In this 5 minute read I’m going to set out a powerful way in which even the smallest businesses can build a brand. If you have ever wanted to make a mark in your community, or to stand out from your competition, compete less on price or work less hard to convince people to buy from you then I hope that spending the next 5 minutes reading this post will be highly valuable to you and your business.
What is a brand?
A brand is not a logo, or a brochure or signage. These are only the ways that help to deliver your message to potential customers. Brand is Story, and stories help us make sense of the differences between products and services and why we should buy from one company over another.
Stories are how we make sense of the world. Before we packaged stories into TV, before transistor radios, before books. For a long time, stories were told simply between two or more people and were one of the only forms of entertainment Telling an entertaining story made you popular, telling an educational story made you an authority, respected and someone who people listened to. Nothing much has changed in 3000 years. Stories are still a mainstay of our societies and are inherent in our human nature.
We tell ourselves stories every day and we believe the stories others teach us. When someone wants to buy a Tesla electric car, it’s not because it has four wheels and gets us from our home to the shops and back. It’s because they love the story Elon Musk has created around Tesla. The story of David and Goliath, the little electric car company that has now overcome the Goliath’s of General Motors, Toyota and Ford. There’s also the story we tell ourselves – I’ll be owning an exclusive car that not many people own and I’ll be helping to save the environment too.
Even something as simple as the humble baked bean has a brand associated with it that everyone knows. But what makes you buy a branded tin over the generic own-brand tin? We see the Heinz logo on the label and in a split second, we have told ourselves several stories. There’s a feeling of trust and safety we all feel when we see a logo that has a strong brand. We tell ourselves that the Heinz logo means we can expect better quality and a consistent flavour, that we will be happier with those beans than the others, and that we’re prepared to pay more for that feeling. There’s probably even a sense of nostalgia, comforting memories from being a child that subconsciously bias you towards buying the Heinz beans over any other.
The difference between a logo and a brand
When people talk of brands, they mostly think of logos and brand colours, but these mean nothing without the story behind them. A company uses a logo to remind potential customers what their story is. They use it to communicate their message to its audience without always having to mention it. When we see a certain shade of purple, we think Cadburys and it instantly communicates everything that Cadburys wants it to.
When people say a brand takes years and shed loads of money to build, this is what they are talking about. To build the psychological association between a shade of colour, a company and what it stands for, takes a lot of exposure to that brand. Small businesses are much less likely to be able to achieve this. However, that’s not to say small businesses can’t build brands.
Remember, Brand = Story and each business regardless of its size can have its own unique story. I would argue, regardless of what you do, what you sell and what size your business is, you should have your own unique story.
A logo without some form of brand association or significance becomes a meaningless symbol. Your logo should communicate what your business is about and what you stand for.
Finding your brand story
In my experience, every business does have a unique story to tell. However, a lot of the time we are too close to our businesses to be able to see it and it takes someone else to point it out.
Quite often you can see what makes you unique in the way you run your business. Look at the reviews and testimonials that your customers give you. Often there is a theme that weaves itself through your customer relationships and once you recognise it you’ll see what makes you uniquely valuable.
Sometimes there’s something in your history that makes for a great brand story. For example, the British luxury watch manufacturer Bremont has built a business in a very competitive market with the use of a brand story.
Most luxury watch brands are Swiss and date from the 1800s but when Nick and Giles English wanted to create a luxury watch in 2002 they didn’t have the luxury of over 120 years of history. They recognised that brand = story and created a story around their love of flying, the military and their Dad’s dying wish for them to build a successful watch company. Each product has it’s own story, there’s the watch that RAF pilots have used whilst ejecting from a jet or the watches celebrating World War II pilots. From a manufacturing perspective, the watches aren’t remarkably unique, and people aren’t buying the watch because it tells the time. If that was the case then they would buy a £50 watch not a £5000 watch. What people buy is the story, the brand and it is this story that sets Bremont apart and allowed them to challenge competitors that have been well established for decades before them.
But you don’t have to be a luxury watchmaker to have ‘brand’. I’m sure a lot of you will have local shops near that you that have a brand story. Perhaps the veg shop is organic only, or the Bakers uses only the best grains from the local farms. These are stories that make these businesses stand out. The power of a story can be a very compelling reason to buy a product or service.
If you’re looking to stand out in a crowded market or compete less on price, then building a brand story that separates you from the pack is a great way to do it.
However, it can be difficult to know how to leverage your unique stories and create a brand that people recognise. Most local businesses like the ones I mentioned above, fail to make the most of their unique stories. They don’t have the skills in branding and marketing to know how to effectively turn their story into brand assets.
Unfortunately, this is the same in our industry. In the fireplace industry, there are very few true brands. Even amongst the largest manufacturers, very few have a brand story that you can say you know what they stand for.
However, this weakness in Brand is an opportunity for those that recognise it. Those that resonate with the words in this blog post and go out and create a brand for their business.
When a story becomes a Brand asset
When you create a brand story and communicate this consistently through your logo, through the use of colours, fonts, language and imagery, these symbols become brand assets. You use them on social media, on your website, in your brochures, on your vans, and they begin to bring in revenue to the business. You allow these brand assets to tell your story and people begin to buy into it. Using your brand assets consistently, you will become more well-known and people will start to think of your brand more often. Just like the humble tin of Heinz beans, people will be less likely to compare you to cheaper alternatives because they aren’t just buying your product or service, they are buying your story.
Investing in your brand means much more than simply getting a £50 logo that doesn’t communicate anything about your unique value. Invest a little more and you’ll have brand assets that help bring in revenue to the business for years to come.
Hopefully you have found this a valuable use of your time and if you have comments then I would love to hear from you.
All the best,
P.S Here’s a non-exhaustive list of typical brand assets:
- Your logo
- Your strapline & value proposition
- Your Mission & Values – What you stand for
- Your Vision – What change do you want to see happen
- Brand Colours
- Use of language & Imagery
- Brand Guidelines Document – Tells people how you want your brand to be communicated and creates consistency