I share a lot of links on Twitter. Due to the character limitations of Twitter, I use short URLs to post these links. I like to inform the reader in my tweets the name of the site I am linking to so they know where they are going prior to clicking on the short URL. To do this, I post the name of the article, the name of the web site, then the short URL link. While doing this, I noticed a trend that is quickly becoming a pet peeve. Inconsistency on brand identity.
Inconsistency = Not Good
I find a headline that sounds interesting. I go to the web site. The site name is ISeeYou (I just made that up) all as one word. However, go to the bottom of the page, next to the copyright date, it says I See You. I look on the RSS feed, it says I See You. Another example, another imaginary web site with the name widgetri in lower case letters. On the footer, it says Widgetri. Which one is the correct one? Who knows? I tend to use whatever is on the footer or the RSS feed. If that’s the wrong one, I do not want to hear about it.
Why is this important? One of the goals of brand identity is for large numbers of people to have the same image of a company. Same name, same logo, same impression. Since today is Apple Day, let’s use Apple as an example. They use the bitten apple as their logo, their name is Apple, and they are known for quality hardware. It is widely felt that without Apple’s brand, the company would not survive. That their loyal users are not loyal to the products, they are loyal to the Apple brand. This seems to be true. The tablet hasn’t been formally announced yet people are waiting in anticipation and are begging their spouses to allow them to buy one. One cannot have loyalty to a product they have never seen, never used and hasn’t been released.
One other big difference
Many of the large companies that are not consistent started prior to the internet, meaning print media prevailed. Wal-Mart Inc. is the company name and at one time their logos reflected the hyphen. When the internet became popular, Wal-Mart had a problem. People would go to walmart.com instead of wal-mart.com and there was inconsistency with the branding. They refreshed their logo to Walmart. They are consistent in using Walmart when referring to their brand and Wal-Mart when referring to their corporate name.
You are not one of the big guys
Big companies have already established their brand. Nike can get away with doing NIKE and everyone knows it’s Nike and the swoosh image. Best Buy can have a logo in caps and everyone knows it is Best Buy. There is only one Nike and only one Best Buy. These companies started their brands when print media was the only option. Today, millions of people have blogs and companies want people to share their experiences with products and services on their blogs and social media profiles. Unless a site has spent the money to globally lock down their brand, odds are there is (or will be) another site or company with the same name. Owning the domain name is not enough protection against that. Widgetri could have a highly popular blog at widgetri.wordpress.com when someone else owns widgetri.com. What will set them apart? What they offer and their brands.
Keep it simple
Pick how you want your company name displayed and stick with it. If you use lower case, be consistent. If you make the name all one word, keep it that way. Just because you see other sites being inconsistent does not mean their decision is a smart one. This is the age of sharing online and social networking. When it comes to your brand, especially to avoid legal issues, be consistent not only with your marketing efforts but consistently making quality products your customers expect from you.
Or not. You’re probably not meant to have brand loyalty like Apple anyway.