We all know how important branding is for big companies like Coca Cola, Apple, Marks and Spencer and the like.
But brand is just as important for small and medium sized business. Your brand should fit with:
- your product and/or service
- your position in the market
- your style of business
- your customers.
If you get your brand right it will convey an impression of your business which will help you to attract customers and build brand loyalty.
So, what tips should you be following?
Product and/or service
Exactly what it is you are selling or providing will have a big impact on how you portray your brand. For example:
If you’re selling food, healthcare, or anything which people need to think is clean and healthy, you should stick to a fresh, simple brand image with use of greens, whites and maybe blue. See Waitrose, Boots and Marks and Spencer for examples of where this is done well. Established brands like Sainsbury’s can afford to buck the trend and use a colour like orange which will stand out, but their website also includes a lot of white space, and their uniforms are mainly blue, not orange.
If you’re selling products aimed at children and families, bright colours work well. This is unless you are aiming at the luxury market, in which case you want to keep things more muted. See ELC and Toys R Us for examples – you can see that ELC’s brand is more upmarket.
Your position in the market
The use of branding has a big impact on how much people expect to pay for your product. Compare First Choice and Kuoni – who would you expect to pay more to travel with? This isn’t just about colour – it’s about fonts too – Kuoni’s use of serif fonts conveys a more traditional, luxury image.
Other luxury brands use rich textures and deep colours in their design – see Chateau Luxury Furniture for an example. This contracts with The Conran Shop, who use a very minimal design to convey a different type of luxury.
Generally, brighter colours and less design cohesion tends to imply a cheaper product, while muted colours and simple design smack of luxury and higher prices. Looking cheap may not necessary be a bad thing – you may want to make it clear that yours is a pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap business. But it’s important to get it right so people know what to expect.
Your style of business
Branding and design can convert subliminal messages about the kind of business you are – are you modern, hip and trendy? Or more traditional and established? Some businesses with a less trendy image use rebranding to try to make themselves seem more up to date – IBM’s website, for example, uses monochrome design to appear less staid and more modern that some people would imagine them.
Or you may want to convey your image’s green credentials, or the fact that your products are natural and wholesome. Greens and browns do this well, along with the lack of straight lines and hard edges – Riverford Organics is a good example. Hand-drawn images and muted green colours give the impression of their product being very natural.
McDonald’s are currently rebranding their restaurants to look more natural and less brash – which is in line with their message that their product is healthier than we might assume – although their website is still predominately red and yellow, which is confusing – a good example of how a consistent brand is crucial.
Fonts are part of this too – companies wanting to modernise their image often adopt sans-serif fonts and drop the capital letters in their name.
We already touched on this earlier when we looked at brands selling children’s products, but your brand will also be influenced by your customers. What other brands do they engage with or buy? How old are they? Are they male or female? What part of the world are they from?
Cultural differences can have a big impact on your brand – we’re all familiar with the fact that in China, red represents wealth, while in western Europe, an all-red brand might look cheap.
The age of your customers might impact on the fonts and colours you use – older customers may warm to serif fonts and more muted colours, while young customers may prefer sans serif fonts, bright colours and a busy design. Magazine design is a good example of where the brand reflects the audience – compare The Lady with Smash Hits for two extremes. Beware of making assumptions about this though!
To sum up
Brand is important. It will help you attract the customers you’re looking for, project the right image, and manage your customers’ expectations. It is the difference between looking professional, confident and self-aware, and looking amateurish and thrown together.