The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." Brand is lofty term that means a lot for you and your small business. Developing a brand is a challenge for any business, small or large. It brings up key questions — How do you generate awareness? How do you create a strong reputation? What does your business stand for? What differentiates you?
A brand is more than a logo or a tagline; it's the impression someone gets when they see your business name in print or they hear it from a friend. First impressions go a long way, and it's very difficult to change a brand's image once it has been created. Some businesses find that they can't quite find a good fit and change the key elements of their brand — often altering the first thing that people see.
Companies also go through various stages of re-branding — a recent example is Overstock.com to O.co. When you're just starting out, invest the time to really think about what you want your business to convey. Continually changing that image is confusing — to you and to others. Decide what you stand for and stick to it. Does that mean you can't make small changes over the years as your business evolves? Of course not — but don't be rash and try to be consistent when you can.
What's in a brand?
A significant piece of your brand is the name of your business. Is it an acronym, descriptive, based on the person who created the business? Think about what your business means to you and create a name that expresses what you feel is most important — try to keep it simple wherever possible.
Coca-Cola. Apple. Ford. All of these names conjure up an image of the company logo. Many companies use their business name created in the form of an interesting design. Some use an image: a global company, use a graphic of the world. An auto mechanic, use a wrench. An electrician, try a light bulb. It's good to be creative about this so you're differentiating your business and not using the same or similar logo to the many others out there.
Taste the rainbow. Just do it. The happiest place on earth. Again, you picture the brand without much of a second thought. Create a tagline that's innovative, inspired, and to the point. You have very little time to make a first impression with only a brand, so how can you do it in 10 words or less?
At the end of the day, your brand is more than just the name, the logo, or the tagline. It's the overall image of the business you've built. You do this through customer experiences, word of mouth, advertising, public relations, websites, and more. If you do it right the first time, you'll have the future of the business to build on it. Do it wrong, and in some ways you're starting from scratch. What's your advice on building a brand, where did you learn it, and what mistakes have you made?
Lisa Promise is the founder of Promise Consulting Group, a full-service marketing, advertising, and communications consulting company for small businesses. Read more about Lisa here.