Big companies know a thing or two about branding, but smaller businesses and non-profits often overlook this crucial element of messaging and image development/management. This is a mistake.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pepsi? I guarantee the trademark red and blue swirl appears somewhere in your mind. Apple? White apple. Honda? Probably the Civic you passed on the way to work or the store. I challenge you to think of a common product you love and not picture their logo or latest advertising campaign. This is the power of branding.
Now, let’s try something else. What do your customers – current and potential – have come to mind when they think of you? If it’s your logo or your signature product, you are on the right path. If not, your face would be a huge plus or maybe a project you did or a company you worked with or one you used to work for. The further away from a concrete (positively correlated) image you get, the more work you
probably have to do.
Solid and memorable branding can take years, lots of hard work and a bit of cash too, but you can take a few simple steps to start creating a consistent image in the mind of your current and potential customers quickly to start you down the right path.
- Even if you don’t have a logo, pick a color that corresponds with what you do (green = sustainability/money, yellow = energy/radiance, purple – power/majesty, etc.) and make sure to use that color (the same shade!) on all of your materials. The same goes for patterns, images, etc.
- Define what you do the same way to everyone. So, if you do x,y and z, make sure to list them in that order every time and use the same terminology.
- Be characteristic of your organization. I once attended an entrepreneurial seminar where the speaker was wearing a lime green suit and explained to us that this was her company color and so she always wore it. You don’t have to be extreme, but, for example, if you are a juggler and your costume is red, then consider including some red in your outfit when you are out there networking or pitching your services.
- Accept that the days where it was possible to separate your personal and professional life are over. So, don’t do anything in public (and that includes online) that you don’t want to reflect on your business. And, conversely, allow your personality to show on the job. It’s what makes you unique.
- Remember that establishing a brand takes time and maintaining one is an ongoing task.