“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” –Howard Schultz (Chairman & CEO of Starbucks)
We are in the Digital Age and with that comes a completely new set of challenges and opportunities for any small business whether they are just starting out or have been around for years. We talk with our Creative Director, Brandon Cornwell (pictured right), on his thoughts about what every small business needs to know about branding before they set off on their venture.
- First and foremost: know your audience, your demographic. Who should be listening to what you have to say? You should tailor your brand around that audience and not on your own personal tastes. If you are clean-cut and a little stuffy but you run a pre-school then you want your brand to be a little more whimsical and child friendly. We work best when we know who that audience is and what that message is. This should be the first thing you establish. A great example is Nike. Right away you know that Nike predominantly targets sports and fitness enthusiasts. They aren’t targeting individuals looking for professional business attire so they stick with what they know best.
- It’s important that your brand communicates properly. This used to be a one-way street where the audience only had to listen but with the rise of the Internet it’s essential that your brand is listening to your audience as well. You generally want to avoid trendy stuff that everyone else may be doing because then your brand will just be lost in the “white noise” of all of the other businesses who think that this is a viable strategy. It’s unoriginal and lazy and your audience will smell it from a mile away. Stick with a basic strategy for your message and adapt as you see fit so you can hear your audience. Your customers or clients will be your greatest salespeople if they can pass on your message without requiring too much memorization which brings us to the next point.
- Your brand needs to be memorable. Your audience should be able to mentally digest your brand easily. Your brand is more than a logo. It’s how you choose your images, colors, photographs, font, and white space on paper. The way your office or establishment setup looks. How you or your employees act towards your audience in-person. It should distinguish you from other similar businesses. You want to drive a wedge between your business and any competitors in the minds of your audience. Distinction is key. Starbucks doesn’t spend a ton of money on their marketing efforts but they do when it comes to training how their employees interact with customers.
- Have a solid business philosophy. This kind of piggy-backs on the concept of knowing your audience. What I mean is, what is your approach? What does your business stand for really? Are you all about providing a full refund if your customer is not happy or do you pride yourself on having a product or service that is ultimately hassle free? The video game company, Electronic Arts, was voted one of the worst companies in terms of customer support along with the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. They heard that message and completely overhauled their customer support training and streamlined how to tackle the biggest and most common grievances. Their new philosophy is focused around not only helping to solve a problem for a customer but also to educate them so that they may also help fellow gamers with similar issues.
- Set realistic goals and expectations for your business and for yourself. One of the biggest mistakes I see with branding is someone trying to do everything at once. It’s simply not feasible. Establishing a brand is not an overnight process and takes time. Having a clear-cut battle plan is paramount for any business to survive and from time-to-time that means being able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What is working? What isn’t? Why did one strategy take off so well but another barely managed to fizzle a spark? Is your message on point or is your audience still confused by what you, as a business, are trying to accomplish? Keep track of your triumphs and failures and adapt when necessary. Your audience is an invaluable resource and their feedback will be so important to your brand’s life and vitality.
Are you a small business in desperate need of a solid branding strategy or maybe you have need of generating some buzz? Contact us for a free initial consultation!
I have over 10 years in design and identity development for businesses. I joined Hot Dog Marketing in 2013 as branding specialist focusing on new small business and start ups. I love my beer, my dog Brew, Batman and anything Lego.