It is easy to mistake a “brand” problem for a “website” problem.  I hear this from potential clients all the time. It usually goes something like this:

Client: “We need a new website.”

Me: “Why.”

Client: “It’s not clear to customers what we do.”

Me: “Ok. Tell me more.”

Client: “It’s not clear what we stand for and how we’re different. Plus our divisions and brands all market themselves differently. A new website will help us address this.”

At this point warning bells start ringing in my head. Is this a “website” problem or a “brand” problem? Can a new website fix this? It’s critical to understand which problem the project needs to address.

Here are some indications that there could be a brand problem.

  • Company’s visual identity needs improvement
  • Company’s value proposition is not clear in the marketplace
  • Different company divisions market themselves differently- some use the parent brand identity and some don’t
  • There is not a clear strategy governing marketing communications for company divisions and brands

Many times these problems arise when companies grow through acquisitions. Acquired companies get folded into parent organizations but they don’t get integrated. Signs of this are that they have names that are different from the parent brand name. They have their own websites. They may have sales teams that operate independently. If these issues are not addressed prior to the beginning of a website redesign, several problems can arise.

  • The website project can get slowed or completely derailed by organizational issues that come to a head during discussions that are ostensibly about the website. I’ve participated in very long and, at times, heated discussions about how leads will be routed within a company or who has permission to update which parts of the site. These are organizational issues that stem from a need to integrate operations.
  • If there is lack of clarity in brand identity, or in the relationship between company brands, this confusion will be magnified once the website goes live.  Customers will start to interact with the site and they will quickly see any lack of clarity in brand position and any lack of coherence between divisions or brands.

Ultimately, these issues need to be understood and resolved prior to starting the website project. If they aren’t, the website project does not go well because the core issues are just papered over with a new communications tool. So the lesson is to carefully identify which problem needs to be solved first- brand or website. If it’s “brand,” then resolve that problem first, before tackling the website project.

Not sure where to start? Our “Is it Time to Redefine Your Brand” worksheet can help you quickly assess the state of your brand.