Many small businesses owners think that branding is something only for large, established businesses or that it is far beyond what they can manage. You might think your business is too small or you are not at the right stage to be worrying about your brand. Branding is important for all businesses of any size at every stage and it is easier than you think. Creating a consistent brand is key to developing an effective strategy.
Branding affects what your customers and prospects think when they encounter your business. Your brand should reflect your target audience, your business objectives and be consistent across everything you do and offer. Lack of consistency will create confusion for your audience and dilute your brand.
You do not have to go crazy and hire a branding agency to ensure you have an effective brand. There are some simply steps you can take to ensure a consistent brand that is appealing to customers and prospects.
Match Your Brand to Your Target Audience
Your brand absolutely must match your target audience. Make sure you fully understand who your target audience is when considering your brand elements. If you run a tutoring business, you might at first think you are targeting students. But are they paying for the services? You might instead be targeting their parents. Those are two very different audiences. There is a likely overlap, though you must fully understand your audience so your brand matches. Students might find a more informal brand¬¨‚Ä†appealing, while mom and dad want to see something more serious.
Consider where your customers and prospects are likely to be found. That will help you not only determine your brand, but will help you decide where to deploy it as well. Tumblr might be an obvious choice for targeting students while reaching out via Quora or LinkedIn might not. Choose communication channels and marketing approaches that make sense for your audience, as that will affect your brand perception.
Do not emulate your¬¨‚Ä†competition.¬¨‚Ä†Presumably¬¨‚Ä†you have a different audience that you are targeting, so your brand should reflect that. If you copy your competitor’s brand, style, message, and approach you risk not distinguishing yourself as minimum and getting caught at worst. Customers and prospects will notice. They will wonder if you are not original in your branding, how will you be original in what you do for them.
Start by ensuring that you use the same logo everywhere, from your website and business cards to your social media profiles and letter head. Customers and prospects associate your logo with your business. If it is not used consistently or if there are multiple logo treatments, this will confuse people. Eventually they just tune it out. You want someone to see your logo an immediately know that it is your business.
Amprewave, for example, has only four ways you can use the logo‚Äö√Ñ√Ælogo and business name together or just the logo, in either full color or white. That is it. The preference is for the logo with the business name together and in color. This is what we use on our website, letterhead, business cards, and where ever possible. If the logo will sit on a solid field, especially when it is a blue or gray field, then the logo can be white. We use the logo without the name for social media and icons. That is it. We do not deviate from this which allows our customers and prospects to identify us across channels and mediums.
Consistent Color Palette
Use the same colors everywhere. Colors can be almost as powerful as logos. Red is¬¨‚Ä†reminiscent¬¨‚Ä†of Coca Cola, green is associated with Fidelity, and magenta is associate with T-Mobile. You should have a defined color¬¨‚Ä†palette¬¨‚Ä†for your business and use it consistently. Choose two to three primary colors and two to three secondary colors. Any more than that and the color¬¨‚Ä†palette¬¨‚Ä†starts to get diluted. Use your primary colors where ever possible. Secondary colors are supporting colors.
You will notice that blue and gray are the primary colors for Amprewave. We have a different shade of blue, a lighter shade of gray, and a green color that we use for our secondary colors. We almost never deviate from this and when we do it conscious, usually for a specific campaign. Consistent use of brand colors will help people recognize and associate your business with a color, even if the color is as common as blue like ours.
Consistent Message, Voice & Tone
Is your brand classy or playful? Are you targeting a high end market or the everyday consumer? These are important consideration when thinking about how your speak to your clients and prospects. Voice and tone represent the way you sound to people who are interacting with your brand and you want them consistent with the image your are presenting.
A retailer of high-end fashions is probably not going to use a playful tone or voice in their brand marketing. It would not make sense. Fashion is¬¨‚Ä†aspirational¬¨‚Ä†and people expect high-end fashion to reflect their aspiration. That is why you never see Bulgari watches splashing around on the beach. You do see Swatch watches on the beach, however Swatch is not an aspirational brand. They are targeting a young and active audience that wants a watch that will match their lifestyle‚Äö√Ñ√Æthey are not dropping several grand on their watch.
Your brand message should match your brand objectives. The language you use and the way you present it all affect how your customers and prospects will view you. When you respond via social media channels, keep the language, voice and tone the same as what you have on your website. When you interact with people in person, on the phone, or via email the language, voice and tone should remain consistent with your brand.
Consistent Look & Feel
Having a consistent look and feel is critical to your brand. Your website should fully match your brand. Your business cards, letterhead and packaging should all clearly reflect your brand. Banner ads, newspaper inserts, magazine spreads, and any other advertising you do should be full consistent with your brand. Always review anything being put out on your behalf to ensure consistent look and feel.
Ensure that all aspects of your brand compliment each other. If you logo is big and chunky with a playful color scheme, do not introduce a website design with small, elegant typeface and a muted color scheme. You want every aspect of your brand to have a cohesive look and feel that exemplifies what you and your business are all about.
You and your team should reflect the brand as well. Dress appropriate for your brand. If you have a laid back brand, then do not go into a client meeting dressed in a suit. That will only create unease. Conversely, if you have a professional brand then it probably makes sense for you to wear that suit. Of course, match what is appropriate for whatever you are doing, but do not deviate too far from your brand.
One¬¨‚Ä†caveat¬¨‚Ä†to all of this, do not be afraid to change your brand. If your logo needs a refresh or you feel it no longer reflects your brand image, then change it. Just do not change it too often. This applies to every facet of your branding. Business objectives change, audiences change, and your brand can and should change when it makes sense to do so.
Avoid constant changes to your brand. This will only confuse your audience and create a disconnect with customers and prospects. You can easily undo years of work building your brand by making a change that is ill conceived and not well considered. Approach brand changes carefully. Incremental is often better than a wholesale change. But the point is, change is fine when done infrequently and when it is well thought out.