Making sales vs building a brand


I read Seth Godin’s Pretty Websites post this week – and it got me thinking. I was not sure if I actually agreed with the post of disagreed with the post – but it did make me question: where do we draw the line between making sales vs building a brand?

This has been a long debate – and I would ask is it potentially short-sighted to only build a website that is orientated around conversions and making sales – or is it a wiser long term investment to build a brand that resonates with customers and builds a loyal following, which in turn should lead to sales and long term brand loyalty?

In a world where our experience of brands is increasingly being driven online, how much should we be investing in brand building and what role does the overall design of your website play in this? There are numerous studies and books on how companies like Apple, Nike and IKEA have used a design driven culture to position themselves in competitive markets. I would be interested to read case studies on how sales focussed companies have managed to position themselves as sought after brands as an after thought. Or is it a bit like trying to have the chicken and egg debate?

In his article Seth refers to:

If the goal of your site is to position you, tell a story, establish your good taste and make it clear what sort of organization you are, then pretty might be the way to go.

I would ask in what circumstances is it not the goal of your site to do those things? Often Amazon is shown as an example of how a sales focussed ‘ugly’ website is better than a pretty website – but now we have a website like Canopy which essential curates Amazon products and presents it using a ‘pretty’ website. I know which website I would rather shop at. But is that because I am a designer?