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Effective Online Marketing & Your Corporate Identity
By Norwin A. Merens, Managing Director, NM Marketing Communications

Have you been curious why some websites attract more people then others; why some get more online business than others?

Corporate Identity Is In the Eye of the Beholder.

Your company's identity is not just your logo, your marketing, or the way you present yourself. In fact, it's not even necessarily who or what you really are.

Just as your brand is what people think of your product, your corporate identity is what people think of your company. That shared perception is shaped by the many different interactions a customer, outside entity or the public at large has with you - from seeing an ad to buying a product or interacting with an employee.

Corporate identity, then, is impossible to fully control. It can only be managed by attempting to consistently exhibit the company's most attractive defining characteristics in as many ways as possible. That requires developing marketing that accurately reflects the corporate culture, expressing its inherent positive qualities that are most important to customers.

A company's corporate identity can help or hinder its performance. A strong, positive corporate identity shaped by consistent messages can help generate sales and build customer loyalty. On the other hand, conflicting messages create confusion, uncertainty and distrust among customers, which is why a company should never portray itself as something it's not. The truth will invariably come out through the many ways it interacts with the world.

To manage corporate identity for maximum benefit, companies must:
  • Be honest about who they are, while emphasizing the positive
  • Understand what their customers value in terms of their products or services
  • Be clear about what they are trying to communicate
  • Understand how different communication vehicles impact audiences
Shaping Corporate Identity on the Web

In the early days of the Internet, many companies built fancy websites and shelled out some money for banner advertisements, and called it a day. At the time, that seemed like enough - and perhaps it was. Today, online marketing has become much more nuanced and varied, and people have become more practiced, savvy online consumers. As a result, online marketing can be extremely effective, a complete waste of time, or downright damaging to your reputation.

Today, to effectively communicate your identity online, you must first understand how your customers use the Internet. Are they early adapters or unwilling latecomers? How advanced is the technology that they own? Do they visit websites of companies like yours, and for what purpose? Do they value frequent communication or do they want to be left alone? Do they open emails? Do they read e-newsletters? What websites and chat rooms do they visit? Which ISPs and search engines do they use? What do they expect from you in terms of your online presence?

Corporate Websites

People's expectations of corporate websites have changed in many ways, including:
  • We expect effective websites as "price of admission." A nice website no longer impresses people like it used to; instead, the lack of one can hurt you.

  • We have less patience when visiting websites. We want to find the information they seek quickly, within two clicks and without having to think too much. And we HATE having to wait for pages to load. Companies lose us within seconds.

  • We have much less tolerance for downtime. If your website doesn't work, we assume your company is defective.

  • We are more concerned about security of identity and personal information when making purchases online.
The most obvious online expression of a company's identity is their website. A website that effectively expresses your identity offers:

  • A look and feel that conveys your key characteristics - while not necessarily meeting corporate visual standards developed for print. A computer screen is vastly different than paper, and its design must take that into account.

  • Corporate information that includes implicit and explicit messages about who you are. Too many websites don't tell you basic information, like where "bricks and mortar" organizations are located. The way websites are written - including tone, reading level, etc. - should reflect your identity and be consistent with your overall marketing, although targeted to those groups of customers who are most likely to visit your website.

  • Effective presentation of information. Large blocks of text that requires extensive scrolling don't work on the Internet. Short chunks of information, in bullet form for example, are preferable on the web. Providing general topics on main pages, along with links to pages with more specific information, is generally the way people prefer to get information online. Also, small print is even harder to read online than on paper.

  • A user experience that is consistent with what you want them to expect from your company. If your corporate identity includes being simple and direct, the website should be straightforward and easy to use.

  • Online Marketing

    The good news in online marketing is that companies have the ability to effectively, specifically, and often inexpensively target new or potential customers, with a little planning and research.

    The bad news is that new issues have arisen that impact companies' abilities to aggressively advertise and market online, such as:
    • Fear of viruses
    • Frustration with spamming and pop-up advertising
    • Aversion to opening emails from unknown entities
    • Attacks by "evil twins" pretending to be trusted companies
    • Proliferation of options in the shrinking global marketplace
    • New, improves technology that blocks online advertisements
    Companies have to be clever in effectively marketing online, while being careful not to alienate their customers with annoying advertising. It requires some forethought, but it can be done to great effect.

    Norwin A. Merens is managing director of Glenview, IL-based NM Marketing Communications, an integrated B2B marketing, public relations and trade show/ special events management firm. He may be reached by calling 847.657.6011 or at Find out more at

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