The importance of good branding to a small business

The world’s best
brands are as diverse as soft drinks, cell phones, cars, computer hardware and
software, electronic equipment, web properties, entertainment and even fast
food, but most people would readily be able to identify quite a few of them if
put to the test.

In fact, chances are,
in any given day you use the product or service of a top brand – whether it is
popping a cold Coco-Cola; using Microsoft software; driving your Toyota; making
those important calls with your Nokia phone or using a GE appliance. We rely so
much on top brands like these that we even use some brand names as verbs –
think Google. Want to find something online? Let’s ‘Google’ it!

All these top brands
have certain commonalities that small business owners can look to for
inspiration, when they consider developing their brand identity.

These factors
include: a good name and a visually outstanding logo; consistency in the
presentation of the brand’s identity; a certain connection to the community or
communities in which the brand operates; delivery of value to the public and a
particular brand ecosystem that surrounds the products or services offered by
the brand. This starts with the employees of the company and includes
suppliers, vendors and many other groups that constantly interact with the
brand.

So, how important is
it for small businesses to focus on their brand?

It is as important as
creating and launching the business in the first place. That is because, quite
simply put, your brand is the sum total of the experiences that customers and
prospective customers have with your company. Your brand communicates what your
company does, how it does it and has the very important job of establishing
trust and credibility for your business.

Your brand gives your
company a unique identity, and sets you apart from other businesses by taking
on many forms such as a name, sign, symbol, colour combination or slogan and
can influence the personality of a product, company or service.

A good brand delivers
a clear message. It resides in the hearts and minds of the consumer and
emotionally connects to your target market. It inspires and motivates a
purchaser to choose you and keep coming back for your product or service.

Is your logo enough?

Many persons think
that having a logo — even a great logo — is enough to establish their brand.
But logos are, in fact, only one aspect of your branding strategy and are
merely symbols that allow consumers to quickly recognise your company, product
or service.

How do I develop my
brand strategy?

Defining your brand
strategy should precede the process of developing a logo. Why? Because your
logo is like a small ad for your company and without a well-defined strategy it
can convey the wrong message and in turn weaken your brand strategy.

The first step in
developing your brand strategy is to define your brand. Start by asking
yourself a few questions such as: What products or services do you offer? What
are your company’s core values? What’s your mission? Do you specialise in
anything? Are you focusing on a niche market? Who is your primary target
audience?

Remember, it’s all
about creating a personality for your company that your target market will
connect to. So focus on your target audience when answering the questions and
be honest with your answers.

Developing your brand
objectives

Your brand should
communicate your company’s personality, its core objectives, strengths, values
and main characteristics. For instance, if you want to be known as a green
company, your branding can include big things such as advocating good
environmental practices at industry meetings, or smaller contributions such as
choosing recycled stationery.

Once you’ve
determined your objectives, the next step is to build and develop your brand
strategy by listing how, when and what you are going to do to accomplish and
meet your brand objectives.

To sum it up, when
planning your brand, give some time and thought to developing an identity that
customers can best relate to. If creating a brand and branding strategy seems
daunting, you can always call in the help of professional marketers.

Whatever the process,
you will get the most out of your brand if it accurately reflects your
company’s personality, image, core competencies and characteristics. Your brand
should put the rights words in people mouths when they describe your company to
someone else, and if done right you will be looked at as a leader, not a
follower.

Debbie Hand is
co-owner of Wigglypen Creative Services Marketing & Communications which
specialises in advertising and website development.

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