Small business branding: Looking beyond the logo

Client: "We need a brand; can you design a logo for us?"

Us: "Yes, we absolutely can…"

 

…but we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if we didn’t tell you that a logo is only a small piece of the puzzle that is branding and, if you want to market your small business effectively, you’ll need to consider the bigger picture.

Starting a new business is extremely difficult, and only really understood by those who have been there and done it. It can feel a little like treading water, with heavy suitcases on your back while sharks nibble at your feet. Impossible, infuriating.

Your market is a fierce one. According to the latest governmental report, over 99 per cent of the UK’s businesses are SMEs, so ensuring your brand is well considered and imaginative really can make all the difference between success and failure.

As a small business, you’re more than likely a little strapped for cash and in one heck of a rush to grow, but there are professionals out there who can help you with affordable branding that involves more than just a logo.

So let’s start with getting this “I just need a logo” myth out of the way:

A logo is not a brand, as you might have gathered by now. That’s not to say a logo isn’t important, but rather that there is so much more to it than a shiny new name and a nice icon.

As a business your logo is your identifying mark – an avatar of sorts – and the central visual element that makes your brand memorable. You can’t create a brand without a logo, yet you can’t simply down tools and hope your business will thrive the moment you’ve got the logo in the bag. 

Great small business branding evokes an emotion within your customers and, to achieve this, you need to extend your imagination beyond the logo.

Think about Nike. Their brand may seem misleadingly simple, but a great deal of time (and even more money) was spent on creating their trademark swoosh and 'Just Do It' slogan. Uplifting and energising, it inspires and motivates – which is precisely the two emotions that will move people to buy sportswear. And this is carried across their branding, which influences all their marketing strategies. In the almost forty years they have been in business they have adapted to the changing times without ever compromising the values of the brand. They sell more than just products, they sell lifestyles.

Nike illustrates our point perfectly: A logo is great, but it’s the professional branding that generates the emotions and ideals that the logo actually stands for. Without this, it’s just an image. 

Don’t panic, though, you don’t need budgets the size of Nike's to be able to create a good brand. Stay with us …

To create and establish a great brand you first need to address the three V’s: Vision, Visuals and Voice.

Vision

When it comes to approaching a small business branding agency to begin creating your brand, your first port of call before you even utter the word ‘logo’, would be to tell them all about your business. What do you do? What do you want to do? What do you stand for? What is your message? Who are you talking to? All of these questions, and the answers to them, will help form the ‘Vision’ part of your overall brand.

This is also known as your business strategy and will inform every step of the branding process from your logo and colour scheme right through to your tone of voice. It’s also a good idea to use this as an opportunity to scope out your competition; who do you like the look of? Who do you not like the look of? Who inspires you? What do you need to do to outshine them?

If you can answer these questions then you’ve got the foundations of a great brand – the professionals can help with the rest.

Visuals

Now you can begin to translate your vision into a visual representation of your business. With all of that vital information you and your branding agency can work together to ensure that your logo, colour scheme, typefaces, illustrations and any other graphics you might need actually work with your values and effectively convey your message.

The colours and shapes used in logos and graphics tell stories and create associations in a subtle and sometimes even subliminal way. By now we’ve all seen the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, and we all appreciate the smiling A-Z element of the Amazon logo. We also associate blue logos with professionalism (think AMEX or Ford) and deep reds or purples with passion and luxury (think CocaCola and Cadburys).

All of these messages can be transmitted with a brush colour and the tweak of a shape, but without the ‘Vision’ step, the project would be flying blind. Neither you nor your agency would really know what you need, and you'd risk ending up with something that looks great but means nothing.

Voice

So you've nailed your strategy and your visuals, but these alone won’t be enough for a solid brand. You need to think about your voice: What are you saying to your audience? How are you saying it? When are you saying it? Why are you saying it?

OK enough questions. But this is important. You need to tie in how you look with what you say, and vice versa. Go back to your vision and strategy and pick out a minimum of three key qualities or traits you feel represent your business. These will form the basis of your voice; the language you use to communicate with your audience.

You will use this voice to create great copy and content for your website, social media, stationery, business cards, flyers, public relations and every other conceivable method of marketing your business. If you use different language and tone on your website than you do on your social media channels then you’re going to dilute or confuse your message which, in turn, will scupper your chances of establishing a good brand.


 

Consistency is KEY

Addressing the three V’s will see you well on your way to creating a good brand, but the most important thing is that they all work together. A brand isn’t a logo, a business strategy, a colour scheme or well-written piece of content. A brand is all of the above, a brand is the meeting place of psychology and design. 

If you’re using different colours on different social media platforms, or different typefaces across your blog posts, you’re going to have one confused audience. Keeping it consistent is essential for building trust, familiarity and reputation for your business, and ultimately generating conversions and making some money. 

Feeling a little overwhelmed? We don’t blame you; a branding project is a big deal. Luckily, we are small business branding and marketing communications experts, and we can provide you with creative, bespoke and affordable branding solutions. Give us a call or drop by the studio for a beverage and talk us through what’s in your head.

And remember, your branding is the first thing a potential consumer will see and the last thing they will remember. So let's make it a good memory.


 

Case Study

It’s all well and good us telling you all of this, but showing you is even better. Our client, Amberth, is a great example of how investing in branding can pay dividends in the long run. 

The challenge: Formerly ‘P&T Kitchens’, this London-based, family-run business grew their client base offering bespoke kitchen design and installation services. They soon realised it was possible to target a greater, more affluent market by expanding to include bathroom installations and interior design services. The problem was, they were struggling to reach the desired audience.

A consumer audit revealed the existing brand wasn’t considered specific or premium enough for this market. Their existing marketing wasn’t targeted enough and the brand was used inconsistently across all channels, preventing them from establishing themselves as the brand they wanted to be. We started with the basics and brought everything in line with the message they wanted to convey.

The name: Starting with the name, we re-positioned the company to appeal more to the interior design market. Amberth was born. The name itself was chosen for it’s warm, earthy links to nature. It was also a name that translated into Polish, where the owners originated.

The visuals: We kept the typographical word-mark simple and elegant. The characters flow effortlessly in lower-case, conveying an approachable nature. The bespoke ‘a’ makes the mark both ownable and unique. The graphic ‘drops’, formed from the letter ‘a’, were designed to portray the three services offered (bathrooms, kitchens and interiors). Simply, the fundamental elements of living: water and fire, combined to represent the living space. The colour palette was chosen to be neutral, whilst vibrant and fun.

The results: With a new strategy, name, logo and message, Amberth evolved into a whole new entity. Our re-brand has now been applied consistently across many touch-points including: stationery, advertising, livery, digital, and the flagship store’s front-of-house.

The results are positive: 23% increase in turnover and 10% more clients within the first year. Plus, a significant rise in design service enquiries, leading to more creative projects, with higher budgets. This year saw this London-based company exhibit at 100% Design Show, the UK’s No.1 contemporary design event where we hope our marketing collateral and design inspiration will help them continue to grow

Remember, your branding is the first thing a potential consumer will see and the last thing they will remember. So make it a good memory.