In my wanderings of late I’m noticed a disturbing trend. Blame it on the computer if you will but small businesses seem to be less and less concerned with their brand image and identity. I’ve seen many poorly designed and executed logos, mascots, etc. on businesses that should know better. Usually in their effort to save money the small businessperson cuts costs on their branding. Often they do it themselves or have a friend or relative do one for them.
This is not good business. A poorly hand-painted sign indicating a gas station up the road may have worked in during the depression, however our society has become a lot more sophisticated since then. Now we, the consumer, are used to a well-crafted identity program to brand the businesses we patronize.
What if Coke allowed its logo to be anything the local distributor wanted. One might like green, another blue. One may like one font and another something else. It would become a cacophony of visual confusion. Customers would not know who was selling the “real” Coke or a knock off. Sales would suffer.
I have a friend who is a SCORE volunteer in Wichita. He has told me that time and time again as he counsels people wishing to start a small business he finds that they have given little or no thought to their brand identity. It’s way down their list of priorities if on the list at all. A smart small businessperson would have this as part of their business plan right from the beginning.
Why, you might ask. Why do I need to address that from the very start? Isn’t financing more important or perhaps location? Certainly these are top priorities. However, if you don’t know the look and feel of your business, don’t understand who you are targeting with that brand, and haven’t an idea how to market to them, borrowing all the money in the world and having a great location won’t help you.
A brand defines who and what your business is. It gives you a framework on which to hang your marketing efforts. You don’t want to market industrial strength cleaners to people looking to buy needlepoint supplies. A brand helps craft the message. It defines you as the owner and makes certain promises to future customers. A carefully designed brand can be a huge asset, a bad one a huge liability. There have been many brand failures over the years. Don’t let your business be one.
The answer is to hire a competent designer with experience in brand development. This should be done long before your open your doors. Long before you take out a business loan. This should be done as you write your business plan and decide who and what your business is. Spending time and money at this point will pay off big time later down the road. Skimping on this step will cost you in lost customers, lost revenue, and in the worst case your business. Bad branding is destructive.
I know, I know, you’ve got a nephew who’s a wiz at the computer and can whip you out some business cards this weekend. Branding is more than business cards. It’s a thought process that takes you down a defining path. A path filled with choices and decisions that have to be made long before a designer even approaches the computer. Does your nephew know how to do that?