EVERY SMALL BUSINESS HAS A BRAND. WHETHER STARTING UP OR CONSIDERING A REFRESH, FIND OUT HOW TO POSITION YOURS FOR SUCCESS
This article was excerpted from OPEN Book: Branding, which provides tips and advice for building a Booming brand. Follow the evolution of a Cardmember brands featured in our new web series. Project RE:Brand in which small businesses undergo brand makeovers by design experts.
Brands occupy every corner of our lives, and affect almost every decision we make each day. Why do we choose one brand of soda over another? Why does owning one particular make of car give us a sense of pleasure or pride, while owning another satisfies less?
Branding is every bit as important to small business as it is to big companies. As marketing expert and OPEN Forum blogger John Jantsch says, “Every small business has a brand. The question is whether the makeup of the brand is created intentionally or accidentally. There is little doubt in my mind that small businesses that find themselves in possession of what some would call a strong brand are far more likely to achieve great things than those that simply go out there and compete.”
So What Is a Brand? Your brand is how you communicate the essence of your business. Many think branding is simply a logo plus typefaces and color palettes, but that’s only part of it. It’s also your business name, the products or services you provide, and how you deliver them to your consumer. It’s the idea you create in your audience’s mind about who you are and what you do. It’s this idea of your brand that’s so powerful, and prompts your customers to choose you over a rival.
How Is a Brand Expressed? Depending on your business, branding can mean very different things. If you’re in the service industry, for instance, you may need to give more attention to the point of delivery, such as customer service and employee uniforms, than to the logo or website. If your business is international, you’ll need to take cultural and linguistic implications into account. And if your business exists predominantly online, there’s the issue of how your branding will work in digital environments.
Who Creates Your Brand? Whether you’re creating a whole new brand from scratch or just refreshing your existing brand, you need to decide who will be involved in the process. For a project this crucial to your business, it’s well worth calling in the pros and hiring a branding agency. They can add value by developing your strategy and revealing game-changing insights into your marketplace, while delivering first-class design. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a full design service, their strategic input alone can prove invaluable. Even if you’ve hired an agency, you’ll also need to decide who will steer the project internally, taking on the role of brand guardian. Whether it’s you, another member of your staff or a small team, choose people who really understand the essence of your business and can contribute their time, energy, and expertise throughout the process.
Where Will Your Brand Be Expressed? Where and how consumers interact with your brand is key to understanding what it needs to accomplish. Do you have an office or storefront? Do you use printed stationery, e-mail templates or both? Packaging, uniforms, a website, even your business cards – these are all ways consumers will interact with your brand.
“Think about everywhere and every way your customer encounters your business, from the store window, to the greeting they receive as they enter, to signage, delivery trucks, and the way the product is wrapped – all of these are your brand’s touchpoints,” says Dominic Sinesio, Co-Creative Director of theNew York-based branding agency Officelab. What are the key touchpoints for your business? Make a list of the ways people most frequently interact with your brand, then prioritize them. Be realistic: if necessary, you may have to sacrifice some of the “nice to have” items to make sure you get the more critical touchpoints absolutely right.
Starting the Branding Process. Once you’ve identified your consumer touchpoints, you’re ready to get on with the business of branding. But don’t leap straight into the design phase – first, you need to do your research. Seeing what the best of your industry is doing, and understanding who and where your audience is, will help you develop a blueprint that will not only make the rest of the branding process more streamlined, but also help as you continue to grow your business in all aspects.