The old school of thought is that branding is what separates soap powders on a supermarket shelf, but in the modern multi-connected world of products and services it means so much more. Here are some of the basic principles when it comes to branding for small businesses.
There are countless great books on the subject of branding, but to anyone who isn’t involved in branding or design, the term can feel esoteric, alien, irrelevant even.
Getting a good handle on branding is vitally important to any business that want to grow, to stand up and be noticed. So I’ve put this simple together for small business owners, or new startups who have a hard time fully understanding what their brand is (or should be).
1 – Research
- Look at your competitors, and how their businesses communicate.
- What feeling or message do you get from their visual presentation?
- Does their image convey a faceless corporation, a run of the mill business, or does it give you sense of trust, tradition or credibility?
- Think of the different types of customers being targeted by these businesses.
2 – Identify
- What kind of customer would your competitors attract? Is it the same for you?
- Think about the kind of people who are most suited to what you offer.
- What things do your ideal customers enjoy, desire and cherish? Can you integrate that into your business?
- What aspects of your business do customers notice, or remark on?
3 – Imagination
- Good ideas are invaluable when it comes to creating a distinctive brand, many of the worlds leading brands started with a simple idea.
- It doesn’t necessarily mean creating a product or service that does’t exist, it can be unique presentation or the benefits you add on as part of the deal.
- Put more focus on innovation to ensure the originality of your company’s image – see 5 – Identity.
4 – Values
- Most successful brands have a clear set of values that define them. What principles govern the way your company operates and the products or services it sells.
- Many companies would say customer service is important, but some go to town on the idea, making it a genuine priority.
- As a small business, concise, concrete, and relevant values are the crux to build the brand around.
- Values must be stringently communicated to staff and anybody who handles communication of the brand (e.g. marketers, graphic designers, journalists).
5 – Identity
- A company without personality is living hand to mouth. Look at your website, signage, your logo design – does it say more than just ‘we do this and that’?
- The faceless, soulless supply and demand business is quickly being eroded, being pushed aside by cleverer, more reactive brands that cultivate interest, build trust and harvest loyalty.
- Startups that grow into substantial brands don’t copy other established players, they create their own unique voice that characterises them in their marketplace.
- Your company should be thought of as an individual with its own history and a distinctive personality.
6 – Communicate
- Think about the way your company reaches out to customers and how it supports your brand.
- Are you going to advertise in print, on radio, on the web? Will it be just a bunch of prices and offers, or something more emotive?
- Telling a defining, remarkable story about your company can get people talking about you and create interest.
- Consider each communication as an opportunity to attract new customers, reinforce loyalty or inspire a twitter user to send out an enthusiastic tweet.
7 – Consistency
- Consistency should wrap around everything the company does to ensure the image of your brand is not compromised.
- Think of the damage done when any public figure does something that contradicts who they claim to be, in the same way, the value of a brand is seriously hurt by inconsistency.
- Whether it’s the words on your website, the design of your stationery, or the kind of events you are involved with, it all counts towards achieving a solid brand.
Have a look at these brands, see how they offers similar products yet the brands differ wildly from each other. Note the difference in design, presentation and how the tone of voice of their copy enforces their personality.
“Overall, because branding is about creating and sustaining trust it means delivering on promises. The best and most successful brands are completely coherent. Every aspect of what they do and what they are reinforces everything else.”