It’s not just magic that keeps your brand on top: you need to get back to the future | Daily News
So, you want to start-up and develop a small business – Part 17

It’s not just magic that keeps your brand on top: you need to get back to the future

What comes to your mind immediately when you think about Gypsies? Naturally, the popular Sri Lankan band, with years of entertaining the young and old. What images and feelings come to mind? Probably that distinctive music style, the outrageous shows, the wild stories. The leader of Gypsies– Sunil Fernando - carefully cultivated that unique image, and it’s worth a fortune to the group. That is what the leader wanted: having a great band, but most importantly, a brand that will sustain its namefor 50 years.

It is the same with Rolls-Royce, Nike, or Apple Inc. Each business evokes very clear thoughts, feelings, and images. Each has a strong corporate identity, or brand, associated with its name, and that is no accident. These companies have spent a lot oftime getting you to conjure up specific images and feelings when you think about their businesses.

This begs the question, what do you want people to think of when they think about your new small business? The idea of creating a brand for your small business is really quite important. Maybe you think that doing so is beyond your reach, that branding is a concept for the big boys. Think again. Branding is something that you can - and should - do, too.

Of course, There was a time when big businesses had an advantage over small businesses because of their greater resources. But no longer. Little is the new big now. Three things have changed the landscape in your favour:

1. What the modern business world has come to see is that smaller is quicker, more innovative, more entrepreneurial, and better able to adapt to change. Bigger will be slower, boring and bureaucratic. More and more, people see the power of small.

2. The information and technological revolution made small businesses look much bigger than they actually are. Between computers, laser printers, smartphones, apps, faxes, websites, and software, any small business now look big.

3. More and more, big businesses are seeing the power and market potential of small businesses, and they are catering to that market. Ideas and tools that were once considered the private domain oflarge businesses are being offered to and used by small Businesses.

Again, the era of little has arrived, and branding is the first of several ideas in which you will see that strategies once confined to the corporate board- room can be applied equally on small businesses.

Creating a brand

Boiled down to its basics, a brand is the essence of what makes your business unique. It combines your name, logo, and purpose into an identifiable whole. It is your image based on reality. Your brand represents your business identity and your unique position in the market.

Are you the friendly grocer, the geeky computer consultant, or what? Without a brand, you may find that instead of being all things to all people, you are nothing to no one. A brand is a hook to hang your hat on so that people will remember you. Nike? That swoosh, and the phrase “Just Do It” come to mind. That is the gold standard we are aiming for.

You begin to create a brand by carefully thinking about what your business will be, what makes it unique, who your customers will be, and what it is they will want. Creating a brand is vital because many other decisions will hinge on this one. Your name, logo, slogan, website, social media handles, even the location you choose and your pricing structure depend on the brand you are trying to create.

Your name

What you choose to name your business will have as much to do with extending your brand as anything else. Because you will not have the sort of budget required to create brand awareness in the general public, as large companies do, one of your best chances for creating a favourable image is to do so through your name.

When naming your business, you have two choices. Either you can choose a name that describes exactly what the business is and what benefits it offers, or you can choose a name that has nothing to do with the business at all. The latter describes names such as and Kodak. Although interesting, the problem, of course, is that if you don’t have enough money to get people to remember the name of your business, instead of a memorable, quirky name, all you will be left with is a quirky name.

The other option is almost always preferable for the small business. This process involves thinking about the benefits your business offers the public and naming your business after that. Choosing a name that creates awareness of your business benefits can go a long way toward creating a brand that people will remember.

There are two important things to consider when naming your business.

The first is the image and brand you want to create. The thing about a successful brand is that there is consistency across the board—the image, colours, location, logo, and pricing all reinforce one another. If you are creating an upscale Italian design store, your location, prices, and name must all reflect the image you are trying to create.

The second factor is the benefit that someone would derive from patronizing your business. The best name is one that combines the image you want to create with a perceived benefit: think of Netflix.

Logos and catchphrases

A graphic image that reinforces your name builds your brand. Ideally, it says who you are and what you do. A logo can be a symbol, a graphic interpretation of your business name, or both. It is important that you do not use material that is copyrighted in your logo design.

You can find s some free logo generators online. Check out

It is probably better to hire someone to create a logo for you. You might be surprised at the great quality and afford-able prices you will get from graphic arts students.

One way to add even more value to your logo is to incorporate a slogan. You want your catchphrase to reinforce your desired image, and the benefits you offer should be encompassed in that catchphrase as part of your overall branding strategy. If you are sensing a theme here, you’re right. These three things—your name, logo, and catchphrase—are the holy trinity of your brand, and they all are equally essential.

Your website

As much as anything else these days, more than most things actually, your website is vital to creating and sustaining a great brand. It is often where people go first when checking you out and so you want it to reflect the brand you are trying to create. The look and feel of the site must be considered integral to your brand. It not only must contain your name, logo, colours, and catchphrase but must be your main vehicle for extending those branding choices.

Social media

Your social media efforts, as will be explained later in detail, are just as vital to your brand these days as your website, signs, business cards, and all the rest—more so, maybe, because that is where the eyeballs are. When people find you on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or You Tube or wherever, you want to be sure that what they find is the business personality you are trying to perpetuate. You do that by branding these sites as well—with your name and logo, with your colours and catchphrase, and especially with what you post. Your online social media posts are now a vital part of any brand strategy.

Branding secrets

You get the idea. You want to create a consistent theme that reinforces the image you intend to create. But branding goes even beyond that. Because your brand is based on both how you want to be perceived and how you actually are perceived, it follows that the other half of brand building is creating positive perceptions based on substance and style. But how?

Make a promise and keep it

Your brand is your promise to your customers. Decide what that promise is, what you want to come to mind when they think of your business, and keep that promise. Volvo promises safe cars. Nordstrom promises greatcustomer service. What does your business promise?

Do what you do best, again and again

A brand is a promise that boils down to “If you buy this product, you know what you will be getting because our company stands for X, Y, or Z.” For example, Volkswagens are affordable, Walmart is inexpensive, that sort of thing. This kind of branding takes time, and it derives from a company doing what it does best and then making sure everything else it does support that value proposition. Consistency is key.

Offer superior customer service

This is a theme that will be discussed in more detail later in the book, but suffice to say that all your hard work creating a cool brand will be a waste of time and money if it isn’t reinforced by happy customers. Customers should find it easy to work with you or buy from you.

The bottom line is that you want to constantly reinforce the image you are creating through your actions. Remember, the two keys to establishing a strong brand are developing a specific identity and then communicating that identity consistently. Do that, and your small business will be off on the right foot.


(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a freelance newspaper columnist and business writer.)



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