Branding is an essential part of running a business, whether you’re the CEO of a multinational entertainment company or the founder of a mom-and-pop ice cream store with a single location. Some elements of branding, however, do depend on the size of your organization. There are things that big businesses can do that smaller ones can’t due to budgetary and manpower restrictions. Yet small businesses can also be more creative in how they brand, because there are fewer people to give approval for a campaign, and take more chances, because they have less to lose.
In the long run, this can lead to an even better experience. Here’s a quick primer on how to approach branding for small businesses.
What is Branding?
You’ve undoubtedly heard this buzzword a million times, but it’s important to be clear about the definition of branding, because it determines your goals going forward. “Branding” is basically the essence of your business. It’s what people think of when they think of your business’s name. It’s not necessarily what you sell but how you sell it and the feelings/desires that you’re playing to. The logo and company trademarks also play a role.
Disney, for example, brands itself as wholesome family fun. For Pepsi-Cola, it’s progressive and young—remember “The Choice of a New Generation?” And for Nike, it’s “Just Do It.” All of those companies have spent billions to establish those attributes. Luckily, your small business won’t have to.
Deciding Your Brand
Now that you understand what branding is, you’re ready to figure out what your brand will be. First take a moment to jot down anything that comes to mind when you think of your company. That may include your products, your logo, your trademarks, your advertising campaigns, or even a description of your office. Next think about what you want people to think about your company and your products. Is your niche to entertain or to enlighten? To educate or inform?
Examine these lists and come up with your own brand identity. Try to boil it down to as few words as possible. For example, CJ Pony Parts is a company with a branded name and is known for selling Mustang car parts. Because they have branded themselves correctly, they are known for their branded name as well as what they sell. Talk with others in the company or who know a thing or two about marketing to get their opinion. Ask readers on your social media pages to offer descriptions of your company in one or two words to help you brainstorm.
Get to Work
After you’ve decided on your company identity, it’s time to start selling it. Assess your marketing budget and how you’ve been spending your money, if at all. Many small companies rely largely on word of mouth and social media, but if you are serious about branding, you’ll need to consider some paid marketing as well. Talk to other small business owners from your area, if you have a bricks and mortar location, or online, if your business is virtual, about what type of advertising has worked best for them.
Craft your message carefully. Your goal is to get across the essence of your brand, the company identity you came up with earlier. Decide what will best tell your story. Perhaps it’s a short TV ad you can get on the local news, or perhaps it’s a paid search campaign dependent on certain keywords that define you.
Think outside the box. Branding goes beyond traditional forms of marketing. Pitch stories to the local paper about your company and the unusual, special things that you have going on. If one of your identity buzzwords is loyalty and you know a couple who have been coming to your shop for 38 years, you have a heartwarming story idea that also brands your company.
All of your marketing materials, from your logo to your flyers to your social media sites, should be selling the same thing. Consistency is a key ingredient of marketing; make sure that you employ the same colors across your marketing materials as well as the same logo, descriptions and origin story. And don’t be afraid to talk up your goals to customers, friends and neighbors. Spreading the word will only accelerate your branding efforts.
Published: October 22, 2013