If you are involved in website development or creating flyers or brochures there will be decisions to be made on colour and design. This often leads to a discussion on ‘brand identity.’ But what is Branding and is it worth the time and effort for a small business?

This is not a ‘how to do branding post’ there is plenty of information available on that topic. Before diving in, first think through the potential value of branding to your business. It could be the perfect investment but it might not.

What Is Brand

There are many definitions of a brand. Here’s my attempt – Your brand is your core message. It is what you offer to the marketplace. The problem you solve. It covers your vision and values and it should project some of your personality. That’s quite a list!

Once you have established your brand it becomes what the marketplace expects from your business. Consistency is vital as is a total commitment to whatever the brand stands for. You cannot fake it. If you believe branding is a box ticking exercise then save your money and move on.

The Value In Brand

Until the late 1800’s commodity items like flour or soap were just that. You bought a piece of soap. There was no choice between twenty or more different varieties. There was no manufacturers mark, there was no differentiation, you just bought soap. That changed in 1879 when Proctor and Gamble started selling Ivory Soap. Many suggest this was the first branded product.

Then you could buy soap or you could buy Ivory Soap. Now there was a point of comparison, of differentiation. That, in essence, is where the value in brand lies. Now Proctor and Gamble could try to build a positive narrative around Ivory Soap. If they succeeded then it was probable they could charge more for Ivory Soap than plain old soap.

A strong brand Improves recognition and provides a focus for promotional activity. It creates a sense of belonging for employees. It can help to increase the level of referrals. Crucially it helps build consumer trust but be careful that trust can be destroyed in an instant.

The Elements Of Brand

Your brand must be recognisable. The company name is crucial as is any tagline that can be attached to that name. Colours are important as is the logo.

The key point is FIRST comes the definition of ‘what is your brand’ (see above) FOLLOWED by the brand elements. This makes the definition of the brand elements quite a tricky exercise. It’s a lot more than ‘that looks nice.’

Your brand expression is important. It is a key building block of your brand. Again consistency is key.

Branding For Small Business

Will a strong brand make a difference for your business? That is the key question to ask yourself.

If you are not really good at what you do then branding is probably not for you. If you are a small business and you are average admit it. It’s fine, by definition the majority of small businesses are average (take a look at the normal distribution curve) and they get along.

If your business is not great, particularly at customer service, no amount of branding is going to help. If you are a large business but average to awful at what you do successful branding can give you an edge (at least for a while). If you are a small business that is not going to work.

If you are good, successful branding will help set you apart from the rest. It can help increase the prices you can charge. It will help generate referrals (assuming you have a referral process). It will improve your lead generation activities and reduce their cost. It will help you retain and hire better staff. All that has a value, how much value is difficult to define.

It is important to estimate what value a brand may bring because (in my humble opinion) branding is not work for the amateur. The above discussion should illustrate that point.

The issue for small business considering employing a branding agency is which agency to choose. Unfortunately, there are plenty of marketing agencies that also think branding is just design, colour and logo. Finding an agency that ‘gets it’ and delivers good work is far from easy.

Small Business Brand Cost Indications

So what does a good quality branding exercise cost? That’s a very difficult question to answer because it depends on the requirement and the agency. For a professional job I estimate the cost will be more than £2,000, possibly a lot more.

Once a brand is established it should be there for the life of the business. A branding exercise is a one off cost. The cost of the branding exercise can therefore be amortised over many years. The hard part is delivering consistently against the brand over the long term.

At first sight, branding may seem one of those soft and fluffy elements of marketing. That is wrong; branding is a job for a professional and good ones are not cheap. There are then the sundry costs of print and so much more.

Branding costs can be quantified but the value of a branding exercise to a small business remains elusive. All that can be done is to make a best guess then proceed (or not).

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