Telling Your Story: A Guide To Branding For Small Businesses
Nike is more than their white swoosh. Mouse ears aren’t the only thing that makes Disney loved. And Coca-Cola is more than script letters on a red background for a fizzy drink.
Your brand is more than a logo. It’s the look and feel that creates a vision in the minds of your customers. In short, a brand is the story you tell about your business through marketing—both internally and externally.
Creating The Perfect Brand
How do you tell the story of a brand? It might seem like an elusive fairytale. But with a little creative effort, proper branding is the thing that will set your business apart from the others. Your brand is so much more than the product you sell. People buy from companies that they believe in, so your brand should tell your customers who you are. Let’s explore how to create a solid brand.
1. Define Your Brand
Our first stop is defining your brand. The best brands in the world are more than their products. It’s nice to make money, but that’s not all they want to do. Let’s take a look at Nike, Disney, and Coca-Cola’s mission statements.
Nike aims to “bring inspiration and innovation” to every athlete in the world. Disney seeks to be the “world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.” And Coca-Cola wants to “inspire moments of optimism and happiness.” See a pattern?
Inspiration and innovation.
Entertainment and information.
Optimism and happiness.
These are their higher purposes that have made them so successful. Sure, the words might be a bit vague, but they’ve developed the perfect way to sell to their customers.
Think about what it is you want to do with your company. Then, think of the people you want to sell to. You should know the people who will purchase your product or service. These “people” are your personas. A Nike brand persona might be a high school athlete, working out daily and striving to earn an athletic scholarship. A Disney brand persona might be a young family that wants to escape from the endless carpool pickup and have some fun together. A Coca-Cola brand persona might be a group of friends having a backyard cookout.
When you’re thinking about your small business branding, think first of the higher purpose your business can serve. Then, figure out your brand personas, or the types of people your brand will target. Put this together to begin your brand’s mission statement.
2. Develop Your Messaging
With your higher purpose and brand personas, a mission statement is next. When you open up a business, you should have something that you believe in. Maybe you want to donate to your favorite charity. Or maybe you just want to stop the world from getting a bad haircut—we’ve all been there!
Use this higher purpose to stop and develop your mission statement. You’ll also need some kind of tagline or slogan. If you had only a few words to share with your ideal customers, what would you tell them? This is what your company conveys to its customers.
Nike wants to inspire athletes of all ages, and it provides athletic products that help them perform better. “Just do it,” Nike says, which is right in-line with their mission statement.
Disney wants to entertain and delight, and it has movies and theme parks that make that happen. “The place where dreams come true,” Disney says. And their theme parks and movies create that.
Coca-Cola wants to inspire moments of optimism and happiness, and their beverages hope to do that. “Taste the feeling,” Coca-Cola says of its beverages. This tagline shows the possibility of fun.
What key messages does your brand want to communicate? And how will your brand sound when it shares those messages? Your brand needs a voice! If you aren’t sure what you want to say, there are a few tricks you can use to determine your brand’s tone of voice. There are even strategies to optimize that voice for your target audience.
Your brand messaging and mission statement will be used in every branding, marketing, and sales effort moving forward. It should be clear, concise, and free from error. While your lifestyle business may not be the giants that are Nike and Disney, locking in solid messaging now gives you (and the company) the core branding as a guideline for all projects moving forward. It’s more than just a few sentences, it’s the brand foundation. Try out these worksheets to solidify your mission statement and messaging.
3. Create an Identity
Next up on the road to great branding is creating a brand identity. This will be the look and feel of your brand. It’s the visual and physical look of all your branding, but it also encompasses what people feel when they do business with you. To find your brand identity, think of:
The emotional appeal you want to show
Once you know the three things above, it’s time to create! The first thing you should do is choose a color palette for your brand. Using color psychology is a great way to lend some emotional appeal to your branding. You’ll also need to choose your typography. What you say will be presented in this font, and it can have a lot to say. Certain fonts evoke different images in the mind. Cursive might be great for a farmhouse style bakery, but modern block lettering may be a better choice for a contemporary home contractor.
Now, it’s time to think of your imagery. This includes your logo, but it also includes your packaging, website, and anything else that’s visual. If you already have a logo, see if it matches your audience, mission statement, and emotional appeal. Your logo is your brand in a picture, so it’s important you don’t send the wrong message! Think of how Nike’s swoosh and its forward momentum has the same inspiration and innovation described in its mission statement. Disney uses Mickey Mouse ears and the storybook castle located at its theme parks to convey a message of entertainment. And Coca-Cola’s white script lettering represents a care-free lifestyle.
It’s best to hire a professional designer to help with your logo. Keep in mind, your logo design should reflect your mission statement and customers while being memorable. You want to stand out from the competition without being too over the top. Your brand image is what your customers end up perceiving of your brand. Check out this awesome workbook that has everything you need to create your perfect brand identity.
And remember, you may know most of your favorite companies by their logos, but it’s the identity behind it that you want customers to remember. Without the clean packaging, innovation, and simple color representation of Apple, their logo is just a copy of Snow White’s least favorite treat.
4. Encourage Consistency With Brand Guidelines
Brand definition, brand identity, and brand messaging are a great start. But, a true brand includes every aspect of your business. From your mission and logo to how your team members dress and answer the phone, your brand shows. A brand’s story plays out for both internal and external audiences, and the story needs to remain consistent at all times.
Your company should develop standards that make your brand come alive. Brand standards are the guidelines for how your brand is presented. How will the brand be shown in physical environments, like retail stores? What about in your employees’ conversations and interactions with customers? Even your physical packaging and social media need to be on brand. Think about some of the well-known brands mentioned above.
When you walk into a Nike store, the company designs the layout, lighting, and signage to be athletic.
When you visit a Disney park, the company trains the characters to interact with visitors in a fun and dreamy way.
When you grab a can or bottle of Coca-Cola, the company’s logo is fun and recognizable.
You should create brand standards and guidelines to help your brand be consistent. A lot of companies do this by creating an employee manual. This will help employees familiarize themselves with the brand guidelines. Different employees will need different manuals, but the brand guidelines sections should remain consistent throughout the company. For help, this article goes over everything you should include in your guidelines. Employees should feel invested in the brand and the future projects the company will do.
Remember, you and your team members need to believe in the brand. The more you believe it, the more you and your employees live it, which establishes a memorable brand.
5. Avoid Brand Killers
Just like a bad tire can ruin a road trip, a business mistake can affect your brand. Even the best-known brands make mistakes from time to time. Many fall into these five categories:
Not Unique Enough: Your brand needs to be unique. If your competition offers everything that you do, it’s hard to develop a strong brand identity.
Poor Brand Experience: Think about the places where customers interact with your brand. Those places include your website, on the phone with customer service, at a bricks-and-mortar location, etc. If those interactions aren’t up to your brand’s promise, your brand’s value diminishes in the eyes of your customers. When a reviewer mentions good customer service, they’re 5 times as likely to leave a 5-star review. Your reviews and feedback are a measure of your success, so make sure your customer service is on par with your brand.
Bad Customer Service: This one is tied to brand experience. Poor customer service is one of the fastest ways to destroy your brand’s value.
Expansion Issues: Stick to what you do best. When you’re ready and when you have the resources, it’s OK to expand into new products or services. If you aren’t ready, though, you’re putting your brand at risk.
Inconsistency: Again, your brand needs to remain consistent at all times. Follow and enforce brand standards.
Brands don’t always get it right. Nike stretched too far with its venture into golf, which ultimately flopped. Disney also stretched too far, opening a park in Paris that lost money year after year. And Coca-Cola made one of history’s best-known branding mistakes. In 1985, it turned away from consistency when it changed its original formula to create New Coke.
If you make a branding mistake, it doesn’t mean that your company will fail. Own up to the mistake and then make it right. Sometimes, it’s a really easy fix. It’s never too late to make your brand better for your customers.
Prepare for Success
Before launching, give your brand the 5-point inspection. While you’re not serving as many customers as Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola, you might someday! It’s important to establish the right branding now so that you don’t have to redo it later. Prepare for future success, and it’ll be a lot easier as it comes!