When you first set up in business the single biggest challenge you face is getting people to notice that you’re out there. You can offer the best products and services in the world, at amazing prices, but nobody will buy them – and if somebody does happen to stumble upon you and make a purchase, they may well forget who you are and never return. How can you solve this? By building your brand. Unlike simple product promotion, branding is all about you and what you have to offer. It goes hand in hand with your business reputation and is useful in building business relationships as well as connecting with customers. Brand recognition is a lot of what gives big businesses their power. How can you get what they’ve got?
Sending a message
To understand the power of a brand and how you can develop your own, you need to understand the message it’s sending. Branding starts with thinking about your mission statement and your values as a business. What words, shapes, fonts and colours do you associate with those things? What does the public associate with them? Branding is about communication. It requires you to be committed and consistent regarding your core values, and to find ways of expressing them that you will use consistently across all your advertising and day-to-day communications. Whenever somebody picks up a piece of your branded material, you want them to feel a sense of recognition and, ideally, to know, even before reading your company name, that it’s from you.
Your logo and colours
The simplest elements of your branding are your logo and signature colours. It’s best to keep these simple, as you’ll want to be able to reproduce them across a range of media, and in varying sizes. You may need multiple versions of your logo which allow it to be produced in different shapes, so that, for instance, you have a long version suitable for banners and a version that would fit neatly within a square or circle, which you can use anywhere. Your logo should incorporate at least one of your colours. You can normally choose one to three of these for a professional look, and you should ensure that they combine to send the right signals. Bear in mind that colours have different associations around the world. Do your research and make sure they won’t send the wrong signals in places where you want to operate.
Once you’ve decided on your basic visual branding, you should use it as much as possible. Make it part of your official letterhead. Use it on social media and base the design of your website around it. Incorporating your brand into the financial aspects of your business can help strengthen your brand image. For example, you can use a receipt template that includes custom imagery, meaning customers can easily spot paperwork from your company. Consider investing in small gifts, such as pens or key rings, that can be marked with your brand and given away to business partners and big-spending customers – you can usually find discounts on items like this if you shop around. Emblazon it on the banners you use at trade shows and, if you have a uniform, make it visible that way too – if you don’t, you can do simple things like wearing ties that match your chosen colours to remind people who you are.
Most people think of marketing as being about the promotion of particular products and services. In fact, it’s often useful to market your company itself. If you think about car adverts, for instance, they often don’t tell you much about the cars themselves but they encourage you to associate a particular set of images and a piece of music with the manufacturer. Many companies use the same colours and jingles regardless of what they’re selling. All of this contributes to brand recognition and encourages people to think positively about the company itself. If you can then associate that branding with positive actions, such as sponsoring local charity events or implementing a strong environmental policy, you can persuade people to make positive associations every time they see your branding on the things you’re selling, making them significantly more likely to buy from you. As some of the world’s most successful marketers have observed, consumers are ultimately less interested in what they’re buying than in the way it makes them feel about themselves.
Branding is what makes the difference between companies that limp by from sale to sale and product to product, and companies that carry customers with them and grow stronger with every success. You don’t have to be a big corporation to pull it off, and it’s never too early – or too late – to make a start.