It’s Not Your Granny’s Branding Anymore….

So you have a great idea and it’s going to launch you into the stratosphere. It’s going to make you and your family very well to do. You are going to invest everything – your time, passion, and resources. You are going to leave behind your time, passion (for other things, temporarily), and a good deal of your savings and financial security. So, what do you do first?

Branding! Of course! You need a logo and a visual image and tagline. But, first, you need to do extensive research. You need focus groups and competitor research and testing, right? You will sink considerable start-up dollars into this effort. And your brand will launch you – you will be top of mind in your product line or service or field or cause. Your brand will communicate your quality and uniqueness, and it will breed loyalty and have people clamoring to support you. Will it? Your logo will be instantly recognizable by all who see it. It might even win awards. You will use it on everything, including your extensive advertising campaign across all media channels. You will be doing a full ad campaign, right?

Then, you’ll want to print stuff – snappy business cards, letterhead in different sizes, envelopes, and great outdoor signage. And get some personalized tchotchkes like pens and hats to give away.

If you are opening a bank, or a car dealership, or a big box chain store, perhaps this IS the first thing you will do. But, if you are a small business, an entrepreneur, a nonprofit, or a consultant, should this be your first step? The expense that comes with what I light-heartedly call granny-branding can be substantial. It is also less relevant than it has ever been before in the history of marketing. The entire field of branding has changed, and while yes, you need an image, and a name, and perhaps a slogan, and color scheme, and general graphic ‘look,’ securing these elements are often a challenge with limited start up funds.

So what are you to do in this new age of small box branding? Start by hiring a professional who knows the science, but can bring the art of branding to you, taking the best concepts and adapting them quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively to your business or cause. What is important? What will instill loyalty in a fickle environment sometimes just more concerned with price? Here are some things you can do to brand well.

Your look. You will want to choose a logo symbol and slogan – graphic, photo, original art, or creative font manipulation of initials or a word. This symbol should have a specific look that reflects your business – and your passion. It should accommodate well in all formats and social marketing platforms.

Your words. First, a mission statement. Clear, concise, and adaptable for internal as well as external audiences. Then, identify the “tone” for your materials. How formal, informal, conversational, or chatty your tone is depends upon your personal style and the expectations of the audience who will be listening to you.

A Marketing & PR plan. One that is unique for you, in consideration of your budget and capabilities. It should be able to be adjusted and evaluated, and serve as a fluid document and a guide, not a rigid outline. But this is key.

Your platforms. A website. You have to have one. Why? Because people will expect to find you there, and if they don’t, they will think something is amiss. So, you need a good, solid, easy-to-understand website with a feedback mechanism, and one to capture your visitor’s emails. Think about special offers, and giving away advice or tips. Next are your social marketing channels. In rapid succession, the basics: Facebook; Twitter; LinkedIn (personal and business); Pinterest, etc. All linked on your website. After a while, expand into YouTube, which is becoming the #1 search engine – and search (SEO) services.

YOU! You are the master of your business universe. You are the authority. So, tell people you are. Show them you are. Develop a blog and serve it well, with consistent, helpful information. Bring along your social marketing platforms and website – don’t let them get outdated and vacant of fresh information. Write informational articles for various outlets. Invest in monthly e-newsletters such as Constant Contact.

Networking. You need to get out there. Wear a nice shirt with your company name if you are a little shy, and get stacks of inexpensive business cards just for this purpose. Go to two or three a week at the beginning, if you can, and join a membership group like SBR, BNI, NetworkingRI, RI Execs, and others. Go on the speaking circuit, too. Get your employees, if you have them, on the road. It is their job to market too, so make sure they know the pitch.

YOU are your brand today. As a colleague of mine recently said when we were talking about increasing his business, “Put me in a room with a person I want to do business with – and let me buy [him] a beer.” It worked for him. While I’m not suggesting we do business on a barstool, I am suggesting that, ultimately, face-to-face time cuts through the clutter. Granny-branding is great if you have the resources, but YOU are your brand today. Working your plan, your networking, your personal elevator pitch, your appearance and demeanor, your platforms, and your follow up is what will set you apart. Traditional branding has changed. But it’s as essential as ever. It’s just not as safe and comfy as it once was.

Nancy Thomas


Tapestry Communications


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