Branding is just as important for small business as it is for big names. Many corporate brands try to look more like small firms in order to appeal to consumers that prefer to support small, independent brands.
Most business owners we talk to recognize the link between successful businesses and strong branding and aspire for similar success for themselves. They understand that branding is not just a logo or how their business is perceived externally. But too few realise that successful brands have this branding at the heart of the business.
Branding is defining your business to yourself, your team and your external audience. It could be called the business’ “identity”, but only on the understanding that it embodies the core of what the business is and its values, not just what it looks and sounds like.
Review the product or service your business offers, pinpoint the space in the market it occupies and research the needs and concerns of your customers.
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.
It will help reinforce the business’ character and clarify its offering so customers are aware exactly what to expect from the product or service.
Alternatively, aim to make your key messages work together to build a coherent identity.
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.
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.
Don’t lose your pride or dilute your brand positioning with discounting. Try offering more, rather than slashing prices. Promotions are an opportunity to reinforce your brand mission.
While your logo is vital, the future of branding is fluid and engaging — respect your customers’ intelligence. 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.