If you think budgeting for branding is just for big corporations, than you are missing out on an enormous chance to increase the profitability of your business. If you want to hire a branding agency, the ticket to play starts anywhere between $25k to $150K. We can't speak for everyone, but we feel pretty comfortable assuming that's not in the budget for most independently-owned, small-to-medium-sized companies. But, that doesn't mean "branding" is not for you. If you own a business, you have a brand. However, if you're not giving it the attention it needs, your brand may be sending the wrong messages to your customers.
At Peppermill Projects, we love working with small local businesses, but understand that not every entrepreneur is able to spend tens of thousands of dollars within the first year or two of business. To get you on your feet, we offer 3 ways to begin branding on a budget:
1) Ask Yourself the Tough Questions
When we start working with a new client, we always begin with a Brand Discovery Phase. While you may not be ready for a full branding workshop, that doesn't mean you can't do a little soul-searching on your own. Start by focusing on your differentiators: What make's your product or service unique? Why would a customer choose you over a competitor?
Next understand your target audience. Who is buying your product or service? If your answer starts with “anyone” or "everyone", unfortunately you haven't found your target. The more specific you can be about your audience, the more successful your communication can be. The best way to give your customer the experience that will create brand loyalty is to understand their needs and what they value.
2) Conduct Market Research
One of our favorite places our staff likes to go to for lunch is our local Whole Foods in Annapolis. It's only partly because there are an abundance of cheese samples! When we design product packaging, it's important to notice market trends. We often browse the aisles and take note of new brands, striking logos, and innovative packaging. This version of competitive landscape research is something all new businesses can conduct themselves.
While it's important to understand the foundation of your own brand, its just as important to learn about your competitors. If you're going through a rebrand, don't be afraid to ask your current customers what they like, what they don't like, and how you could improve their experience. Interacting with your customers makes them feel valued and part of the rebranding process!
3) Don't Skimp On the Design
If there's one thing you should set aside some money for, it should be the design of your visual brand. If you're opening a new retail store, restaurant or launching a product, the visual design will be the first impression a customer has of your brand. Visual aspects of your brand, such as your logo, business cards, packaging, website and even the business' physical space become the face of your brand. It'syour one chance to put your best foot forward and impress your potential customers with a well-thought-out consumer experience.
If you’re on a tight budget, think of the most important elements that will have the most impact on your customer. A logo, for example acts as the shortcut to your brand. If your design is mediocre at best, people will assume the same of your product or service. It's easy to get tempted by inexpensive online logo sites when you're watching every penny. We don't blame you. However, when searching for the cheapest designer, you're essentially devaluing your business. By investing in a professional graphic design and branding firm, your brand identity will be more than just a pretty symbol or website. The design will truly speak for your brand and what it stands for.