Branding for small businesses – a luxury or necessity?

brand cloud
Seth Godin's definition of brand

I read an article recently which said that branding is a luxury for small businesses

I quote:

“So many of my company’s clients want to brand themselves–to be known in a sea of competitors as the best. And while this is certainly possible, it takes deep pockets and lots of time — something most small businesses don’t have.

And so I say that branding is a luxury.”

I don’t agree and would argue that, far from being a luxury, branding is in fact a necessity for any business, no matter what the size.

I would go further and add that an organisation’s brand is created organically whether the company orchestrates this or not.  So, better to be in the driving seat than in the dog house, I say.

5 reasons why branding is important

  1. your brand differentiates you from the competition
  2. your brand gives your organisation a personality that makes people want to talk to you (or punch you, Mr Go Compare)
  3. your brand gives you some internal structure and uniformity for everyone to adher to
  4. your brand makes you recognisable
  5. your brand will lead to sales (which you can prove if you track your lead generation to sales conversion)

In my book branding is more than the colour palette and font you choose for your corporate identity. Here’s what Seth Godin thinks branding is all about.

I like the idea of the brand personality, which is much more encompassing and acknowledges the role the company culture plays in driving sales, amongst other things. 

How companies operate, both publicly and privately, is an open book thanks to social media.  Disciplinaries and sackings because of Facebook status updates are nothing new nowadays.

In start up’s the brand personality tends to be derived from the founders who are, more often than not, the company personified. 

Yes, fonts, colours and adverts play their part in creating a brand. 

As well as glossy TV ads some big brands with lots of money to spend have also created customer rituals that extend the brand further and create habits (and therefore repeat purchases) only associated with that brand. 

This article from Pitch Design (sign in required) cites the Guinness part pour/settle/top up, Kit Kat’s breaking of the foil before snapping off a finger of wafer and Harley Davidson’s low wave peace sign salute to fellow HD riders as examples of successful branding rituals.

But here are some of the ways that a brand is really created (mostly without spending any money): 

  • how the phone is answered
  • how emails are answered
  • what the ‘contact us’ email address is (ie bog standard info/enquiries/sales@ … or something a bit more interesting like hello/pig/talktome@ …)
  • out of office messages for phone and email
  • website (especially the Meet the Team page)
  • employees (calibre, motivation, happiness, ambassadorial tendancies)
  • how the outgoing post is presented and addressed
  • the weight of paper used for outbound letters
  • the tone of voice used in customer communications
  • the design of company t-shirts
  • the presentation slides (look and content) used
  • what employees say about the company when the boss isn’t in earshot
  • company values
  • what customers, prospects, competitors and peers say about the company
  • and it’s even what employees wear to work*

*I smile when I think about the Learning Poolie who once said, “I like that we can wear our own clothes to work.”

This list is by no means exhaustive, I’m sure you can add your own ideas (please do!).  The key is about recognising all the customer touchpoints and using them as precious opportunities to enforce the brand.

Any company going places will pay attention to its brand development, nurturing it with as much passion and dedication as sales.  No matter how much money they have to spend.

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