“Start unknown. Finish unforgettable.” – Nike
Now that the foundation is set with your marketing plan, the next step is to create a brand image for your business. A brand image is what sets you apart from your competition. It is how people will recognize you and your company from here on out. You may have started out unknown, but the work you will put into building your brand image will help you become unforgettable.
The cornerstone for your brand identity is your logo. Do you have one? If you do have a logo, do you use that same logo consistently? Do you have certain colors and fonts that coincide with this logo, do you use those colors consistently?
Just like a workout plan – consistency matters. You wouldn’t expect to drop 50 LBS by following a workout plan haphazardly would you? A solid workout plan is only as good as how you use it. The same principle applies with your logo.
Let’s look at some classic branding examples. Do you recognize any of these companies?
Of course you recognized these brands very quickly. McDonald’s, Coca Cola, and Apple have branded themselves so well, that even just a silhouette of a Coca-Cola bottle triggers recognition of the brand. Nowhere in these advertisements did the name “McDonald’s” or “Apple” need to appear.
While it might be unlikely that any of us will create the next household brand name like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, we can certainly learn from their branding model. Why reinvent the wheel? Take advantage of what these multi-billion dollar companies have already figured out! (Ironically – Coca Cola and McDonald’s won’t help you build muscle).
It is completely obtainable to make your business as recognizable in your area as McDonald’s is to the general public. If you sell insurance on Main Street, USA, why not brand yourself to be so recognizable that when people need insurance they think of you instead of the dozens of other agents? Do you own a clothing boutique? A boutique is a prime place to brand yourself all over the place. From the storefront sign to the tags on the clothes and the bag the customer carries the clothes home in, you have the opportunity to reinforce your brand over and over again.
They key is being consistent with your brand image, i.e. your logo. Remember Steve, with Steve’s Auto Repair?
Steve had his business cards and his sign made right when he opened his shop. He had the print shop draw up a simple design for his cards and he had the sign company do the same. The result? Two very different logos on two prime pieces of marketing. But Steve likes fixing cars. He wasn’t too concerned with the inconsistency of his logo. Both looked good, they just didn’t look the same. As time went on Steve had brochures made. These brochures were made from a different printer. Steve told the designer to design as they saw fit. After all, Steve wasn’t a marketing expert. Steve’s brochures turned out beautifully. Except he now had a third logo that looked nothing like his other logos. One year Steve decided direct mail would be a good way to reach people. He used the same logo that was on his business card this time. A few months later Steve put up a billboard. This time, the logo of choice was the same logo of his sign.
Do you see the inconsistency? This is common. Many businesses struggle to find synergy with a brand image. Unfortunately Steve missed out on an opportunity to really brand his shop. Steve could have saved money and gained new customers by utilizing a graphic design team to develop one logo that would represent him best and used on all of his marketing materials.
If you don’t have a set logo, or you don’t like your current logo now’s the time to make the change, but keep it consistent. I strongly recommend outsourcing your logo creation to an advertising company or a graphic designer. The little bit of money that it costs to do this, will save you more in time, effort and your sanity!
Now that you have developed a logo, you can create the rest of your branding material. These items below are key to developing a consistent brand image, and all of these components should be included in your marketing budget.
- Business cards
- Brochures and hand-outs
- Promotional items, such as pens, post-its, etc.
The warm up is now over…get ready to start flexing those marketing muscles!