A strong brand will help your goods stand out in a crowded marketplace. With our free, curated list of high-impact posts, you can get a crash course in small business branding.
What exactly is a brand?
A brand is more than just a well-known name and logo that helps you stand out in a competitive market.
People, too, have personal brands, if you think about it. We all have a name, a face, a style, and a way of talking, and we all leave different impressions on different people based on these characteristics.
Company names, products, signs, colors, fonts, voices, and reputations all contribute to who they are and how they are viewed.
You can’t create a brand without being consistent, and you can’t sustain that consistency when you expand your brand into new areas. But it all begins with figuring out what the quality would look like and the emotion you want to elicit.
How to build a brand
Building your own brand can be broken down into seven simple steps:
- Research your target audience and your competitors.
- Pick your focus and personality.
- Choose your business name.
- Write your slogan.
- Choose the look of your brand (colors and font).
- Design your logo.
- Apply your branding across your business.
While certain steps can need to be revisited as your brand evolves, it’s critical that you understand each aspect as you develop your brand identity.
Let’s start by setting the foundation for how you’ll approach building your brand.
What is the best way to build a good brand?
You’ll learn the six steps to creating a meaningful, recognizable brand for your online business in this video.
1. Research your target audience and your competitors
Before you begin making decisions about your brand, you must first gain a thorough understanding of the current market and who your future buyers and competitors are.
This can be accomplished in a variety of ways:
- Examine the direct and indirect rivals that come up when you Google your product or service category.
- Examine subreddits for your customers and listen in on their discussions and product reviews.
- Talk to people in your target market and find out which brands they use in your industry.
- Examine the social media accounts or pages that your target audience follows and responds to.
- Go shopping, either online or in-person, to get a sense of how your customers will look for and purchase items.
Make a note of the following when you conduct your research:
- Who your “lowest hanging fruit” buyers are—those to whom you will sell the most quickly.
- Who your top-of-mind rivals are—the proven and well-known brands in the industry.
- What the clients say and how they say it—their desires and the words they use to communicate them.
Before going on, it’s important to understand this because it will determine what the brand can focus on and how it can differentiate itself from rivals.
You will start to formulate how to give your business an edge by analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Get a leg up on the market by downloading our free competitive analysis template.
2. Pick your focus and personality
You can’t be everything to everyone at first, particularly if you’re just starting out.
It’s critical to identify your emphasis and allow it to guide all other aspects of your brand as you develop it.
Here are some questions and branding exercises to help you consider your brand’s emphasis and sound.
What’s your positioning statement?
One or two lines that stake your claim in the market constitute a positioning argument. This isn’t something you can place on your website or business card; it’s just to help you answer the right questions about your brand and to help you come up with a tagline for it.
We provide water bottles to hikers, for example, so they can remain hydrated while minimizing their carbon footprint. We plant a tree for every bottle you purchase, unlike other water bottle companies.
The only thing you’re competing on is your unique value proposition. Find it, capitalize on it, and incorporate it into the brand’s marketing.
You may also write this out as a mission statement that provides a straightforward commitment to your clients or the world if the business you want to start has a cause at its heart (e.g., if you’re starting a social enterprise).
What words would you associate with your brand?
Imagine your brand as an individual when thinking about brand growth. What kind of person would he or she be? What kind of personality will entice your customers?
This will remind your social media voice as well as the sound of all of your art, both written and visual.
Pitching three to five adjectives that define the type of brand that would resonate with your audience is a fun and useful branding exercise. This list of characteristics was compiled to assist you in getting started.
What metaphors or concepts describe your brand?
Consider the brand as a metaphor, or personify it, to identify the unique characteristics you want it to have.
This can be a car, an animal, a celebrity, a sports team, or something else as long as it has a well-known image in your mind that conjures up the vibe you want your brand to elicit.
For example, if I wanted to build a brand for entrepreneurs, I would start with the raccoon: they’re hardy survivors who will go to any length to survive.
What animal would your brand be if it were an animal, and why does it remind you of that animal?
3. Choose your business name
What is the significance of a name? You may argue that your name matters very little or very much depending on the type of company you want to launch.
A brand is far more than a name, as we’ve previously said. Your brand’s attitude, deeds, and credibility are what give the name value in the marketplace.
However, as a small business owner, deciding on a name for your company is likely one of the first major decisions you’ll have to make. If you go that road, it would have an effect on your logo, domain, advertisement, and trademark registration (it is more difficult to trademark generic brand names that simply represent what you sell).
You want a store name that is difficult to copy and much more difficult to confuse with established competitors. If you want to broaden your product lines in the future, keep your company name broad rather than selecting a brand name based on your product category.
You can use our business name generator to come up with some ideas, or you can try one (or all) of the following methods:
- Make up a new term, such as Pepsi.
- Reframe a seemingly unrelated word, such as “apple” for “computer.”
- Use a metaphor or a suggestive expression, such as buffer.
- Describe it literally (warning: it’s easy to copy), such as The Shoe Company.
- Tumblr (Tumbler) or Activia are examples of words that have been altered by removing letters, inserting letters, or using Latin endings.
- Make an acronym out of a longer name, such as HBO (Home Box Office).
- Pinterest (pin + interest) or Snapple (snappy + apple) are two terms that can be combined.
Since your brand name will influence your website’s domain/URL, do some research to see what’s available before settling on a domain name. Use our tools to generate domain name ideas or read our guide to picking a successful business name.
If nothing else, it’s a good idea to run your name by a focus group of near friends to make sure it doesn’t have an unintentional sense or is too similar to anything else you may have overlooked.
4. Write a slogan
A memorable slogan is a nice-to-have commodity that you can use as a tagline in your social media bios, website headers, personalized business cards, and everywhere else where you only have a few words to make a significant impact.
Remember that you can change your slogan when you discover new marketing opportunities—Pepsi has gone through over 30 slogans in the last few decades alone.
A good slogan is succinct, memorable, and leaves a lasting impression. Here are some ideas for coming up with your own slogan:
- Put your stake in the ground. “The World’s Strongest Coffee” is Death Wish Coffee.
- Get a metaphor out of it. “Redbull gives you wings,” says Redbull.
- Adopt the mindset of the clients. Nike says, “Just do it.”
- Use marks to your advantage. “A drinking game for horrible people,” according to Cards Against Humanity.
- Come up with a rhyme. “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup,” says one customer.
- Describe it as accurately as possible. “Women’s wear boutique,” says Aritzia.
Use our Slogan Maker to generate some ideas, or use your positioning statement to come up with one-liners to define your business.
5. Choose the look of your brand (colors and font)
After you’ve decided on a name, you’ll need to consider how you’ll visually reflect your brands, like colors and typography. This will be useful when you begin creating your own website.
Choosing your colors
Colors not only describe the look of your company, but they also express the emotion you want to convey and help you keep it consistent through all of your activities. To prevent customer confusion, select colors that set you apart from your direct competitors.
Color psychology isn’t an exact science, but it can help you make better decisions, especially when it comes to the color of your logo.
This infographic gives a good description of the feelings and connections that various colors elicit in most people.
It’s crucial to think about how legible white and black text will be against your color palette, as well as how colored text will appear against white and black backgrounds. To come up with color combinations, try using a method like Coolors. Take note of the hex codes and sift through the various shades to find the ones you want.
Choosing your fonts
It’s also a good idea to look at fonts you may want to use on your website at this stage.
To avoid misleading tourists, use no more than two fonts: one for headings and another for body text (this does not include the font you would use in your logo).
Font Pair allows you to choose from a large number of fonts that complement each other.
Using Stylify. me on your favorite websites to see their visual style at a glance for inspiration.
6. Design your logo
When it comes to designing a brand, one of the first things that come to mind is possibly a company logo design. And for good reason: it is, after all, the face of your business, and it could be found wherever your brand exists.
You’ll want a logo that’s distinct, recognizable, and flexible to fit in a variety of sizes (something often overlooked).
Consider all of the places where your brand’s logo is needed, from your website to the profile picture on your Facebook page to the small “favicons” you see in your current browser tab.
If your Instagram avatar is a text logo, for example, it will be nearly impossible to decipher. Build a square version of your logo with an icon feature that is recognizable even at smaller sizes to make your life easier.
It’s worth noting that the Walmart logo includes both the “sparks” symbol and the wordmark, both of which can be used separately.
To help you connect with designers and find a style that works for your brand, here are some of the different logo styles you can choose from. Keep in mind the colors and fonts you use to make sure they complement your logo and express your brand.
Abstract: Google Chrome
An abstract logo has some meaning, but it’s really just a collection of colors and shapes that can’t be linked to something in the real world.
The advantage of an abstract logo is that it has no inherent meaning—you can make it up and bring it to life in the minds of your customers.
The face of a character is often used in mascot logos. They can help humanize your company by giving it a personality, but they’re an out-of-date style that can only be used in specific situations (for example, if you’re going for a retro look).
Emblem logos are mostly circular, combining text and an emblem for a bold and regal appearance. However, if the design is too complex, it can lose its effect when reduced in size. However, when done correctly, they can have a significant impact on brand building and create a memorable logo design.
Lettermark logos are made up of the initials of the company’s full name. If you have a three-word or longer business name in mind, this is a style to consider, particularly if the initialism is memorable.
Your brand is portrayed as a visual metaphor in an icon logo. A symbol logo, unlike an abstract logo, implies something about the product (Twitter’s bird suggests the platform’s regular brief “tweets”).
You should avoid using an icon logo by itself if you’re a new company. If you’re not sure what kind of logo you want, a combination of an icon and a wordmark is typically a safe bet.
Your brand name, colors, and font become a visual identity with wordmark logos. Wordmarks have the disadvantage of being difficult to construct in a scalable square design and losing legibility when shrunk.
However, you can solve this problem by simply adding an icon logo or changing the first letter of the wordmark into a separate but related logo, as Facebook does with its F.
Many logos are a mixture of styles due to the constraints imposed by each logotype.
As a new small business trying out a logo, you don’t have to pick between an icon and a wordmark if you think they’re both essential to reflect your brand, since a hybrid logo gives you the best of both worlds. This makes it easier to meet the requirement of designing a flexible logo while keeping the brand name at the forefront. McDonald’s, for example, may use its classic golden arches in places where its full wordmark would be too big.
You’ll probably be delegating the design of your logo unless you have design skills of your own. You can outsource it for a low price on Fiverr or hold a 99Designs logo contest.
Check out Seek Logo for more logo inspiration, or try out our Hatchful logo creator to get started. There’s also our detailed guide on how to design a logo, which takes you to step by step through the process.
7. Apply your branding across your business
When you use your branding in your business, it creates a unified brand tale. A brand story is a description of who the company is and what it stands for. It establishes the tone for all consumer interactions with your brand, both in-store and online.
Buyers shopping on an online store for the first time also look for a company’s mission and intent to see if they share any values with the business, according to Shopify’s research on what wins buyer and consumer loyalty (e.g., sustainability). They’ll go to the About Us page to find out more about who they’re buying from and, for more socially aware consumers, how the company operates. If your company has a brand story, tell it to your customers because it will show them that you are a legitimate company.
Your positioning statement will help you get started, but you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to create a brand story:
- What inspired me to start my own company?
- Why does the company exist?
- How do we contribute to the world?
- What is the backstory of my company that the consumer should be aware of?
While not every business is mission-driven, if yours does, share the brand story and explain why the company was founded. Consider the companies TOMS and Coca-Cola: the first is a mission-driven brand, whereas the latter is not.
TOMS is a clothing and accessory brand that is “in the business of improving lives.” TOMS’ first charity organization, One for One, provides shoes to children in need, and the company has recently donated to the COVID-19 Global Giving Fund, among other causes. When a shopper buys something from TOMS, they will feel good about it because they believe in the cause that their purchase supports.
Coca-Cola, a globally known soft drink company, does not have a clear social or environmental agenda, but it appeals to its target market through branding that emphasizes bringing friends together to share fun, happiness, and connection. If a consumer enjoys a Coca-Cola product with friends or loved ones, they may feel more socially associated with those friends.
There’s a lot to learn from Coca-Cola for new business owners. It provides excellent examples of brand marketing by immediately recognizable designs, fonts, images, and colors.
If you want to create a brand story around a mission or not, the most important thing is to give your customers a story about your brand that they can tell themselves.
Evolve your brand as you grow
The process of creating a brand does not end with the creation of a logo or slogan, or even with the launch of your brand. From the theme you select for your website to the marketing materials you create to how you package and ship your items, your brand must be present and consistent wherever your customers connect with you.
When you introduce your brand to more consumers and learn more about who your customers are and how to communicate with them, it will continue to shape and grow.
It’s important to appreciate that you will never have 100% control over how people perceive your brand.
You can steer consumers in the right direction, make a great first impression, and manage your image, but you can’t control what people think about themselves (say, if they had a bad customer service experience).
All you can do is put your best foot forward and try to connect with your core audience at any opportunity. But, ideally, you now have the necessary tools, expertise, and resources to get started.