Building a brand for small business: Consistency is key
A strong brand presence can be achieved through thoughtful and mindful execution
The essence of your brand is what you want people to think of when they hear your company's name. Simple, right? But for small businesses, building a brand can be one of the more challenging things to accomplish. Building a brand doesn't have to be expensive; a strong brand presence can be achieved through thoughtful planning and mindful execution. Consistent visuals, tone, language and logo all work together to build the brand you want for your business.
A business's brand has the power to communicate what a company does and what it stands for. Branding can illustrate to customers what they can expect from your business, including things such as the products and services, and how your business is different from competitors. A great starting point when considering what you want your brand to become is thinking of how it will set itself apart from the competition. Defining what makes your business distinctive and what your business stands for. This will give you the foundation to building a strong, meaningful brand.
Once you've defined what sets you apart as a company, begin creating your brand essence. Define for yourself the attitude and feeling of your brand. Is it serious or whimsical? Fact-driven or emotional? Define the attitude and tone of the brand and keep it consistent throughout all platforms. As an example of this, think about a company that is known for its humorous and fun TV ads. If you saw that same brand having a serious tone on its website with only hard-hitting facts and no humor, it would seem confusing right? Avoid mixed messages like this when creating a brand.
Creating a consistent brand message and tone builds trust. According to Forbes, "Brands are built through the consistent delivery of the brand promise through all stakeholder touch points. It is the consistent, desired experience that builds trust and trust is the foundation for loyalty and promotion." A consistent brand message will build a connection between your company and your customers as well as creating positive brand awareness and affinity for partners and potential clients. But be careful - there is a difference between "consistent" and "monotonous."
A business's audiences may include customers, partners, suppliers, investors and community members. Effectively reaching all of these people requires nuanced messaging that is tailored to each audience. The trick is to create tailored messaging that speaks to each audience, while making sure that all messaging aligns with the core of your brand. Consider the main messages you want to be communicated about the business. This includes activities such as the tone used over the phone, email newsletters, website copy and other written or spoken communication. Using tools like a message map can help you organize your messaging to your various audiences and different platforms, and ensure that it all aligns. While you may use different words or highlight different elements of the business to each audience, the overall tone and theme should be consistent.
Another key step in creating brand consistency is in the visual representation of the brand. Using similar imagery and color palette in all marketing materials can create a recognizable visual, while allowing you to vary the language used to reach specific audiences. Some common expressions of a brand visual include the company logo, product packaging and any promotional materials (such as ads or brochures). What a business communicates visually, and verbally, can have a major impact on the brand as a whole.
Keeping your brand consistent will help customers recognize the name, images and brand sentiment you create. By building and maintaining a consistent brand image, you will build trust and credibility within your community and among your customers. This will all increase the chances of customers returning based on the business's brand promise.
For help building and maintaining your consistent brand, make an appointment with one of the Nevada SBDC's business counselors or sign up for a branding workshop at www.nevadasbdc.org.
(Editor's note: Lauren Thomas is a marketing intern at the Nevada Small Business Development Center. She is a fourth-year marketing student in the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business and is graduating in May in the top of her class.)