all social media platforms. Match your usernames to your blog name or your actual name.
In addition to consistent naming, show the same personality on each platform. You’re probably wondering why on Earth someone would have different personalities on different platforms, so here’s an example of what I mean. If you write killer tutorials on your blog, one reason people would follow you on Twitter is to learn. Your followers probably expect you to tweet about great tutorials you came across or other information that helps them. But what if you mainly use Twitter to rant about your life? Or just to link to giveaways? That voice won’t match your blog. To avoid this, keep all your social media platforms consistent.
Your Turn: Tips For Branding Your Blog Assignment
Sharpen your digital pencils—it’s your first assignment!
1. Describe your blog using no more than five characteristics.
These can be emotional words, visual words, colors, tone, etc. This isn’t your elevator pitch. These are for YOU. What do you want readers to subconsciously think about if someone were to say your blog name to them? Think colors, tone, emotions, design. Ex. yellow, organic, clean, inspirational, educational, eclectic, hysterical, bold, insightful, informational, stylish, colorful, photography, crafty, empowering, bright.
Keep those words to yourself for now as you move to step two.
2. Ask your blog readers to describe five things that come to mind when they check out your blog.
Once done, compare and contrast the answers. Did the responses match how you want your brand to be perceived? While they may not have used the exact words, if you describe your blog as “light-hearted” and they said “somber,” you may have a teensy problem with your brand.
Download your lesson handout here so you have it for easy reference.
More Tips For Branding Your Blog
Be sure you don’t miss a single post from this series. The Think Like a Marketer Class is guaranteed to give you the tips for branding you need and help you learn how to blog better!