The trendiest topic in the business world these days? Branding. Multimillion-dollar ad campaigns to create a logo that captures a company’s essence in a glance, glossy print ads that associate that brand’s logo with the moneyed few, a slick TV spot during the Big Game to imprint the company’s brand on the minds of its record-breaking audience: the list goes on and on.
It seems like a world far removed from that of most businesses, particularly startups who have to claw for every penny. How in the world can a startup stamp its brand image on the minds of its potential customers without going belly-up broke to do so?
First of all, according to a British support group for startups headed by women, branding starts with a company’s core identity. Self-examination, after all, determines one’s worth, said a poor, but well-branded philosopher whose name is now synonymous with wisdom. His name? Socrates.
To determine a company’s identity can make the difference between success and failure. Bottom line: that’s Branding 101. Know thyself—and what your company stands for. That doesn’t cost a dime.
Before a business owner forks over his or her life savings to a graphic designer for a logo and heads over to that posh ad agency on Madison Avenue, s/he needs to ask himself or herself a few key questions, such as:
Branding Questions Companies Need to Ask Themselves
- What does this company stand for?
- Who are our target customers?
- Why will they buy from us instead of our competitors?
- What is a three- or four-word phrase that captures the essence of the company?
- If the company had the money, who would be its celebrity spokesperson?
There you go. Not a dime spent, and the company has already defined its brand.
Create a Company Name, Logo, and Slogans that Fit the Brand
Next, find a clever name and slogan that fits with the answers to those questions. A logo will cost a company some money, but that money will be well-spent if the company uses its logo design in a low-cost, high-impact campaign.
If the company sells products, labels with the company logo can attract the eye of its potential customers. If the company sells services or ideas, stickers that cost little, but are hot commodities in both the techie and millennial communities, can help spread the word.
The good news? A company needn’t pay both a graphic designer and a printer. A high-quality label printer will have a designer on staff that can handle both jobs—at a price even startups can afford.
Find Low-Cost Ways to Promote the Brand
After the company brands itself with an identity and its logo, then it’s time for it to expand into other low-cost ways to promote its brand. Start with social media. In most cases, it’s free. Well-thought out posts and photos that keep the brand identity at the core of every posts can gain online traction quickly. Use that logo that the label designer created to stamp the company with its unique identity—on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat—wherever the company’s target customers congregate. Social media costs nothing, but pays huge dividends if done right.
A company website may cost a few dollars, but is well worth the money. The same is true for business cards. Use that logo that the label company created for the company on everything. Start using those labels and passing out those stickers.
Invest a few more dollars in a spam-free email program through which the company can send newsletters. Again, make sure that the company newsletter stays true to its brand identity. It doesn’t have to be long. Just include a short article plus some links to information that will help the company’s target customers solve their most pressing problems.
Make the Physical Location Reflect the Company Brand
If the company has a physical location, it needs to transform its home into a place that reflects its brand image. It doesn’t have to be costly. It just needs to reflect the brand’s identity. The logo should be prominent on everything from the company’s letterhead to its signs.
Branding a business needn’t send its owners to the poorhouse. If done well, these low-cost ways to create and promote its brand should make revenue flow into its coffers.