build meaning behind your brand image
It's common to hear the word "brand" bandied about as some kind of informal description of a company's public image, but without any real context, it can be difficult to determine what is really meant. Regardless of its definition, one thing is for certain - having a brand is important. Making sure it's growing is even more critical.
So what is it? To some, it's a blend of recognition and overall desirability. Potential consumers should be able to see your product on the shelves or hear your company's name and immediately associate some kind of idea with it. When you think about Starbucks, for instance, the name itself calls up images of coffee cups, college kids in berets sitting at high-top tables and obscure hipster music playing from speakers hidden in the ceiling. The point is, the stylized cup and the feeling of this coffee shop is unique and recognizable by people who don't even use the product.
No matter what your definition of branding might be, this should be the goal. If you're trying to grow your small business, it's worth noting that establishing a world-renowned brand recognition like this one won't happen over night, but you need to start somewhere. Consider the tips below for putting the right foot forward:
You're intimately familiar with your product offering, but your consumers - and the people who you'd like to attract - are not necessarily as cognizant of what it is you're selling. To spread the word, you could print up long, informational brochures and leave them on tables in cafés or you could use this opportunity to really energize your company image. This is your chance to imbue your brand with a little something extra. For example, instead of long-winded handouts, why not go for brief, informative stickers that lead people to a website? Anything you can do to stand out from the crowd will help.
One of the best strategies for growing a brand is to come up with a plan and stick with it. No matter how you choose to build up your company's style, standards and product awareness, it's important that you give it some time to blossom. As a small business, you may have the added benefit of setting a trend locally first, before you attempt to expand your brand awareness into larger markets. For instance, if your storefront is near a popular diner or a heavily frequented espresso shop, try building a consumer base there to start with. Consistently and fervently build up who you are and what you do, so that at least one group is familiar with your style. Then, when you're confident you've saturated that market, move on to another.
Play with your ideas
There's no harm in having a little fun with your brand. If you're selling a relatively straightforward product, such as a tutoring service or an editing firm, you might want to be playful with your physical media. In keeping with the above advice, a set of stickers with a website URL attached could be an interesting idea, but a white background with plain, black text isn't exactly eye-catching. Do you have a logo? A mascot? Maybe a favorite animal? Anything you can think of that might separate your sticker from the rest will help people differentiate your product from another's. Green Mountain coffee cups look remarkably different from Starbucks', for instance, and that's how branding should be.