Digital & Film: 26.06.18

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Health warning: Template websites are bad for your brand

Pet hate: template driven websites.

They’re everywhere, and so obvious.

Don’t mind them for a local florist or tattoo artist, but really, a professional service firm or similar?

Just seen two examples. (Don’t they ever look in the mirror before going out?)

Dracula-like, templates drain the life out of branding.

There’s the one-size-fits-all layout, for starters. But it gets worse: clichéd photography, clip-art icons, and a host of standard claims: “We’re specialists, experts, innovative, practical…”

Arghhh!

If understood and practised well, branding will give you distinction. You’ll find a teeny-weeny space in the minds of your audiences that no one else occupies. Once you establish your brand (and it does take time, effort and focus), you are more likely to be able to develop, enhance and protect your reputation – the holy grail. But with a me-too approach, you are pushing water or stronger uphill.

A website is only application of your brand. It is a prime and obvious way to show your distinction. Some fail to recognise this, and push ahead with a site that’s shiny, off-the-shelf and gushing data – a website that fails to articulate ‘why us’ in any compelling or distinct way. The tail wagging the dog!

If your marketing plan has a line item to refresh or even build a new site, here are a few tips before you start.

Dig deep

A good website expresses your brand. But what is your brand? Step back. Think about audiences. What do you have that an audience will want, and that few others can match? Dig deep, and keep digging. It exists.

Tone

Once you’ve found this quality, articulate it in a way that’s consistent with your brand. Also a way that’s different from others and most of all that appeals to your targets. And keep doing it, until the message sticks.

All together now

It’s easy to push ahead and build a new site as a discrete operation. In practice, your brand lives and breathes through many social, digital and offline applications, and so should its development. Take a holistic approach, and take your time. Rapid re-engineering can result in a botched job.

Beware web developers…

Be careful: most are not brand savvy. They may (and should) be excellent for build, optimisation and functionality, but they’re likely to be less useful when it comes to the bigger picture of your brand identity. Don’t simply rush to your nearest digital agency, money in hand. Its solution may not help to establish and articulate your difference.

… and clichés

It’s as easy to use visual and verbal clichés as it is to use a website template. They’re all freely available and simple to bolt on. But watch out: they dilute authority. B2B marketers are big consumers. If you’re selling insight, knowledge, ultimately your reputation for quality, authority is crucial. Keep close to its bedfellows, bespoke and standout!

If you plan to spend time, effort and money on a new or refreshed site, don’t simply go for the nearest off-the-shelf solution, or even the nearest digital agency. Use this opportunity to think more broadly and carefully about your brand and its identity. That way, when it comes to building a new site, you’ll have a better chance of creating something far more distinct and appealing.

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