If you are a small firm or a sole trader, you could be forgiven for thinking that branding is not for you. "Big names spend money on branding, small companies just get on with the job" is a typical response when small businesses are asked about their brand activities. But this perception is wrong.
Even if you do "believe in branding", it may come low on your to-do list after vital day-to-day tasks that keep your customers happy and keep revenue coming in. That's understandable.
So how can I convince you that branding matters; whether you are a window cleaner, a solicitor or run a restaurant?
Perhaps the first thing to do is to tackle the wording. If you were to replace the word "branding" with "reputation" I might get your attention. You care about your reputation, right?
Well branding is all about the impression you make. If you want to succeed, that impression should do two ;- it should convey what is special about your business and it should show you in a positive light.
Of course, many small businesses make a good impression most of the time without ever giving a thought to their brand. But think how much more successful you would be if you gave a good impression all of the time.
Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the emotive and rational needs and concerns of your customers. Your brand character should promote your business, connect with your customer base and differentiate you in the market.
Every one of us is an individual whose character is made up of beliefs, values and purposes that define who we are and who we connect with. Our personality determines how we behave in different situations, how we dress and what we say. Of course, for people it's intuitive and it's rare that you even consider what your own character is, but when you're building a brand it's vital to have that understanding.
What does it believe in, what is its purpose and who are its brand heroes? These things can help establish your emotive brand positioning and inform the identity and character for brand communications.
Don’t dress up your offering and raise expectations that result in broken promises, create trust with honest branding — be clear who your company is and be true to the values that drive it every day. If you come across as genuine and honest to your customers, this will serve you well.
It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service. Being consistent, means gaining trust with potential customers.
Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity. Your customers are intelligent. Try think about when repetitive messaging has annoyed you.....
Try and carve out your own distinctive identity. There is a big consumer trend towards independent establishments, and several chains are in fact trying to mimic an independent feel to capture some of that market. Truly independent operators can leverage their status to attract customers who are looking for something more original and authentic, that aligns with how feel about themselves. Again, back to being genuine and who you really are.
Big brands are encumbered by large layers of bureaucracy, preventing them from being flexible and reacting to the ever-changing needs of their customers. Those layers of decision-makers can make it hard for them to be daring with their branding. For smaller businesses, they can be much more flexible and reactive.
Don't lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with indiscriminate discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission. Don't just do things the way they've always been done. Getting some fresh eyes and help when it comes to planning new campaigns can be invigorating for any brand.
The future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers' intelligence by not giving everything away up front. Generate some intrigue and allow them to unearth more about your brand for themselves. This is the way to foster ambassadors who revel in telling other people what they have discovered.
All good brands have a great style guide.
Creating a simple booklet that catalogues the specific colours, type, logos, imagery, patterns, taglines, etc. of a brand makes sure the brand machine runs smoothly.
Use Adobe Colour to create a colour theme. You can upload your logo or image to create a colour theme for your brand.
This will give you all your colours in RGB and Hex if you don’t already have them. It’s a great free tool.
For any client I carry out branding work for, I always condense their brand information into a template and ensure anyone that creates documents or materials for the company keep this to hand.
If you would like to change your branding or need help, please let us know, we're happy to listen. Email us here.