Branding Strategies for a Small Business

One important but simple thing to remember about branding.Like your muscle, it needs constant activity, often what is called negative resistance. That is the only way you can maintain your balanced muscle mass.So what the heck is branding? I found this definition very revealing.Branding is the art of ensuring an easily, positively and instantly recognizable logo, design, phrase or image of a product or a company.Let us explore that definition. “Easily positively and instantly recognizable” are key operative words to determine if the branding strategy is working. In a day we see thousands of images, read countless emails and are bombarded with ad campaigns costing millions of dollars. Do they work? Do they bring business and revenue? Or are they fleeting memory of a cute ad?

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Here are some tell tale signs of a branding exercise that is a failure.1. customers recognize the ad but not the product, except when prodded2. campaign costs more than 10% of expected annual sales revenue3. your ad advisor defines branding as sales or orders4. brand and product strategy are divergent5. brand message and content go through frequent changes6. lot of second guessing in your workplace7. lack of follow up and response on customer feedback8. management is worried about sales more than brandSo how do you turn this around? Here are a few tips.1. First and foremost, devise a product strategy before you worry about the “brand”. While not a sure-shot, if you have a sustainable product and strategy you are way ahead of the game. The brand will stick. So let us say you sell shoes. What kind? Who to? What price range? What is the lasting thing you want your customers to remember about your shoes? How can you make it easy for them to remember your shoes? these are tedious questions, but they are more important than a jingle.2. Design a brand that speaks to the product. While you may admire funky ads that have no relationship to the product or your service, these are flukes if they succeed. Forget the screeching duck (insurance company) or the laughing woodchucks (another insurance company). These companies can throw millions in ads and TV images till they get drilled into your psyche. You do not have that budget. But do solidify the image you want your product to leave with your customer or viewer.

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3. Work the brand. Use cheaper methods to spread the word out. E.g. forget print mailing–it is frightfully expensive and spotty. Use flyers, AdWords, community events, volunteer events etc. Your message and brand can be displayed much more economically than through commercial medium like TV or newspaper.4. Utilize the services of an expert in the industry, but only to get ideas. They are not much smarter than you are and they definitely do not know your vision as much as you do.5. Mind the consumer response. Be very responsive in acknowledging it, commenting on it, thanking the customer etc. This resonates for the brand. Specially in handling complaints.Good luck.