Branding is overlooked by many startups and small businesses. It often isn’t seen as a necessity, or it’s viewed as something for bigger businesses. Unfortunately, these two things couldn’t be further from the truth, and small businesses suffer as a result.
Budgeting for branding is a big deterrent for businesses just trying to get off the ground. When every dollar counts, a logo and professionally designed business cards are sometimes hard to budget for. It’s why small businesses often have next to no branding strategy.
This puts small business owners in a position of not doing something that will help their business make more money, because they don’t have the money. Ironically, they think that branding is just for bigger businesses, when in reality they need strong branding to compete with bigger businesses.
Why branding for small businesses?
So why do we say branding is necessary?
Studies show that brand loyalty is worth 10x more than a single purchase, and 48% of consumers say their first purchase or interaction is the best time to earn their loyalty. Loyalty without a doubt means more sales, both from repeat customers and referrals. So how do you get brand loyalty?
You start with a brand.
Branding: So much more than a logo
A brand is much more than a logo, but a logo is a great starting point. It’s important to have imagery that connects your audience to your business, so that when they see your logo on a flyer or a website, you immediately come to mind. A logo that captures who you are and is applied consistently across all mediums is key to ensuring your audience gets that constant reminder of your business.
However, branding actually captures everything – your mission and vision, your packaging, the look of your store, down to the smaller details, like your social media profile, the tone of your voicemails or the way you present, market, and deliver a service.
Branding carries more weight than you might think. Not only is it everything you do or claim to do as a business, it’s how your audience thinks about that. Marty Neumeier, author of The Brand Gap, says that a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization. It exists in the hearts and minds of individuals.
If you’re not thinking this way about your brand and putting that kind of weight on it, you need to be. We live in an age where customers no longer buy brands – they join brands. Customers want meaning and a sense of belonging, and that translates to who they identify with, and thus who they buy from.
Your branding strategy will not only determine the first impression of your consumers, it will impact how they continue to interact with your brand for the rest of its life. In a word, branding should never be an afterthought.
What should your brand goals be?
Branding has definitely evolved over the years from something that is meant to lure consumers in, to creating something consumers want to identify with.
Many businesses have shifted their branding strategies to help consumers create the identity they want by buying their product. For example, a jacket from Patagonia might just be a well-made jacket, but consumers who buy them want to feel more active and adventurous, and join a tribe of socially responsible outdoor enthusiasts. Those who buy a Tesla don’t just want a car, they want a status symbol and to feel like they’re doing their part for the environment.
“Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.” – Geoffrey Zakarian
Like these big, successful businesses, you need to have clear brand goals. Your brand goals should be:
Branding for small businesses as a means to storytelling
Brand storytelling is now a need for all businesses. It’s even claimed to be the future of marketing.
Brand storytelling is the cohesive narrative that uses facts and emotions to convey your message. Brand storytelling gives your business a face – it won’t just be another faceless entity. It gives your consumers a reason to buy your product.
Businesses need to consistently share, across all communication channels, the story behind their brand, why it exists, and why it matters. It doesn’t always have to be in so many words – let your brand deliver your message. Let it signify your intent.
Always remember that there should be a cohesiveness between your brand and the products you sell or the services you offer. Consumers are intensely observant of these things now. They will notice the gap between your claims and what you actually produce.
Integrate the reason behind your product or service in your brand’s story. Make sure there’s a connection between the two and that it’s actually something your business believes in. People can tell if your business is claiming things for the sake of branding.
Branding enhances user experience
Branding is all about giving consumers a chance to experience you and what your brand is about. One of the best ways you can improve your branding is by seeing your business through the eyes of the consumer. Be consumer-centered, and ask yourself these questions:
Answer these questions objectively, then try to think of ways you can better your brand.
Beat the competition
The pressure to outdo competitors is increasing. How do you even get noticed with all of the content and companies out there? The competition is even more stifling with the internet in the picture. It puts you in a spot where you’re competing on a global scale.
These are all reasons to invest time, energy, and money into strong branding. People like to buy from credible and reputed brands. Establish your credibility and give your audience reasons to choose your brand. Then, to keep that customer and gain more as a result of their recommendations, you need to gain their loyalty. Connect with them and communicate your story through social media, emails, and maybe even personal touches, like birthday cards.
The market is crazy for visually appealing brands. People like memorable brands that show their personality and quirks.
How you design your brand visually is the same as how you would dress yourself. Like it or not, humans judge people by the way they dress. It’s the same in branding – design and style is a way to make an impression.
The visual appeal of your brand is a part of your brand identity. It pertains specifically to your logo design, your website, your packaging, and your content. Make a statement about the quality of your product or service and use a professional designer to perfectly capture your brand’s identity. If you don’t, you will make a strong statement in the other direction.
As we’ve previously discussed, emotions are a big contributing factor in consumer purchases. A lot of studies have already prove this, just like how emotional ads get more shares than others. Budweiser’s “Brotherhood” commercial was shared several million times.
You can use branding as a way to make an emotional statement. Use engaging storytelling and remind consumers about it from time to time. This engages your audience’s subconscious mind and builds an emotional bridge between the story and the brand. Consumers are human, after all, and emotions are a key part of what it is to be human.
Branding should not just be part of your business plan – it should be fully incorporated into everything you do as a company. The reality is, brand identity and loyalty are such a huge part of consumerism today that to not put them at the top of the priority list is a plan to fail.
Don’t know how to take the first step to prioritize your branding? Talk to us! Our marketing experts would be happy to help.