Branding may be the most effective long-term marketing strategy that a startup or existing business can utilize, bar none. Effective branding helps establish an identity and makes your products, services, and organization easily identifiable.
Consider your immediate awareness when you see corporate branding efforts such as the Apple logo, Nike swoosh, or Starbucks’ Siren. The same holds true of professional sports teams such as the Las Vegas Raiders’ pirate with an eye patch, or the Dallas Cowboys’ Star. But not every new business has the financial bandwidth to hire a major advertising firm to design its logo and core messaging. That’s why companies on tight budgets would be well-served to employ the following eight branding strategies.
1. Use Tools for the Basics
There seems to be a tool for everything these days, and when it comes to branding there are tools that help you develop some of the basics of your brand that relate to the visual side of branding.
Although developing a brand consists of many different elements that take time to build the visual side of your brands such as your logo, business cards, and social posts can be created using brand builder tools like Tailor Brands, which help automate the process.
There are also other tools like Canva that can help your design your visual look. Although, with Canva you have to design the visuals yourself without the help of AI.
Either way, these tools can help significantly reduce the costs of creating brand visuals. Not so long ago you would pay big money to develop a logo and brand materials but now thanks to tools you can do this for the cost of a Starbucks coffee and donut.
2. Separate Your Brand from Competitors
Establishing a brand requires thoughtful consideration and due diligence. It’s not unusual to come up with an amazing branding idea that has been used in the very same industry or others. When creating a logo and other facets of your identity, invest time in research to ensure your brainchild isn’t already in play in another region or sector.
Given the global nature of commerce, similar logos and other elements of your identity could confuse prospective customers or clients. An even bigger problem stems from the notion your outfit copied someone else’s ideas. That positions you as a follower, not an industry leader. Making certain your brand appears authentic calls for extensive DIY online research.
3. Carve Out and Define Your Market Position
The wheel has already been invented, leaving others to find a way to build a better mousetrap, so to speak. Entrepreneurs often find a way to provide goods and services more cost-effectively or discover a niche.
For example, Bombas founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg made millions by carving out a previously overlooked niche — high-end socks. Backed by Shark Tank star Daymond John, Bombas produces comfortable socks that employ luxury materials and designs for all feet. People pay top dollar based on foot pleasure and the fact they carved out a specific space in the socks industry.
Small businesses can brand themselves in a similar fashion by conducting interactive marketing research. Consider running digital polls about consumer preferences and include the findings in your marketing plans. Once you’ve established a product or service, analyze user reviews, and don’t hesitate to chat with people about what they desire. This and other data can be integrated into your branding efforts to define your place in a sometimes crowded field.
4. Present Your Small Business as a Thought Leader
Visionaries come to the marketplace with a rare and unique perspective that can forever change the space and that remains an invaluable asset. Consider writing articles for industry media resources to educate people about the shifting landscape. Point out ways professionals and consumers can gain financial and quality of life benefits from your product or service.
Rolling out thought leadership does more than demonstrate your operation provides useful products or services. Articles and blog posts show you possess expertise. This type of branding makes potential customers and clients more likely to contact your organization ahead of others.
5. Build Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
Professional relationships can make or break a small business. The community at large notices connections — positive and negative — between your operations and others. Although anxious to get your name out there and start turning a profit, newly minted companies would be wise to weigh the pros and cons associated with any type of partnership. That’s because an entity that has a tarnished reputation can sully yours.
Before undertaking an endeavor with another organization, consider its reputation within the industry and community. If the association helps raise your credibility, don’t necessarily worry about making high profits. Some partnerships prove increasingly valuable as branding opportunities.
6. Establish a Company-Wide Brand Style Guide
Effective branding is a highly specific part of a company’s forward-looking marketing strategy. Uses of the logo, lettering, slogans, and other elements must be presented in concert. Although this concept may seem like common sense to those who create the initial branding, other staff members may not.
For example, your organization embraces a new sustainable initiative that places your products or services alongside a different type of customer and consumer. It might make perfect sense for someone overseeing that venture to tweak aspects of the visual identity to mesh with new partners. Unfortunately, such good intentions muddy marketing strategies and cause brand confusion.
But by establishing a style guide and distributing it to all stakeholders, leadership teams are sending a message the brand is taken very seriously. You’re also establishing parameters around the logo and how messaging can be used. These typically include color palettes, fonts, and guidance regarding dos and don’ts. It’s not uncommon for small businesses to leverage logo creation tools such as Tailor Brands and Canva to build a series of options that are iconic, recognizable, and provide flexibility.
7. Build an Emotionally Rich Brand
Branding is not just a matter of designing a cool logo, snappy catchphrase, and using eye-catching colors. A smartly orchestrated branding strategy compels people to feel something at a visceral level. It’s also crucial that the emotionally charged response to your brand fits the organization’s identity and values.
If the idea of emotional branding seems elusive, consider some of the common images you see on a routine basis and how they make you feel. For instance, an arm raised overhead can symbolize success, victory, or defiance, depending on how it’s presented. The dove, olive branch, and peace symbol popularized during the 1960s counter-culture movement are classic examples. These and countless others elicit an emotional response each time someone sees them.
As famed poet Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When sitting down to develop a slogan, logo, fonts, color schemes, and other aspects of your branding, imagine how others will feel when they experience them. Before launching, it may be worthwhile to put together a few informal test groups and gain feedback about branding possibilities.
8. Put Your Total Branding Efforts on One Platform
Virtually no small business can succeed in the 21st Century without an online presence. Small businesses can put a platform to work as a way to generate revenue and also expand brand recognition. Logos are usually used as a place to click and return to the home page, prompting users to see them repeatedly much like the Google logo. Adding a blog allows your operation to publish posts that augment the thought leadership element. And the color scheme and entire style guide can be included to sync with pre-defined usages.