When asked to define marketing, many people think of advertising. They talk about how marketers use different tools to make money. Yet the job doesn’t stop there – marketing isn’t just about making money. It’s about spreading ideas. That’s why we’re going to teach you how to brand your small business.
What is Branding?
According to the American Marketing Association, “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
That’s a good definition, but we’ll put it more simply: a brand is what people think of when they think of your small business. Branding, therefore, is the act of creating your company’s brand.
Whether or not you put any work into it, your business has a brand. When your customers talk about you, that is your brand. When they check your social media or call you on the phone, they are interacting with your brand. This is to say that you do not have total control over your brand.
However, you do have some control over how you brand your small business. You have a number of branding tools which you can use to influence how people perceive your company. We’ll name a few here.
Formal statements: You can formally declare what your brand stands for and how it is positioned. While your formal statements won’t make it into your advertisements or customer interactions, they will be found in your employee handbook and business plans.
Advertisements: Every time you run an advertisement, it changes what people think about your company. That makes them a lead generation tool as well as a branding tool.
Sponsorships and partnerships: The people and companies you work with will say a lot about what your brand stands for.
Product and packaging design: People judge books by covers. In fact, people judge all products by their packaging, so this is another tool you can use to brand your business.
In-store experience or user experience: The feelings people have when they visit your store or website can be tweaked by how your business presents itself.
Work culture: Branding isn’t just external, though. How your employees feel about your company will be reflected to customers through their work and their customer interactions. If your work culture is a particularly negative or positive one, this will be reflected in branding.
Customer service: When customers reach out for customer service, your company often has an opportunity. Handle their issues well, and it’s good for branding. Handle them poorly, and it’s bad for branding.
Pricing and positioning: Finally, the way you price your product and the market you position yourself in will speak volumes about the nature of your business. We talk about that more in our Market Positioning post.
Why Branding Matters
At this point, one thing is clear: branding influences what people think about your business. There are many ways that people can form opinions about your business and there are many ways to sway those opinions.
You may think “branding is important because I want to sell stuff.” That’s definitely true, and good branding will make you money. However, reality is a good bit more nuanced than that. Indeed, thoughtful branding has a number of benefits.
First, branding is the face of your business. What people think about your business affects how you accomplish your larger goals. These goals can range from generating sales to making a positive impact on the world. No matter what, though, presentation counts.
People expect good branding. Good branding establishes credibility and trust. Bad branding makes people think your business is not serious or capable of meeting their needs.
Lastly, because good branding provides consistency and clarity needed to establish trust, you will see returns from this. Good branding can improve your advertising performance. It can also increase the conversion rate when people visit your store or website. Not only can you reach more people, but a higher percentage of them will buy from you if your branding is solid.
Start by Analyzing Your Business
The foundation of good branding comes from self-knowledge. That is to say, you need to analyze your business and answer a few questions first.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- What do your customers need?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to find the right way to present yourself to current and prospective customers. You need to understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses, how it fits into a larger market, who your target audience is, and how you uniquely meet their needs.
Not sure where to start? Try describing your business in three words. Choose them carefully. Consider your mission and your values, as well as what you want the business to be known for.
If you’re having trouble visualizing your company’s purpose, consider it from the perspective of your buyers. Imagine your buyers as complete people with thoughts, feelings, and interests of their own. Make up characters if you need to. (This exercise is known as buyer personas).
What do you want them to say about you? Once you figure out the answer to this question, you can work backwards and figure out how to brand your business to give people the desired impression.
Don’t do this in isolation, though. Pay attention to what is working in your industry. Your messaging will be compared to others, and you need to have a unique market position so that your messaging is not lost in the din of the crowd.
How to Brand Your Small Business: First Steps
Now that we’ve talked about the basics of branding, we can talk about specific first steps you can take.
First, review the questions above and start writing down your brand qualities. Having your thoughts written down will make this considerably easier.
Next, define what you want your company to be. To make this simpler, I like to refer to Carl Jung’s 12 personality archetypes. He was a very famous psychologist and thinker who believed that symbolism made it easier to understand complicated concepts. It’s no wonder, then, that marketers have applied his theory to branding.
The 12 Brand Archetypes
According to Ovo, there are 12 brand archetypes based on Jung’s ideas. We quote them directly below:
- The Innocent: Exhibits happiness, goodness, optimism, safety, romance, and youth. Example brands include: Coca-Cola, Nintendo Wii, Dove
- The Everyman: Seeks connections and belonging; is recognized as supportive, faithful and down-to-earth. Example brands include: IKEA, Home Depot, eBay
- The Hero: On a mission to make the world a better place, the Hero is courageous, bold, inspirational. Example brands include: Nike, BMW, Duracell
- The Rebel: Questions authority and breaks the rules; the Rebel craves rebellion and revolution. Example brands include: Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel (jeans)
- The Explorer: Finds inspiration in travel, risk, discovery, and the thrill of new experiences. Example brands include: Jeep, Red Bull, REI
- The Creator: Imaginative, inventive and driven to build things of enduring meaning and value. Example brands include: Lego, Crayola, Adobe
- The Ruler: Creates order from the chaos, the Ruler is typically controlling and stern, yet responsible and organized. Example brands include: Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, British Airways
- The Magician: Wishes to create something special and make dreams a reality, the Magician is seen as visionary and spiritual. Example brands include: Apple, Disney, Absolut
- The Lover: Creates intimate moments, inspires love, passion, romance and commitment. Example brands include: Victoria’s Secret, Chanel, Haagen Dazs
- The Caregiver: Protects and cares for others, is compassionate, nurturing and generous. Example brands include: Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup, UNICEF
- The Jester: Brings joy to the world through humor, fun, irreverence and often likes to make some mischief. Example brands include: Old Spice, Ben & Jerry’s, M&Ms
- The Sage: Committed to helping the world gain deeper insight and wisdom, the Sage serves as the thoughtful mentor or advisor. Example brands include: Google, PBS, Philips
Pick the archetype that most closely matches your vision for your business.
Specific Ways to Communicate Your Brand’s Archetype & Purpose
Once you pick an archetype that matches your intent, it’s time to decide how to express that intent. Being organized helps, and for that, we recommend you create a brand style guide. It’s basically a list of rules that you will follow so that your branding is consistent.
Find a brand “voice” that will be used in your marketing materials and written communication. This voice should reinforce your intent and archetype.
Create a logo that expresses what your company’s purpose is. Logo design is really complex, so you can read more about that here.
Come up with a slogan that matches the voice and succinctly describes what your company intends to do.
Once you have all this done, you can then create a website, business cards, and document templates.
After you do all this, your company should be off to a good start. But remember: branding is not a “one and done” matter. The most important rule of branding is to be consistent. Once you have a brand voice, stick to it and keep sticking to it!
How to Brand Your Small Business: Setting Yourself Apart in the Long Run
After you have established how you would like to brand your business, there are some harder steps that you can take to really cement your brand’s identity. Here are four suggestions:
- Become a subject matter expert. Brand building is about trust building. Nothing builds trust quite like expertise. Focus on making your business extraordinarily good at its core competencies and consider content marketing as well. Content marketing provides a wonderful opportunity to be seen as an expert.
- Find like-minded partners. Once you know what your brand stands for, reach out to other companies and work with them. Building partnerships has a number of business benefits, among them the ability to build a better brand.
- Leverage customer experiences. Your happy customers are your greatest brand ambassadors. Ask them to share their experiences with others.
- Perfect your customer service. Brands are made and broken by customer service. Even angry customers can often be soothed and end up liking your brand better if you take good care of them.
We hope these tips help you to brand your small business. Remember: branding is all about figuring out what your company stands for and how to communicate it. Self-awareness and consistency are key!