Top Five Tips to Brand Your Small Business

Aug 21, 2015
Quick – how do you pronounce Bangor?

A little while ago, my hometown of Bangor, Maine was fed up. They had an identity problem and needed to solve it. For too long, people around the country had referred to it as “BANG-er,” instead of “BANG-or.”

It made Bangor sound cheap, silly and, if you really think about it, a little crass. Believe me, the improper pronunciation of Bangor lead to many a joke, told mostly by airline pilots descending into the Queen City. The problem was that Bangor had a lot to offer…

  • one of the fastest growing cities in the state
  • huge opportunities for waterfront business development
  • revitalized downtown and significant cultural advancement
  • centralized tourist location

…and not enough people were listening, in part because of its name.

So – what is a city that needs a pronunciation makeover to do?

You create something fun, easy, and memorable:

Since its launch, this music video has gone viral and received a coveted NBC Nightly News spot. Other countries with hard-to-pronounce cities started jumping on the bandwagon, too.

The video is an important lesson on the power of branding – why a business needs to have one, and how you can execute a brand that will get people talking. And from a small business standpoint, isn’t that really the point? Just like the big dogs – Coke, McDonald’s, Nike – you want your brand to provoke discussion about your product. You don’t need the budget of the big dogs, either. The city of Bangor video proves even tight wallets can come away with something relevant that gets people talking. Like we mentioned before on our Buzz360 blog, once people start talking about you, it won’t be long before they start demanding your product (I want this to link to the previous post about demand generation).

So, how you can accomplish this? We scoured some of the top marketing websites out there and curated their best hits. Here’s five tips to help develop your brand.

1. Understand what a “brand” is and why it’s important to establish one.

This gem comes to us from Mary Van de Wiel, aka “Van,” who helms The NY Brand Lab and was featured in this small business forum on AmericanExpress.com. Van says your brand is less about a thing – logo, tagline, jingle – and more about the feeling you want your customers to have when they think about you. Sure, you still need some nice graphics to make things look pretty, but your brand is actually a reflection of you. It has your “personality, an energy and attitude, character, behavior, value system, code of ethics,” Van says.

Perhaps most importantly, your small business brand answers these questions for your customers:

  • who you are
  • what you believe in
  • what you offer
  • why you do what you do
  • WHY THEY SHOULD CARE ABOUT YOU

Here’s an example: Lush. Scroll to #8 on this list to find out why.

2. Establish guidelines.

But how do you create your brand? There are some key elements you’ll want to incorporate says Entrepreneur:

  • Logo (both an overarching logo and any logo lockups your company uses for individual product lines)
  • Brand colors
  • Taglines
  • Fonts and typography
  • The “voice” used in your branded materials
  • Imagery
  • Mascots and spokespeople

Hubspot is a big fan of the Dropbox brand. Click here to learn why. We especially like the clean layout and simple language they use to communicate what they do. Any non-tech-savvy person who stumbles upon its page will immediately grasp what Dropbox has to offer.

3. Define your brand by treating it as one of your customers. Like, an actual person.

Marketing Donut has this great piece by Dan Einzig from branding giant Mystery (this company is REALLY good). Instead of thinking of your brand as a ‘thing,’ think of it as ‘you.’ This approach may change how you communicate with your customers. They’ll no longer be ‘account numbers,’ but rather the living pulses that will keep you in business. You don’t just want to date your customer, you want to build a long-term relationship with them, says Einzig. To do this, your brand should deliver several things:

  • Keep your promises. If you claim, “Made in the USA,” it better be. New Balance does a stellar job explaining this.
  • Maintain your beliefs. Unglued in Fargo, ND, a store devoted to handmade artistry, has never wavered from its roots. From its needle and thread logo to its simple, instructional blog, these folks have stuck with their game plan.
  • Use a consistent voice. Imagine dating someone who seems charming and sweet during the appetizer, then turns smarmy and sneering for the main course. Who is this person?! Where did that 180 come from? The same theory goes for your brand. A consistent line of communication will help build trust with your customer. They’ll know not only what you deliver, but how you deliver it.

4. Ask your audience – “Why do you like us?”

It’s all well and good if you think you have something special to offer, but if no one else cares, you’re done for. A smart and interactive way to test your branding efforts is to develop a questionnaire. This article provided by Lou Imbriano tells you why this is a smart move:

“You should have a brand filter or a systematic questionnaire to ensure all communications and associations are consistent with the brand. This filter needs to have questions that help you determine whether or not your brand is being properly communicated and represented. For example, one question could be, “Is the vehicle or manner of communication consistent with how the brand is perceived?” If you are selling pizza dough, you may not want to promote it in a restaurant review magazine that is more targeted to people who dine, whereas a baking, cooking or trade publication may make more sense, depending on your brand filter.”

5. Be Your Own Voice.

Releasing “We Are Bangor” was just the first step for city officials. The anthem was cross-promoted among various channels – the Chamber, CVB, and EDC, among them – and the social media outreach was voracious. Wouldn’t it have been great if there was one site – a dashboard, if you will – that would’ve allowed the folks behind the video to manage the media storm that came with its branding message? And also seamlessly integrated “shares,” referrals, and promotional/image updates?

That’s what the One-Click Mobile Responsive Website provides.

Now, we have a vacation to BANG-or to book.