Sam Rose - Head of Content

Sam Rose

28th October 2016

Building Brand Identity Online: Lessons From Comic Con

I’m off to MCM London Comic Con this weekend, where over 100,000 visitors will gather to meet their idols, watch talks and shows, collect memorabilia, play some of the newest video games on the market, and more. Many will be wearing costumes, dressing up as their favourite comic book, movie and video game characters. Comic Con is all about enjoying fandom, showing some love to your favourite pop culture characters, and dressing up. And of course Halloween is also just around the corner, so what better time could there be to talk about identity? Brand identity, that is.

What is brand identity?

A brand is a name, design or symbol that identifies a company and makes it recognisable. But more than just your logo, brand identity is the foundation your brand is based on. It represents the company’s values, strengths and personality. Your brand is conveyed in so many different ways – not just through your logo, slogan and mission statement, but through the entire design and feel of your website, email marketing, and social media profiles – your entire online presence, in fact. Brand awareness is an important part of your online presence because it helps you to be recognisable to customers, attract your target market, set customer expectations, be seen by more people, and ultimately enjoy more conversions and better growth. Here are a few Comic Con-based tips for building your brand online.

Not another Harley Quinn

After the release of Suicide Squad in cinemas earlier this year, I’m fully expecting to see dozens and dozens of Harley Quinns this weekend. So when I was deciding what to wear, after a little deliberation I decided I didn’t want to be yet another red-and-blue wearing, inflatable-baseball-bat-wielding face in the crowd. And if you want your brand to stand out in a crowded online marketplace, you’ll come to the same conclusion.

It’s important to make sure you have a strong, unique brand identity that is easily recognisable as your own. You may have competitors who are very similar to you, so if that’s the case make sure you put your own spin on things. Consider my favourite Batman villain, the Joker. This is a character who has been played by Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Jack Nicholson, to name a few. And each actor brought something different to the role. Even though they were working from the same source material, these are all very different portrayals of the same character. This demonstrates how personality and little quirks can differentiate you from other people who are doing the same thing as you. Another example is one cosplayer I saw at Star Wars Celebration in July, who merged two characters and was essentially Captain Jack Sparrow cosplaying as a Stormtrooper. I had seen both characters before, but this guy was still very unique and memorable, despite not being the only Stormtrooper I saw that day.

Whether it’s fingernails or emails, don’t forget the details

Every good cosplay outfit (she says, having never actually taken part in any cosplay before this weekend) is carefully thought out, right down to the last detail. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a cosplay outfit has to completely mimic the character it is based on, but it does mean that it’s important not to just think about clothing, but also hair, nails, make-up, jewellery, accessories, tattoos, scars, birth marks, how they move and walk, and all the other tiny details that make a character unique.

Similarly, there are many facets of brand identity to think about – not just the recognisable physical traits of a product or design, but the personality, tone (or house style for online content), company culture, relationships with customers, and all the ways these things can be portrayed through every marketing channel, every aspect of your online presence, and every client interaction.

Don’t throw it together at the last minute

Like a good costume, a good online brand requires careful thought and planning. You might get away with finding clothes that are sort of the right style and colour the day before a convention, but it’s so much better to plan weeks or even months in advance to make sure the finished product is just as good as you imagined it would be. Gather some images and other resources and figure out exactly who you want to be.

For brands, this means thinking carefully about what you want your brand to achieve, what its personality is, who your target audience is and what they want and need, and how you will express all of this consistently across your online channels. Prepare your brand meticulously before releasing it into the wilds of the internet.

Wardrobe malfunctions and social destruction: Preparing for disaster

Like costumes, it can sometimes only take one loose thread to cause a brand to unravel. From poorly judged Facebook posts written by the company itself, to Twitterstorms from angry customers, it’s very easy these days for an online faux pas to become common knowledge. So you’ll want to come prepared with some brand-mending tools should the worst happen – in other words, a crisis management plan is as essential for your brand as a sewing kit and glue may be for repairing a cosplay outfit.

Be yourself

If you’re going to do cosplay, choose something you love, and commit yourself to the character – throw yourself into it and enjoy it. Promoting your brand is the same; it requires commitment, and works best when it’s a brand you love.

I’ll end on a rather confusing note, considering we’ve been talking about dressing up, and I’ll say: ‘be yourself’. You can be Harley Quinn and still be you, by creating an outfit that suits you – something that fits you well and that you feel happy and comfortable in. There’s no need to wear the 7 foot Chewbacca costume just to make you look bigger, if you’re going to feel too hot and bothered in it.

In other words, don’t try to be like a big high street brand if you’re not. Being small with personal customer service and excellent attention to detail may be what makes you unique. Make sure that your branding is a true representation of what you have to offer, that your online presence shows your brand in the best possible light, and that your message and personality is consistent everywhere you go.

Now I’m off to examine how C3PO walks.

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