This post by guest blogger Troy Coalman appears in our series Small Business 500.
Branding is the foundation of business marketing and advertising - it's how a company is recognized by consumers. More than an identity, mark or the collective imagery that defines a product or service, it’s the way customers feel about a company. Having a solid brand is critical to the success of any business, and there are some key principals to consider before embarking on the development of a brand.
1. Own it!
Your company logo and brand should represent who and what you are. A strong brand characterizes what a company stands for.
One prime example is Mercedes Benz, The company is noted for its research, development and engineering expertise and that has remained a primary strength of the brand since inception. Another example is Allstate Insurance. We all remember their brand message, “You’re In Good Hands.” An emphasis on customer care has kept Allstate relevant to consumers despite heavy industry competition. Both of these examples illustrate how brands can show ownership for what it is that the company represents. Your company name, logo, tagline, supporting artwork, and color selection all work together to support your brand purpose.
2. Make it clear
The acronym KISS, Keep It Super Simple, provides a priceless lesson in branding whether for a startup or an established firm. The reality is that simple sells. This applies to your company name, your logo and artwork. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be cutting edge, graphically eye-catching or even sexy.
Think about the most successful brands in history: IBM, Apple, Coca Cola. What do they have in common? Simple, yet eye-catching and memorable brands. It really isn’t as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be, but it is important to make the right decision for your success!
3. Ensure it's relevant
Ask yourself: Is your brand consistent with your business? Is it consistent with your market segment and consumer base? Are there any cultural concerns to consider? Does your wording and artwork reflect the goals and objectives of the company? Today, marketers and ad agencies will push the envelope of relevance, but there's always a reasoning or strategy behind it. If this is a route you’re considering for a brand, be sure there is solid reasoning behind it.
4. Is it memorable?
The more complicated your brand - including name and artwork - the harder it will be for your consumer to remember. In the mid 90s Top of Mind (TOP) marketing came into existence. The key concept is whether or not your brand is memorable. The idea seems fairly obvious, but it's something business owners forget about all the time. One of the key mistakes is choosing a name that sounds too similar to an established business or a logo that looks like one already in existence. For example, you open a pizza parlor called “Mom’s Pizzeria,” but only a few blocks away is a business that has been around for 20 years with a loyal following called “Ma’s Pizza.” Consider the kind of conflict that can be created when using a business name that is similar to an existing business.
5. Always be consistent
My team mantra is "never break a brand.” You must show continuity and strength in order for a brand to become “top of mind” for consumers, no matter who they are. In industry-speak, it’s called Brand Integrity and it's critical to the success of any company. This means don’t recreate the wheel every time you need to use your logo, tagline, company verbiage, artwork, etc.
Once you have established your brand, work with an ad agency or brand developer to develop a simple Style Guide. This will give you standards and protocols for using your brand. The key is to live by your style guide and ensure that everyone who works with you knows it inside and out. A Style Guide tells everyone how to implement your brand across all forms of media and communications. It also details what not to do. For those trademarking a brand, this step is critical as it will reinforce the integrity of your brand.
Troy Coalman is the President of SFA Creative, an integrated, full-service advertising agency based in San Francisco, California. SFA manages branding, advertising and marketing for a diverse array of clients including law firms, non-profits, and hospitality, retail, fashion and technology organizations. He has over 20 years of advertising and marketing experience on both coasts.