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Here at WebFuel, we love inviting guest bloggers. Why? Because they bring fresh ideas to the table, while providing great insights from their specific area of expertise. This week we welcome Stephen McGill; President & Creative Director of McGill Buckley, an award-winning marketing and branding agency in Ottawa. During his career, he has worked with virtually every sector of industry as well as Canadian federal, provincial and municipal government departments and not-for-profit organizations. He has been named one of Canada’s top Creative Director’s by Strategy magazine and his work has been recognized for creative excellence close to 200 times at award shows in Canada and internationally. This week we have asked Stephen to blog about branding on the web.

Guest Post by Stephen McGill

First of all by way of full disclosure, when I started my career in marketing and branding there was no world wide web. In fact there was no email, fax machines or mobile phones either. Yes there was electricity. And mass media – plenty of them.

As much as things have changed dramatically since the late 70s when I started out, the tenets of brand building have (in my opinion) remained remarkably similar. Branding has never simply been about beautiful logos, catchy slogans, award-winning television ads, welcoming storefronts, and glossy brochures or (these days) cutting edge websites and Search enhanced Social Media properties.

Instead branding has always been about delivering great products or services all wrapped up in the kind of positive and consistent experience where customers are driven to say – “Why would I go anywhere else?” It’s about making people prefer your offerings to all others available.

What the last twenty or so years have delivered to us as branders is an explosion of ways to create, build and sustain brands within a completely different landscape. I speak of course of the wonderful wide world of the web and the absolute avalanche of technologies and brand delivery options that have come along with it.  These are exciting times indeed for people who work with brands.

In my work as a brand development consultant I always state at the outset of working with clients that a brand should accurately reflect the true culture, personality and attitudes of a company or organization. It must also deliver a positive experience across all the points at which it connects with its customers and potential customers.

For brands of all sizes these days the most important (and sometimes only) point of connection with customers comes on the web. Quite often the web is now a crucial first point of contact. It is where consumers are getting their first brand impressions. Simply put the web is an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with customers, delivering a brand personality, building brand loyalty and enhancing brand experiences.

But here’s the thing I believe – you need to have a strong brand period before you can have a strong brand on the web. It used to be thought (just a few short years ago) that brick and mortar brands and online brands were somehow different. That is no longer the case. They are one and the same in the minds of consumers and – so they should be.

Amazon has become an almost ubiquitous shoppers brand because it consistently delivers what its customers want – great selection, competitive pricing, shopping convenience, copious amounts of product information and always-dependable service. All these things are hallmarks of a strong brand. The fact that Amazon does all that almost entirely over the web is irrelevant to most people. What Amazon has done better than most from early on is both understand the web and what it takes to build a powerful brand. That is a powerful combination.

So, which brands on the web do you think are getting it right like Amazon?

Disclaimer: The contents of this Blog post, and associated opinions  are those of its Author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of WebFuel, or its employees.