Coca Cola, Adidas, Disney. What connects these different and yet similar companies? A strong brand that you also need.
Even if you are not swimming (yet!) among big fish, you should take care of how you are seen by future and current customers and partners.
So how to create a strong brand identity for a small business – and what should you know about branding?
What is a brand?
In short, a brand is everything that the recipients think about your company or offer, what they associate it with, how they experience it and what emotions it evokes in them.
That is why – consciously or not – each business builds its brand from the very first day of its existence.
People running freelance businesses or small companies often do not even think about branding, i.e. deliberately creating brand awareness. Meanwhile, the sooner you start implementing a well-thought-out image concept, the better you will be seen in the eyes of customers.
The result of creating a strong brand identity? Greater recognition, competitive advantage and customer loyalty.
Why should I create a strong brand identity for my business?
Given a choice, most entrepreneurs prefer to spend their time and money building a solid business rather than implementing fancy own brand strategies.
But believe me: building your own brand is an integral part of building a solid business!
Why? Because when you create a strong brand identity, you are telling your customers your story. You show them what your company really is. This has to be done using any available means of communication, such as the website, social media accounts, business cards, and even the invoices you send them.
Your brand is built to be a true representation of who you are as a business, and how you wish to be perceived.
Let’s set something straight: Reputation builds up, whether the business does something about it or not. The result can be a good or bad reputation. Understanding and using branding only means that you take the reins and try to control what that reputation looks like. This is why it is recommended to consider branding from the very beginning of your business.
A business identity is much more than a free logo.
This is one of my favourite sayings, and it’s especially true when it comes to creating a strong brand identity.
Building your own brand means capturing the unique characteristics of your business: what it is about, how it was created and what it strives for. If you don’t know who you really are and what you are good at, you will never reach your full potential.
It’s the same with your business: if you can’t show what your business really is, you won’t be able to run it for too long.
So how do you get to the heart of your business? Building a corporate identity does not end with creating a brand logo, nor does it start here.
Marty Neumeier, in the book The Gap Brand, explains that, “a brand is the feeling that a person has after contact with a company or product.“
At the root of these emotions is the so-called brand identity, i.e. its unique personality, mission and vision. So before you start branding, consider:
Every entrepreneur should answer these questions at the beginning of their journey. They help define the way of action and communication, and as a result – create a strong, valuable brand.
Show your company's history.
You can do this by using certain tools. There are many logo maker programs on the Internet, you can literally create them in a matter of seconds.
Then you just need to integrate them nicely into the invoices you send, post them on your website and business cards – ready!
But is it really? Well, NO!
Does your logo really say something about your company’s history? Does it sum up your business? Or is it just screaming, “Look, I used a free online tool and created a logo in five seconds“?
It probably is.
Everything you express is a kind of message to the recipient in a way.
So you need to think carefully about exactly what message you want to convey to him.
This should be taken very seriously. One of the smart solutions is to ask for a help of a specialist. Even though this may seem like an unnecessary expense at first, trust me: it’s worth doing.
But if you’re just starting your own business, you might not yet be able to afford top-notch branding professionals. It is understandable.
If you really don’t have the funds to hire a specialist, ask yourself the following five questions to help you build a good image for your company:
How to create a brand yourself - 5 steps
1. What does your company do?
It is apparently a simple question: if you are a plumber – you install and repair sewer pipes.
If you sell handcrafted cutting boards – this is what your company does.
But think: why should the client come to you and not to someone else? Why should he spend the money on YOUR cutting boards? This brings us to question two.
2. What makes your company unique?
The key to professional company communication is to find your UPF, i.e. a unique product feature.
Perhaps your unique feature is that you are an extremely good plumber, because you have always been involved in it: your father taught you this, who before that was introduced to the secrets of the profession from your grandfather?
Or maybe you can work faster than others because you have invested in a special technology? Whatever trait it may be, it has to be truly unique.
Your task is to find it!
3. Who are your customers?
Now that you know what the foundation of your business is, it’s time to think about your customers.
Who do you sell your product to, and who should use your services?
Do you install plumbing in newly created offices, or do you specialize in old buildings?
Define your clientele (aka niche) as accurately as possible, but at the same time be open-minded. Sometimes the target group of customers may turn out to be quite different than initially thought.
Reach out to customers, ask them questions, talk to people to find out what they really need.
4. What language do your customers speak?
Now we come to the difficult point. Because it is not about languages such as Chinese, Russian or English, although this is of course also important if you are running an international business.
I’m talking more about non-verbal language that is expressed through media, culture and the like.
For example, teenagers use a completely different language than their parents, and they are also spoken to by different visual stimuli.
Try to identify this non-verbal language of your clients:
What visual stimuli attracts their attention, what words do they use, what colours do they like?
5. Find your voice.
Knowing exactly what your company will do and knowing its target audience, it’s time to take the last step: express yourself.
You need to find a way to talk to your customers in the language they speak the most, without losing your identity.
If your target audience is law firms, consider using a very elegant font, for example.
On the other hand, if you want your product to be bought by young people, choose the font that best appeals to them. The same is true of colour and style, as well as choosing the right words and also a logo design.
A brand needs a logo.
Once you know the values your small business brand is based on, it’s time to take care of its visual side.
Start with the logotype – a graphic representative of the brand, it’s usually a symbol.
If you think that you do not need a logo when running a one-person business … you are wrong!
It will help you stand out from the competition at first glance and show your uniqueness. Thanks to it, you can evoke the desired associations in the recipient.
Importantly, the logotype does not have to – and sometimes should not – obviously refer to the subject of your business. Its main role is to summarize the brand image or convey a selected value.
When deciding on a logo for your brand, take into account that it should meet several criteria. They are, among others:
Now when you know what your logo should include, you need to decide whether you want to (and can afford!) to hire a graphic designer to design a bespoke logo for you, or if you want to try it yourself.
The graphic design tool that is particularly useful in creating a logo is Canva.
If you don’t know what it is, let me explain.
Canva is a graphic design tool which lets you design absolutely everything!
From logos to business cards and menus – you can choose from hundreds of available templates to start with, or simply start from scratch.
There are also tonnes of free images, graphics, logotypes, videos and other resources available in Canva library, so you can create the most complex logo that you imagine!
Below you can see only a glimpse of what you can find in Canva library:
You can get your FREE account with Canva by simply registering with your email address.
Canva also offers a 3o-day Canva PRO subscription which gives you access to a premium features, such as resizing your graphics to any format you may want, thousands of premium graphics, millions of quality stock images and graphic collections, which massively help with staying consistent when you want to create a strong brand identity.
Create a consistent image.
Another important element of the brand is its visual identification.
It is a tool for creating an image, and it is a set of all materials that are at the point of contact between the brand and the recipient.
The logo belongs to the visual identification, just like the company name.
Its other elements are:
If you want to create a professional image, you should ensure the consistency of all these “ingredients” of your brand.
Of course, if you run a small business, you probably won’t need a lot of material. However, it is important that the ones you use form a consistent whole.
Thanks to this, you will not only look great – customers will remember and associate your company much easier.
Small Business Brand - Do You Need One?
The brand is not a question of demand. It’s something you already have and can use to serve your business.
Conversely, if you neglect your brand, it will hurt your business.
The client pays not only for what he actually gets, but also for the atmosphere, a certain lifestyle, a specific experience.
Well-known brands give a sense of belonging to an elite club ruled by luxury.
Nothing prevents your brand from evoking specific, desired associations. You just need to create it consciously and responsibly.
Remember, however, that neither a logo nor a complete visual identity will replace your brand’s personality.
First of all, make sure to provide and communicate value to your recipients, and treat the visual materials as complementary.
Creating your own brand is a long process. Be thorough, pay attention to details, ask for advice from friends, family and clients. Take your time – in the end it always pays off.
Because once you’ve built a solid brand, it tells the true story of your business.