How to establish your business brand
Having a well-branded business is invaluable to building a reputation. Your brand helps customers understand what your business stands for. Successful business branding makes you easy to recognise and helps you resonate with customers. So what exactly is branding in business?
Business brand definition
A brand is a concept rather than a tangible thing. Your brand is how customers perceive you, and business branding includes everything from your name and slogan to your marketing and values.
Your brand is present in everything your customer sees, from your website design, colour scheme, and logo to the way you advertise your product. What you decide to emphasise and the tone you use to talk to customers are key elements of your business branding. It’s how you define your personality and values.
Brands are often mistaken for logos or slogans, but a brand isn’t a single thing. Your logo, slogan, and other trademarks are part of your brand, but are not the brand itself. They’re marketing tools that are used to help you communicate your brand.
Why do business branding?
Think about a company like Apple. What do they stand for? Simple, convenient technology that makes customers’ lives easier. How do you know that’s what they stand for? Their brand.
Because they’ve put so much work into defining their product and values through marketing, design decisions, and customer communication, you hear the name Apple and think of more than just a technology company. Lots of places sell technology, but there’s only one Apple.
In fact, 71% of UK consumers purchase more heavily from brands they trust. Brands lend your business authenticity and credibility – think about why people buy Nurofen despite generic ibuprofen tablets being cheaper – but they also help distinguish your business.
Branding your business differently than other businesses in your field means emphasising characteristics that your competitors don’t share and giving customers a reason to choose your business specifically.
How to brand your business
There are a number of steps towards branding your business. What’s important to remember as you go through them is consistency. Business branding is about consistently conveying the same message and personality across every channel.
The steps to small business branding are:
Finding your audience
Defining your focus and personality
Picking your name and slogan
Designing the look of your business
Applying your brand across your business
Finding your audience
The first thing you need to do when you’re designing your brand is know who you’re talking to. Understanding the market and what your potential customers are looking for is essential if you’re going to pick a direction for your brand.
You can analyse the market by:
Googling your product or service to see who your competitors are.
Searching product reviews on sites like Amazon and visiting product forums to learn the language customers use and the things they’re looking for.
Looking at the social media pages your audience follows to get a sense of their interests.
While you’re doing this research, identify customers you could most easily sell to, your biggest competitors, and the exact language your customers use. Coming across as relatable and relevant to your audience is easiest when you mirror their expressions.
Defining your personality
Once you know your audience, deciding your focus is easier. What will you emphasise about your product to make it resonate with customers? How do you want customers to perceive your brand? Defining your personality means answering these questions.
One way to define your brand personality is to write a positioning statement. Positioning statements clarify what you sell, who you sell to, the biggest draw of your product, and how you’re different from others in the market.
Think about the words you want customers to associate with your brand. Do you want them to think of you as witty, dependable, ethical, bold, understated, authoritative, sophisticated?
When you’re hunting for words you want associated with your business, think about your product as well as your ethos. What’s unique about it? Is it handmade, durable, waterproof, flexible, versatile?
The way your brand is perceived is a combination of your values and the characteristics of your product. Of course those two aren’t entirely separate; your values inform the product you sell. The way you communicate what your business is about should make it clear why your business is different from the competition.
Picking your name and slogan
Your business name is a way to distil everything about your business into one word. A good name is distinct and catchy in addition to being informative.
To come up with your name, think about the strategies other businesses have used. You can:
Create a word describing what you sell, like Skype (from ‘sky peer to peer’) or Netflix.
Change an existing word to make it sound more innovative, like Tumblr or Flickr.
Combine two words into one name, like Facebook or SumUp.
Choose a word that hints at your business’s benefits, like Nike (the goddess of victory) or Buffer.
Literally describe yourself, like Home Depot or Whole Foods.
Use an acronym, like HBO or IBM. Acronyms are good because you can describe your business more but still have a catchy, easily remembered name.
Like your business name, your slogan should be short, evocative, and memorable. You’ll be putting your slogan everywhere, from your website to your social media to your business cards, if you have them. A slogan is a snappy sentence, usually no more than five words.
When you’re approaching ways to write a slogan, you can:
Make a claim. Find the strongest characteristic of your product and put it front and centre.
Appeal to personality. Describe the kind of person that would use your product.
Use a metaphor. Say something exciting but clear and grounded enough to be understood.
Be catchy. A simple rhyme goes a long way towards the customer remembering you.
Snappy, affirmative slogans like “Just do it” (Nike), “Think different” (Apple), or “The happiest place on Earth” (Disneyland) are great examples. They stick in people’s heads because they’re short and have clear, emphatic messages.
If you need help thinking of a slogan, you can always go back to your positioning statement. All the information customers need to know about your business will be there, it’s simply a matter of reworking it.
Designing the look of your business
The way your business looks, both in-store and online, is an important aspect of your business branding. Are you inviting? Sleek? Simple? Your design choices reflect these traits.
When you’re setting up your store, you can do a lot to control how you’re perceived. For example, making sure customers see your fanciest products first can promote a perception of luxury. Or if you want to appear warm and approachable, arrange your store so there’s open space for customers to relax in.
Colours matter. If you want to get visitors to your store or website feeling a certain way, look into the psychology of colour. For example, do you want to come across as high-end? Using the colour purple creates a perception of wealth and sophistication.
Your font choices also send your customers a message. Are you bold, traditional, cutting-edge, stylish? Whatever your answer, it’s a good idea to keep things simple. Use 2 fonts, one for header text and one for body copy.
Every page of your website can be tweaked to create the feeling you’re after, from your homepage to the checkout screen. If you don’t have a website yet, and you want something fast and simple to set up, check out SumUp Online Store. It’s a fully functional and customisable ecommerce platform that only takes a few minutes to set up.
Once your Online Store is open, you can sell anytime, no matter where you or your customers are. The platform is free to use, with no recurring charges or hidden fees apart from a 1.67% fee per transaction.Open your online store
A final piece of designing the look of your brand is your logo. Alongside your business name, your logo will show up everywhere, even on the tiny icons you see on browser tabs. That means it’s important for your logo to be simple and scalable, so that it’s recognizable at any size.
Text-only logos are a risky decision because they aren't going to be legible at smaller sizes. Companies like Instagram use a recognizable image along with the text in their logo, so they avoid that problem.
Common types of logos include:
Mascot logos. If your business has a mascot like Wendy’s or the Michelin Man, use that in your logo. Mascot logos are a way to humanise your business, but they’re a bit of an older trend.
Lettermarks. If your business name is an acronym, a lettermark would be a good fit. Lettermark logos are a stylised version of your business initials, so they’re perfect for longer business names.
Icons. If you want to make a metaphor, consider using a recognisable icon in your logo, such as the chirping (‘twittering’) bird in the Twitter logo.
Combination logos. These are very common; companies like Facebook, McDonald’s, or Adidas use a combination of image and text in their logo. Combination logos are useful because you’ll always have an image to fall back on when dealing with smaller page displays. And especially for newer businesses, including text as well helps create an association between your image and your name.
You can design a logo for yourself easily online, either on your own or by working with designers. Sites like LogoInn are great for business owners on a budget, with design services starting from just £24.
Applying your brand across your business
Once you’ve made all the decisions about your market, values, personality, name, and design, the key part is to implement them everywhere. All the copy you write, the way you answer customer questions, the emails you send… your brand needs to shine through no matter the channel.
Applying your brand is a never-ending process, since each piece of copy you write or interaction you have needs to reflect your brand.
Communicating your brand on your website
Other than the design choices you make, one great way to tell customers what your brand is all about is by writing up a brand story. Your brand story tells visitors who you are, why you are, and what you do.
Businesses usually put this in the ‘About Us’ page of their site. A compelling brand story will cover:
What motivated you to start your business. Was there a problem you kept facing or a passion you had?
Why your business exists. This should be deeper than just ‘to sell x’. What are you hoping to achieve with your business, and why are people going to benefit from your business?
How your business contributes to the world. This is especially important to explain if you have a strong mission, or if your values play a part in your company. Are there social causes you care about? Is your business improving customers’ lives?
The story of your business. Talk about your background, your passions, and how you got where you are currently.
Your brand story is an excellent place to include lots of descriptive adjectives that reflect the personality you want associated with your brand, and to highlight the details of your product. Brand stories say “here’s what we’re about” and give customers something to identify with.
The other content on your website communicates your brand too. When you write product descriptions, the things you choose to emphasise tell customers what you value and how your brand is different. Starting a blog can be a great way to grow your brand by producing content relevant to your target audience, speaking to them the way they would speak themselves.
Communicating your brand on social media
Social media is more informal than other channels, but it’s hugely important to your customers – over 3 billion people use it each month. Since you’ll be posting and interacting with people regularly, effective business branding on social media is all about finding your voice.
When you’re looking for that voice, the three most important considerations are:
Your audience. Are they young, old, from a certain area? Different people from different backgrounds have different communication styles that you’ll want to mirror in order to resonate most effectively.
Authenticity. You should always sound like yourself instead of copying how other businesses in your field are speaking. It’ll help customers remember you, and make it easier to see what’s unique about you.
Your company culture. What does it mean to work at your business? What are your values? The way you talk on social media should reflect those values.
Visuals are also vital to branding using social media. Content with at least one image or visual gets a bigger response than text-only content. Behind-the-scenes photos, videos of your products being used, demonstrations, and more are important tools for showing off your brand.
Regular posts and engagement are key to maintaining your brand awareness on social media. It’s a fast-paced environment with a lot of distractions, so being reliably present is a huge asset. Engagements in particular are good, since by commenting and participating in discussions, you’ll make new users aware of you. Algorithms respond to reactions, so stirring the pot a little can be useful, as long as it doesn’t come off as malicious.
You can also use social media to sell directly to customers by using Payment Links, which people can click on to pay you wherever they are. You can send these links over a messaging app or paste them directly to your page.
Communicating your brand via email
Email is still one of the biggest channels companies use to communicate. Email marketing remains so popular because it lets you speak directly to your audience and control your interactions.
A further benefit of using email marketing to grow your brand is that everyone you’re emailing has agreed to hear from you. That means they already identified in some way with your brand or your product.
Turning a standard email into a small business branding tool means following a few steps to transform each one you send. Branded emails:
Include your logo. It seems simple, but getting your name in front of potential customers as often as possible will help them recognise you out in the world.
Use the same colour scheme you do elsewhere in your business. That way, you keep a consistent image of your business. The same goes for your font choice.
Add visuals. Images help your audience connect with you. The images you use should be relevant to the email topic and give customers a window into your business.
Include relevant links. You know what your audience is interested in, so help them find it. Establish your brand as a trustworthy source so customers will gravitate towards you.
Just like posting on social media, finding your voice is key to defining your brand in emails. Imagine your customer was in front of you when you’re writing them an email.
You can also spread your brand by offering gift cards to customers. Gift cards are a great way to lock people into purchasing from you specifically, get your logo and name out there, and make excellent gifts for friends or family.
Your brand is the summary of everything that gives customers an impression of your business. That includes your marketing, logo, slogan, website design, and communication style. And having a recognisable brand means giving customers a reason to do business with you.
Deciding how you want your brand to be perceived involves a series of one-time choices, while getting customers to share those perceptions is a matter of constantly engaging them. Any channel that you use to communicate with customers is a channel you should be using to reinforce your brand.
A clear brand vision helps you control the way customers feel about your business and creates the kind of audience you want.
For more tips on marketing and mastering your business, check out the SumUp Business Guide.Learn more