Often when we hear about the concept of “the brand” in the business press the focus tends to be on huge companies. In the late 20th century, it was firms that dominated their markets with high-quality, specialized yet mass-produced products that just about everyone used from brands such as Kodak and M&M Mars.
Some brands offered things we aspired to, like Mercedes-Benz, while MetLife made insurance more personable and less boring thanks to Snoopy. All the while, it was small businesses that were (and still are) the backbone of the United States economy.
Perhaps thinking is different in the 21st century. Having a strong brand, whether a firm is known globally or locally, is no longer the sole domain of multinational corporations.
Branding and Everything Else
Some experts say there is a distinct difference between brands and marketing. Simply having websites, running print ads and engaging on social media is great for businesses when done right, doesn't in itself constitute a coherent brand. However, doing all those things is a good start and often small businesses just need to tie these activities all together.
According to Inc. magazine writer Laurel Mintz, who covered the topic in a recent Chicago Tribune post, good branding involves a strong visual element.
On branding she writes, "This area of marketing includes the visual elements of a company. It includes everything from the logo to the color theory and how the logo is used on different marketing collateral, which is just a fancy name for websites, business cards, letterhead, etc."
Mintz goes onto say that much of what makes brands strong are visual elements including colors and shapes, as well as distinct and repeated words associated with the visuals that brands put forth. Moreover, typefaces or fonts as well as abstract elements come to play in establishing brands in consumers’ minds.
Meanwhile, the visual elements of brands must point to something concrete and discernible about businesses. That's where SMBs’ stories and presenting them authentically become, with visuals, the underlying part of brand concepts.
Authenticity is Essential and Easy
With all that in mind, it is also important to talk about what brands say about the companies they represent. Certainly brands aren’t just collections of colors, shapes and spiffy fonts thrown together.
Last month Social Times tacked the topic of brands from a social media point of view. The web's best known social media publication didn't talk about so much about what to post on company Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or Instagram channels. Instead it was all about telling a story — and one that is authentic.
Post author Sherry Gray explains: "Whether we realize it or not, we tend to place more trust in people who are similar to us in some way. This extends to how we engage with marketing and on social media — we’re more likely to feel positively about a company talking our own language, run by people like us."
By finding the right tone for conversations about their businesses, and being consistent about the marketing messages released, companies can build "familiar faces" with their ideal audiences and customer bases.
Looks and Feel
As an expert in helping SMBs brand, Idea Custom Solutions aims to make the process of logo design and branding easy. This summer, we published an infographic which lays out a few distinct types of logos. Some companies prefer to let the name of their companies stand out in letters, while others opt for "emblem" style logos with the shapes relevant to something about their businesses.
Whatever you and your customers favor in terms of shapes, styles, colors and fonts, it helps to consult branding specialists in order to properly articulate and convey the messages for future customers and the world at large.
Business Insider points out that many of the most well-known major corporations have begun to phase out letters and words altogether, perhaps following the lead of brands like Target. Yet regardless of where your company starts, it's normal to update or alter logos from time to time. In the media space alone, both Fortune Magazine and National Geographic have remained impeccable brands while tweaking their logos' shapes and adjoining typefaces several times over the last decades.
If you're hesitant where to begin for your company or for clients, working with an outside expert such as Idea Custom Solutions can help any company modernize their brand, especially SMBs. Energizing your brands is easier than you think. And it is an essential task in today's bustling business landscape.