We all know what a brand is … we see them built and maintained hundreds of times daily. The key to any successful brand is consistent messaging and an unwavering visual identity. From my experience, most small businesses can’t afford to either hire or don’t know they need to hire someone or a group of people to build and maintain their brand. They tend to think it’s not an important part of starting a business.
They couldn’t be any more wrong.
Small business owners inadvertently start building your brand from the day they decide to start a business. Common questions that define aspects of a brand are:
- Who are we?
- What do we sell?
- What is our mission?
- How much will we sell our products or services?
- What should our logo be?
- Who will our customers be?
When you start asking yourself these questions, you’re laying the foundation of your brand. Either you can start to cultivate this brand from the beginning or you can pay someone to come in and start to build it for a hefty cost later. Either way, you will be building a brand whether you like it or not.
Brands are living and breathing things, and they need to be treated as such. When you build a brand, you are actually creating an identity for which your company will be recognized. You are putting a “face” to your otherwise ambiguous gray and dull company.
Let’s face it; the idea of a group of software developers crammed in to a bullpen style room doesn’t sell the software. The thought of factory workers sewing and stitching in a loud and hot warehouse doesn’t sell shoes. Business itself is not sexy and isn’t something that people associate with the product or services they buy. The brand is. Think of your new business as a cold and dull lump of gray clay. You have to take that lump of clay and pound it, mash it, mold it, sculpt it, add color to it, roll it, try different shapes and sizes until you have yourself a work of art that people will associate with your company.
That clay needs a personality that your customers can connect with, a reason to buy your product or service above your competitors. You have to give it a “face.” Interestingly enough, when you think about why people say “give it a face,” it’s so people will recognize your product or service when they see it, as if they recognize an old friend or a relative. If we all walked around with no faces, how would we know who anyone was? For the most part, the face is only way you can tell one person from the next. In crime reality TV shows, they don’t block suspects’ bodies for protection — they only block out their face, their personality, the only way to recognize them.
A brand is a promise (or sometimes an illusion) of quality. When people say, “Oh, you are paying that much for the label,” they are not entirely correct. Most of the time the products are identical but people pay extra for the brand because it comes with a feeling of quality, reassurance and often, status.
I am sure many small business owners ask, “How can I build a brand, I’m just a tiny little shop with a very limited budget?” Building a brand does not take hundreds of millions of dollars. Building a brand requires emotional connections and a great product.
The best example of this is Google. There is not a person alive who owns a computer and does not know what Google is. Google did not build their brand with a marketing budget the size of the National Debt; they built their brand with three little words: don’t be evil, and a product that would later revolutionize the way companies do business across the globe. They worked on product development more than anyone and as word-of-mouth spread like wildfire, they became a brand.