How to build a powerful brand is a pressing concern for businesses around the globe. To speak numbers, in 2024, the global advertising spend is expected to grow by 4.6%, reaching US$75 2.8 billion. That’s an awful lot of money brands are going to spend to create awareness, fight for market share, and alter consumers’ perceptions.

As a small business, this can be overwhelming. But remember one thing: all big brands today once started small.

So here’s the deal for you. In this blog, we will cut the noise and talk about how small businesses and young startups can build an everlasting brand.

What is a brand?

Your most valued asset, a brand is the sum of how your product and services are perceived by those who experience it. It’s a rigorous and continuous process shaping the perceptions of your customers, investors, employees, the media, and everyone else.

A harmonious combination of  factors like positioning, visual identity, and brand promise come together to form an image which eventually becomes the reason why customers choose you.

Understanding these pointers is the starting point, but the pivotal aspect of building a brand lies in documentation, standardizing the processes, doing work consistently, and sticking to a framework. Let’s take a closer look at how you can start.

Step-by-step strategy for establishing a small brand

Branding has been as vast, inexplicable, or chaotic as it is today. The consumer perception goes through a tsunami of thoughts every day with so much exposure - digital, native, print, radio, word-of-mouth - it’s all a big spectacle.

To bring clarity to the processes, young brands need to start at the start.

Define your brand’s purpose

The first step for any brand is to identify their reason for being- why do you exist? Apart from the reason, also pen down the things your brand stands for aside from the usual business goals.

The purpose should be clear, concise, and inspiring. It should also be communicated to all employees, stakeholders, and team members.

For instance, Patagonia’s purpose is to save the planet through various measures. This purpose is reflected in everything the company does, from its products to its marketing campaigns.

Source: Patagonia
Check out our blog for tips on giving your brand a check-up!
Learn how to conduct a brand audit like a pro.

Understand your audience

Understanding your audience involves building your ideal customer profile (ICP) and acknowledging the needs and preferences of your primary, secondary, and tertiary audience. This information can be gathered through market research, surveys, and customer calls.

Once you have a clear understanding of your audience, you can tailor your brand messaging and marketing efforts to better resonate with them.

For example, Duolingo’s Owl, which was just on the app for the longest time was brought to social media recently to rekindle a connection with their GenZ audience.

Source: Duolingo

Conduct a competitive analysis

Once you’re clear on who you are and what your audience wants, it’s time to understand how other players are operating in the market. This step demands you to research your competition thoroughly - where they are, what they say, their brand voice, colors, style etc.

This information can be used to differentiate your brand and identify areas where you can improve.  

Create your brand identity

You’ve arrived at the most crucial destination. Creating your brand identity means giving your brand a name, a logo, a voice, and a visual identity like logo, color, imagery, or layouts. These elements should be consistent across all marketing materials and should reflect the brand's purpose and values.

Experts tell us that most brands start strong and spend thousands of $ on building an identity, but absolute failure occurs in sharing it with stakeholders, storing it, and maintaining a library of assets that can be used by your team, clients, and stakeholders.

For instance, Headspace a brand that helps people release stress has a simple, clear, and minimalistic visual identity. The dot as the logo represents a calm, centered, and decluttered image.

Source: Headspace
Pro tip: All big companies in the world now deploy digital asset management(DAM) software to safeguard their assets, and allow one-click access. DAM systems facilitate easy collaboration by setting up custom permissions for both individuals and teams. It provides a single source of truth for all branded assets, ensuring consistent use of visual elements.

One of the first things to get recognized about a business is the logo, which is crucial for shaping perspective. You want it to look aesthetic, support your brand image, and evoke some emotion.

Simply put, a logo should always be relevant, but not literal.

For example, 30,000 people Google KN every month trying to figure out the car brand ‘KIA’. This is a huge challenge for a brand where the product is being recognized but the logo is misleading customers.

Source: Kia

Ideate your brand name

A crucial point of contact between the brand and the audience, a brand name should be simple, unique, and reflective of the brand’s identity. It should resonate with the brand’s values and offerings.

A strong brand name can help in creating a lasting impression and differentiate the brand from its competitors.

Identify your brand voice

Often difficult to fathom, the brand voice is simply the ‘strategy’ with which a brand talks to its customers. Is it casual? Is it friendly? Is it professional?

This helps establish an emotional connection with the audience, conveying the brand’s culture, persona, and values.

For example, RyanAir is a riot on social media, which shows off its casual, friendly, and approachable image of an airline. The brand talks in memes engages with the audience and has a lot of fun doing it.

Source: X

Craft your brand messaging

The art with which a brand tells its story, a critical factor in 2024, is brand messaging. 68% of consumers say that brand stories influence their purchasing decisions.

Clear and compelling brand messaging can influence purchasing decisions and build a strong brand image. It helps in communicating the brand's purpose, benefits, and unique selling points to the target audience.

Create your brand’s visual identity

Typography, color, imagery, and layouts are the visual components of your brand that make it a whole. Consistent use of these elements across various brand touchpoints enhances brand recognition and fosters a cohesive brand image.

After your competitive research, you will have a deep understanding of how the product or service is positioned in the market, and from there on you can accordingly decide it for your brand.

Also read: The importance of brand identity: leveraging digital asset management for impact

Define your brand guidelines

Once the creation is out of the way, it’s time for curation and distribution. After thoughtful curation when you put the set of rules that define the overall look and feel of your brand, you need to work on its acceptance, and adherence.

Brands like Uber and Google have made these guidelines public so that all their key stakeholders can access them and make collaboration seamless. For small businesses, your stakeholders are limited, so you can store all the data and relevant files in your DAM software. This will make the source ‘a truth’, which will never compromise your brand.

Measure your brand success

Measuring brand success is an abiding and continuous process that keeps brand managers on their toes. At this point, you want to measure and make data-led decisions for your brand based on surveys, focus groups, brand search volume, social sentiment, customer loyalty, and sales data.

By tracking these metrics, one can identify areas for improvement and success. For example, if your direct traffic is extremely low compared to your organic traffic, you know that the need for your service or product exists, but customers do not necessarily seek you. In this case, you need to focus more on building a ‘brand name’.

Minimalism: As the internet gets cluttered by the minute, consumers are seeking clarity, simplicity, and minimalism in brands. They don’t want complicated taglines, long messages, or a compromising brand visual - they want a clear approach.

Brands are expected to prioritize minimalism to create a more data-driven approach, facilitated by AI, enabling them to efficiently gather and analyze extensive volumes of customer data for strategic insights.

AI design: The brand world is already struggling to keep up with the AI revolution: from tools to design, it’s everywhere. The good thing is, for small brands, it’s a goldmine.

AI is enabling lean teams to customize their content, tailored to individual customers from social to website. This will have a profound impact on storytelling and resonating with the audience.

For example, global brands like Coca-Cola, Sephora, Amazon, and Nike are already using AI in customer-facing places.

Source: Harvard

Interactive storytelling & branding: The art of creating content that physically engages with your customers is here. The reason is active participation over passive engagement.

The biggest example of this would be Spotify wrapped which uses personalized user data to create the ultimate FOMO-driven campaign of the year. In fact, in 2022, over 156 million users engaged with Wrapped.

Source: Spotify

Tips for small businesses to stand out

Creating a new brand from scratch can be daunting and exhausting. While you’re at it, there are a multitude of questions, thoughts, and predicaments that will cloud your speed. Do keep in mind the following recommendations while building.

Develop a memorable brand name: Nothing that’s too flashy or complicated, but a name that sets you apart from the crowd. Go back to your core mission, brand vision, and the unique characteristics of your brand that make you different.

Stress over consistency:  Most brands spend a lot of time in developing frameworks, but very little time executing them. Have the same brand voice, consistently. Consistency refers to personality, and character and customers find it appealing when a brand follows it. This brings credibility and recognition.

Tip: Invest in a DAM system with the right features to make sure your team and stakeholders are on the same page and follow the same brand guidelines.

Be cohesive with visual identity: When designing your visual identity, think digital, print, video, static, and the branding levers you will touch. Your typography, color scheme, imagery, and other layouts should not vary.

Branding cost for small business

The kind of money you spend on building a brand depends on the industry you operate in and how your competitors are charting in the market.

As a small business, it’s advisable to spend 20% of your overall spending on brand building. This percentage decreases with time and can touch 4-10% as you grow.

These initial spends of 20% accommodate for the creation of brand visuals and brand identity, along with investment in some tools like DAM systems to store, share, access, and secure your branded assets.

Wrapping up

As a small brand, you’re fighting for mind-share before anything. Without visibility, customers won't choose you. Therefore, you must put a lot of thought into doing your research, understanding your ICP, and only then coming up with your visual identity. Honestly, it is even more important that you follow it to the T.

For small businesses, branding is not a luxury or something that can be done later on, it’s a task to be picked up on day 0. Your brand is your business driver. As discussed above, follow the framework, and ensure consistency in delivery to achieve a successful branding stint.

For seamless branding and efficient digital asset management, explore ImageKit. Our platform offers real-time image and video optimizations along with robust digital asset management tools, empowering marketers to deliver exceptional visual experiences online.

ImageKit has a Forever Free plan -  Get started now!

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