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Small business success tip: 5 things you need before a logo

Ready for 5 power small business tips that can help you have a strong brand & succeed?

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So! You have a great idea, a great product, and you just can’t WAIT to launch your brand. But you want to do it the right way. You know that to appeal to the right customers and business connections, you need to have a professional brand presentation. One that reflects your start-up in an attractive and engaging manner. In a manner that gets noticed within your industry! But… how can you get a brand that makes such a great first impression without breaking the bank?

In this article, I’ll show you how to use big business branding techniques for your small business!

It’s true, you don’t need the Roll’s Royce of identity design and a top dollar brand design agency to launch (unless you want to launch BIG from the get-go). BUT you need to get a designer who understands and applies branding principles in their work, and you need to be able to explain your brand to them, so they can really help you make an impact.

Your brand needs to be crystal clear. To you, to anyone who will work with you, and to anyone who will see your brand. Only clear brands stand out and stand a chance to be remembered.

So, before you hire a designer (or anyone else), go to an inspired place like your favorite cafe, bring your laptop or notepad, and think thoroughly about your brand. Brainstorm and then summarize the following 5 points:

  1. THE WHAT
  2. THE WHO
  3. THEIR WHY
  4. YOUR WHY
  5. UNIQUE BRAND KEYWORDS

1. THE WHAT – YOUR UNIQUE OFFERING

What makes your product or service unique? How is it different from other similar products that are already out there? List all key traits.

What is your strongest, most compelling key offering? Avoid being all over the place even if you have several products and offerings (remember, clarity!). Find the main offering you want to get known for. Then, ask yourself: what are secondary things you may like to offer? (write them down but be careful – too much variety can quickly dilute a brand, and there goes the clarity… In case of doubt, leave it out!)

Create a mood board if you have time! Collect visuals that are great examples for the feeling of your brand, your style, materials and so on. This can really help designers, copywriters, even yourself, to quickly “get” your brand! A good collage can be a quick reference to help communicate your brand consistently, and with the right emotion. You can use InDesign, but pinterest may be easiest. Create a mood board and add notes for each pin, describing what it means in context with your brand. If you’re not a visual person, ask your brand designer to help you.

I created such a mood board for a Caribbean restaurant, to help them clarify their brand:

mood-board-caribism_web

with this pinterest mood board, I visualized the feel and style of the brand

2. THE WHO – WHO ARE YOUR BEST CUSTOMERS

Most businesses are scared to specialize and try to appeal to a broad mass of people. Doing this successfully is very hard – especially when there are big competitors, speaking to the same customers. Can you specialize? It doesn’t make sense for all businesses, but consider if it could work for you. If you find a niche, it can be worth gold: you’ll have the possibility of word of mouth, and you’ll be the expert – a big fish in a small pond.

Who is your ideal customer? If you’re a fashion designer, “who is your IT GIRL”? Who would LOVE to wear your fashion? If your business is service-based or if you’ll be in close contact with your customers, also ponder whom YOU would love to have as customer. Who do you work best with? What type of person do you resonate with? Where is the good energy?

What’s her age / character / values / lifestyle / what types of things does she love? What type of area does she live in? What does she do in her spare time? Think about associations and clubs she may belong to… if you know where she hangs out and shops, you know where your brand needs to be. Using movie character or celebrity examples may help as reference.

Most likely, you’ll have several ideal customer types. Describe them all, but stay within 3-5. You will likely find additional types later, and more customer types may find you, but for strong brand communication, you need to know whom you’re talking to. For a strong brand voice, you need to keep talking to this same customer.

A Mood board of your ideal customers can help here too:

astridmueller-ambranding1I created this mood board of the ideal customers & their style for a bridal fashion brand

Visual references like this can really help your designers, brand copywriters and other staff to give your brand a clear voice – the right voice. Brands are no longer just about products. They’re about a personal connection.

3. THEIR WHY

Why should your ideal customers care about your brand and what you have to offer? Forget your product benefits for a moment – we’ll just assume everything you do is great quality. What is the EMOTIONAL BENEFIT of buying from you? Imagine a lipstick brand for example. You’re not buying lipstick. You’re buying the experience of feeling fabulous, even in casual clothes. What experience will they have when they wear/use your product?

How shall they feel whenever they see your brand?

What do you keep hearing about your brand? Everyone likes especially _(what)? And why?

Why do your ideal customers care about your brand? How does it have meaning to them?

What kind of stories about your brand may get them excited?

Anything else that your ideal customer may care about? Like made in USA / handmade …?

Why will they love to tell their friends about your brand? What cool experience can you create for them? Why is it interesting, cool, amazing or otherwise noteworthy? Think creative! By the way here’s a great book tip, read CONTAGIOUS – why things catch on by Jonah Berger.

4. YOUR WHY

Talking about contagious: If you want people to become excited about your brand, they need to feel the passion behind it. What’s your passion behind doing what you do? Do you have a mission statement for your brand, something you really believe in and want to accomplish?

Is there a unique story around why you started your brand? If you’re a key part of your brand, what’s your story? Do you have further stories from your life that relate to your brand? People love stories, and love to learn about why people do things. This helps them connect and relate to a brand. Pick your best stories and give them to your copywriter.

What’s your brand vision for 3 years, for 5 years? Write it all down. This will be priceless for your brand communication.

5. YOUR BRAND KEYWORDS

If you lead your brand merely by intuition, you run the risk of not getting a clear message across. Your brand may go unnoticed, appear inconsistent and unclear, or worse: unprofessional. That would be a bad first start!

The brand keywords are a fantastic branding tool to help you get clarity, and consistency.

What are brand keywords? They’re simply the 3-5 BEST words or phrases to describe the essence of your brand. Words that really resonate with you as “totally your brand”. Words that you can memorize and then use as reference, in everything you do with your brand.

This is my ultimate and essential branding tool that I ALWAYS use in all branding projects. Everyone who works for your brand should ALWAYS use these keywords as reference, in ALL YOUR BRAND COMMUNICATION. These secret insider words should always be the inspiration for your brand voice, colors, fonts, photography, your customer experience, your offering, all the way to your brand strategy… Using your brand keywords consistently will help you to start and build a consistent brand that people will start to notice and remember.

To define your brand keywords, do this: Write down all top terms that come to your mind.  Things / words / a feeling / a style / that are ALWAYS part of what you do. Keep writing, and keep adding similar words, until you find the BEST words that really resonate with you.

For instance for my jewelry line possibility my keywords are:

POSSIBLE | OLD HOLLYWOOD GLAMOUR | “MODERN HEROINE” | MODERN ZEITGEIST | STYLE

brandkeywords

An example how I use these keywords: For instance, if I need texts for my brand: I’ll make sure they’re always positive (full of the feeling of “possible”). I’m speaking to the “modern heroine” (my ideal customer). There may be a sense of “red carpet feeling” (old hollywood glamour), and my brand is always in a modern context (modern zeitgeist). Also, my brand always has to do with “style” – I design accessories.

You don’t always have to reflect ALL keywords, but you should never contradict them. The more keywords you reflect at the same time, the stronger and more unique your brand will appear! (This of course only works if your keywords really are unique – they must be special to YOUR brand, and define your unique brand DNA).

To continue with my example: I would probably never partner with a humane society – even though that would be a good cause (possible) it would just be too different from most of my other brand keywords. Aligning with such a partner wouldn’t make any sense for my brand strategy, and it would confuse my customers too. Also, of course I wouldn’t have the same audience in common either. That’s an extreme example, but you get the point.

So go ahead and define your unique brand keywords! What 3-5 words or terms really capture the essence of what your brand is about? Which terms really resonate with YOU? Remember this is an internal tool. You’re just using these terms as internal reference, not word for word in your communication. Once you have them, keep them sacred, memorize them, share them with everyone who works with you, and use them as blueprint inspiration in everything you do as a brand!

Want more help?

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Cheers! To your success!

 

Astrid

Comments

2 Responses to “Small business success tip: 5 things you need before a logo”
  1. Hello Astrid ,

    I read your article it is very helpful, but for the moment I am alone no IT etc etc I understand brand talk ,I do not blog I don’t now what to do ,
    but I will love your feed back after you look at my website
    So I can start some thing
    Thank you
    All the Best

    Marie Odile

  2. Hi Marie,
    Thanks much for your comment! I just emailed you back! Your site looks like a great start. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your goals & vision for your brand, and then we can discuss how I may be able to help you. Cheers! – Astrid

Thank you for dropping me a line!