More than just a buzzword, your brand is vital to your success in the digital age. Increasingly, digital accessibility needs to be part of your brand strategy, presenting opportunities to both create accessible experiences and let people know about it.
First, what is a brand?
Ask a bunch of marketers this question and you'll get a bunch of answers, so find the ones that you think are most valuable to you. Here is a pretty uncontroversial definition: your brand is the combination of a name, color, symbol, design, logo, messaging, voice, tone, or anything that differentiates your product or company from all others.
Define your brand according to your company's mission, customers' needs, and your strengths and unique selling proposition. Consider the feelings you want people to associate with your organization — what is it you want people to think of when they think of your company?
What does digital accessibility have to do branding?
Creating accessible web experiences gives your business two great opportunities for your brand: to welcome people with disabilities to share in your products and services, and to share your commitment to accessibility in your messaging.
Accessibility helps welcome people with disabilities to share in your products and services
Some all-too-common myths are that people with disabilities don't use computers, or when companies believe that they don't sell to people with disabilities. With the CDC recently reporting that 25% of US adults have a disability, you can be sure that you do to sell to people with disabilities. Or, if your websites and apps aren't accessible, you must sooner-than-later consider the huge market share you're losing.
- Accessibility allows for more people to have positive experiences with your brand.The foundation of a positive brand image are the many people who have positive interactions with a brand. When web experiences aren't accessible, some people are automatically excluded from ever having the opportunity to have that positive experience — although they may definitely have a negative one.
- Accessibility creates more opportunities for brand advocates. When people have one positive interaction with your company, and then another, and then another, they are more likely to become loyal to your brand. When they feel that the service or treatment they received could benefit people they know, they're going to make recommendations to their close circle in-person or perhaps their larger ones on social media networks.
- Accessibility improves SEO. In order for people to have any experience with your brand, positive or negative, they need to find you. Some people are surprised to learn that SEO best practices and conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) overlap. This starts to make sense when we consider the importance of mobile web experiences and text alternatives to non-text content in SEO rankings.
Accessibility provides a chance to demonstrate social responsibility
Consumers have no shortage of options, often instantly and at their fingertips, in the digital age. More and more, people are choosing to support brands that share their values. As digital accessibility continues to become mainstream, those values for many include the inclusivity and accessibility of products and services. If you've committed to accessibility, let people know.
- Prepare an accessibility statement. An accessibility statement is your chance to make a powerful declaration on your commitment to web accessibility. It should present clear information about your company’s target level of accessibility and the methods used to reach that target. Accessibility statements are becoming expected on public websites.
- People want to know about your commitment to accessibility. This is important to remember — as long as it's respectful and accurate, it's okay to be proud of your accessibility accomplishments. For example, if you've made a big change that improves digital accessibility or you're committing to more fully including people with disabilities in your market research, or anything else that warrants notice, let people know! Social media, press releases, blog posts, and emails are all great ways to get your message in front of a lot of interested people quickly.
How to get started incorporating accessibility into your brand
Consistency is key to a brand's long-term success, but so is the awareness and ability to evolve. If accessibility hasn't been integral to your brand strategy before, that doesn't mean it can't be moving forward. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility is committed to helping you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance through accessibility, and we can even help with things like a compelling accessibility statement.