Practical Advice for Branding Small Business

Branding can feel complicated but it doesn’t have to. I’m going to share some practical steps you can take with your small business to get you on the right track. It’s easier than you might expect, after all the simplest most obvious solution is often the right one.

Let’s start with the basics. What is branding anyway?

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization -Marty Neumeie

That means you’ve got a brand whether you’re managing it or not.

The essence of a brand can usually be summed up by the first three or four adjectives that come to mind when you think of that company. Apple: innovative, well designed, stark. Coca-Cola: Classic, youthful and fun.

The efforts you make to influence those perceptions are all a part of branding. Here’s how to get started.

1. Figure out what you want to say.

As Gary Vaynerchuk says, it’s a matter of Clouds and Dirt. You need to understand problems philosophically (Clouds) and then execute on them practically (Dirt). So before you can manage your brand, you have to figure out what you want to say.

Start by asking yourself these questions. Why do I do what I do? How is my company different than the competition? Beyond building a business and earning money, what is it you are trying to achieve.

It’s not about what you do specifically, but much more about how and why you do it.

Amazons brand isn’t built around the items they sell. It’s more about “everything you want, quickly and reliably.” That’s the reason they can transition between categories without friction. From books to household goods, to original content television shows. It doesn’t feel weird because they aren’t “the books company” they’re the “large selection, delivered quickly” company.

Find your overriding value and communicate that to your customers.

2. Say it.

Once you know what your brand is about it’s time to get practical. Deploying your brand message is a matter of communicating it to your customers, both visually and through your written communications.

The design of your visual identity (logo & supporting materials,) your tone of speech on social media and the look and feel of your marketing materials should all be lead by your brand's message.

Keep it consistent, simple and focused.

Consistent: The more consistent you are with your message the better chance you have of people remembering it. You know Nike stands for spontaneity and empowering active lifestyles, not because it’s the best message out of a bunch they tried, but because they’ve consistently told you “just do it.”

Simple: In Dieter Rams’ list of Ten principles for good design he says:

Good design is as little design as possible.

This concept rings true for each aspect of branding. Communicate your messages as concisely as possible and it will resonate with your audience. Don’t hide your message by dressing it in the fashion of the day. Let it stand on its own.

Focused: You can do a hundred things okay, or you can do a few things really well. Like people, brands are remembered when they do something well. Your message will get clouded if you take it in too many directions at once. Pick the few that feel most genuine and lean into them.

Let your brand's overriding value direct you and communicate honestly with your audience and you will end up with powerful, versatile brand that builds loyalty with your audience.