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The Importance of Branding for Small Businesses

An examination of why it is vital for small businesses to establish a brand identity. The article considers key ways in which businesses would benefit from having a brand identity, and why this process should be performed prior to devising a company logo.

Prior to creating a logo and establishing a brand identity, companies should take a step back and try to see themselves as their customers perceive them.  Creating a brand identity for a small business needn’t involve much time or money.  What it will require however is a bit of thought.  It pays to sit down and work out the qualities that make your business special. The late Stephen King of WPP Group once observed that a product could be copied by a competitor, whereas a brand is unique: “A product can be quickly outdated; a successful brand is timeless.”

A brand identity can be defined as everything that makes up the personality, core values and principles of a business. But if you are running a small business such as a convenience store, is it really necessary to pinpoint a brand identity? After all, it could be argued that if a customer wants milk, any convenience store will do.  This may be true, but customers tend to be creatures of habit.

A bookstore with a family-friendly ambience, for instance, will naturally attract parents looking for somewhere they can bring their children.  If a customer is comfortable in a particular store and enjoys its atmosphere, they are far more likely to return – even if it is out of their way. That store would have achieved one of the key goals of any business – brand loyalty.

Here are some of the key reasons why businesses should endeavour to establish identity branding:

  •  Customer impact: People remember a business for its quality of service and for the impression they are left with. A good brand identity appeals to a customer’s emotions. A seaside hotel, for example, can establish itself as the perfect relaxing holiday getaway.
  •  Competition is fierce, and the smart business owner should be seeking to gain the edge over their rivals. Identity branding can differentiate a business from the crowd, making it appear dynamic and trendy. How can you establish yourself as being different to a competitor? How can a weakness of a rival business be exploited and turned into an advantage?
  •  Conducting research into branding forces the owner to pinpoint the key traits and values of their business. What makes the company special? Can its identity be distilled into a single tagline? Can this identity be easily conveyed to customers? Which segment of the market does the business appeal to? What would the company like to be known for – warm and friendly service? Professionalism? 24-hour reliability?
  • A brand identity creates a strong company culture that can motivate staff and inspire employee loyalty. Customers will notice this pride in the service they receive.
  • It also encourages businesses to set precise and achievable goals, to be progressive and to keep an eye on the future. Helen Keller once said the only thing worse than being blind is “to have sight but no vision”.
  • Brand loyalty is contagious. The business that wins over a customer will find that word swiftly spreads to family members, friends and colleagues.

Once a brand identity has been outlined, it becomes far easier to design a logo – the visual representation of a business that helps achieves positive customer recognition.