When you think about great branding, large corporations probably come to mind like Starbucks, Pepsi or Nike. But branding is just as important for small businesses and most understand that it is essential to their business. Small businesses see that branding makes strong connections, and understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived. Still, less realize that branding starts at the heart of the business. In fact, there are about 29 million small businesses in the U.S., 93 percent of which have four employees or less. While these companies may be small, they have real branding needs – the market size is estimated at $50 billion. Here are some tips of the trade, as well as some common mistakes to avoid.
Branding is a way of defining your business – your identity – which embodies your business values. Start by defining your brand. The benefits of a defined brand encourage customers to emotionally connect to the same values, which leads to loyalty and advocacy. In order to build meaningful relationships, get to know your audience – their needs, desires, struggles and challenges, why they purchase, and the channels they interact with. Then, think of your brand as a person, made up of stories, beliefs and purposes that define who it is.
DON’T: Create a vague brand or over-complicate it.
First impressions set the standard for every future interaction with a brand. How effectively you communicate your brand can have more impact on your success than the product itself. Avoid vague statements – your brand should be an enthusiastic reflection of what it stands for. Also, strive to be simple when initiating the branding process, as it can be tempting to add more variables. Your logo doesn’t need to include five different colors, or four graphic elements to represent different areas of the company. Clean, simple elements are often more recognized and remembered, so move away from over-complicating branded elements.
DO: Establish brand guidelines.
One of the essential values to a small business brand is that it’s familiar. Without defined guidelines for your logo, color palette, typography, imagery or voice, your branding efforts will lack consistency and direction. Carefully crafted brand guidelines help to reinforce and maintain your branding characteristics as you roll them out across your company’s marketing materials.
DON’T: Forget to police your brand’s usage.
After developing brand guidelines, be proactive about monitoring how your branded elements are being used. Maybe down the road you need a new ad and want to use a color outside of the palette? Keep in mind that every time you deviate from your brand guidelines, you weaken their power and association with a more unified branding campaign. Consistency gives companies the opportunity to become sustainable brands, build trust, recognition and greater profits, and invoke a feeling in their customers.
Compelling brands with a unique style and design that evokes emotion and relevancy are instantly recognizable. Quality graphic design in your marketing materials should exude professionalism and trigger feelings of reassurance to reinforce the value of the brand. Also, when engaging your customers, allow them to unearth more about your brand themselves by creating some intrigue that will fostering ambassadors who will share what they discovered with others.
DON’T: Try to mimic the look of chains or big brands.
As a small business, slice out your own identity and leverage your independent status to attract customers looking for more original offerings that are authentic and align with how feel about themselves. All too often, big brands are burdened by bureaucracy, restricting their flexibility to react to changing needs. Be innovative, bold and stand for what you believe in.