What do we mean when we talk about “Branding”? To compete with national chains, you’ll have to have a strong grasp on this concept — especially if you’re just starting out. Part of why huge companies can move so easily from state to state is because of a concept called “brand recognition.” When consumers recognize a brand, they feel comforted and will likely choose this company over a smaller business they are unfamiliar with.
At its core, branding is a way for large chains to mask their product, staff, and location under one larger “sense” of who they are. While small businesses may not think they need to go to such lengths to get customers in the door, every decision you make affects your brand. A strong “identity” or “image” for your business can quickly win over new customers and grease the wheels for later expansion. It will also help you retain a base message in your marketing, and once defined, can quickly be applied to many aspects of your company.
Define Your Brand
This should be simple enough, but it can be difficult if you’ve never thought about it. Maybe you opened your salon or restaurant because it has always been your dream to do so. Maybe you inherited a family business or identified an underserved niche in your community. No matter how your business came to be, now it’s time to shape it.
First, ask yourself “what are the values and beliefs behind my brand?” Are you family-centric or devoted to remaining ahead of trends? If you really feel stumped, look at your competitors. Try to identify the ways in which you differ and the things they do that you would never put your business through. When you recognize your limits, you can begin to identify what concepts are important to your brand and create a campaign that aligns with these.
Tell Your Story
Once you’ve honed in on what your brand is, try to understand how you got there. Whether sharing the backstory for your business means reciting the generations of family members that have run and changed the restaurant, or explaining the moment you decided to open your law firm— this history matters.
For one, it’s a way to connect with your customers. Sharing this story through social media or in your “about” section in online or print advertising will help consumers get a better sense of your brand and you as a business owner. Giving them an additional route with which to empathize or approach your brand will only generate more business and help you in the long run.
Locate Your Brand’s Voice
The tone in which you tell your story is almost as important as the story itself. It’s a way for you to show a little bit of your personality, but also a way to funnel the “aesthetic” of your branding into your narrative. The font and graphic design you pick for the space where you tell your story will also be a huge factor in how it is perceived.
If you’re looking to keep it simple, make sure your design does the same. If you’re looking to tell a longer story, make sure to break it up into smaller paragraphs and consider using an infographic to get huge amounts of information across.
Remember that this section should not just be a platform for your own voice, but a means by which you can connect with your audience. Try to anticipate the kind of story your target consumer base wants to hear. There’s no shame in shaping your language to make it more accessible. That’s just smart advertising.
Identify Your Target Audience
In order to reach your community, you have to know who you’re talking to. A large part of “branding” is using design, diction, and campaigns to successfully reach your audience. In order to do so, you’ll need to define your target audience.
Ask yourself who you’re trying to reach and who you believe would regularly use your business’s products or services. If you’re trying to reach the locals who live near your small business, then try to advertise in the places you know they already frequent. If you’re hoping to steal some business away from a larger company, examine their advertising campaigns. Where do they advertise and how do they do so? Both of these factors are ways by which they are trying to hit their target audience. Once you know who you’re advertising to, you’ll know exactly how to present your brand.
Be Consistent in Your Design
After running through all these factors and finalizing the way you want to brand your business — stick with it. If you don’t see results right away, don’t worry. It may take a while to cement yourself in your market, but once you do so you need to be consistent. The customers you retain are going to return to your business because they resonated with some aspect of your brand. If you change it too quickly, you may lose out on their business.
Try to find advertising mediums that allow you to customize your ads so you can ensure your branding remains the same across all platforms. For example, through grocery store advertising you may look into coupon-receipt advertising which would allow you to print the coupon of your choice on grocery store receipt tape. That means your supermarket advertisement will go home in the pocket of every single shopper, and you can advertise your business exactly how you want to.
If you’re still trying to cement your brand, you may also look into Cartvertising. This means of grocery store advertising allows businesses to print larger ads on shopping carts, which means hundreds of impressions and unmatched repetition on your one ad. That supermarket advertisement can make huge waves in your attempt to cement your brand’s place in your community, and reach hundreds of customers every day. Best of all, because grocery stores pull the mass of their customers from a three-mile radius of the store, you’ll be able to ensure you’re reaching the people who matter most and test your ad’s success against new business.