Make Your Small Business Play With The Big Boys, Part One: Your Basic Brand Identity


When you’re starting out, there are millions of things you need to get your business rolling; and the big ones such as office space and getting your taxes in order often overshadow the more esoteric ones such as deciding on your brand identity.


Presenting your company in the most professional light is key when driving new business. Competitors might be more established than you are and might appear more trustworthy or bankable as a result. It’s important to decide on a few things that your company is “about,” and make them abundantly clear to a potential new customer.


What comprises a brand?


The basics of what is normally considered a “brand” consist of three things:


  1. Values or mission – what is the focus of your company? How do you do that differently than the competition? What’s unique to you?
  2. Visual style – logos, colours, fonts.
  3. Tone of voice – how you approach standardized communications.


These can be very big pieces and some companies have spent millions to define them. The good news is that even a one-person company can complete the basics, and benefit from a unified, professional brand identity.


Parts 2 and 3 will be subject of larger articles. Today, we’ll tackle your brand values.


How do you define your values or mission?


It might seem daunting at first, but you already know most of what you need to define your brand values already or at least enough to whittle it down into something you can get a designer or writer to execute.


All you need to do is answer a few questions as honestly as possible:


  1. Why did you start your company? The answer to this will colour all other answers, so write this down first. Did you start your company because you like your industry, but hate a certain aspect of how it works? Write out your answer and a few reasons why you feel this way.


  1. What is the main problem your company is trying to solve? Every company is trying to solve something. Drug stores sell the things which we need for our day-to-day lives. Gadgets seek to streamline our efficiency. What does your company seek to do?
  2. What sets you apart? Why is the way your company solves this problem better than your competition? What are the weaknesses of other players in this market? Be as exhaustive as possible. You can focus this later.


Let’s use a dog groomer specializing in high fashion pet cuts as an example.


Once you’ve answered these three questions, you can start crafting the value or mission statement for your brand. Usually these are written in the following manner, but feel free to write it in a way which makes sense to you.


[Company] is {what your company does} by {how you’re different}


In our example, “Diva Mutts is a dog groomer focusing on avant-garde pet cuts.”


This one statement will focus your thinking so that you can move forward with the other elements of your brand.


Based on this statement, what adjectives describe what you do best? In our above example, the adjectives would be about fashion, high-end or street style.


So your brand would look like this:


“Diva Mutts is a dog groomer focusing on avant-garde pet cuts.”


The brand attributes are:


  • •Fashion-forward
  • •Upmarket
  • •Aspirational
  • •Trendsetting


The hardest part of creating a brand is being honest with the questions and being as concise as possible constructing your mission and attributes. Focusing on these details will help drive the direction of everything you do going forward, so the good news is that once these decisions have been made, you’re off to the races.


You can then take this information to a designer, writer, or if you want to proceed, and you have some experience in this area, to InDesign and Word.


Next week, we’ll focus on how to find a designer to codify your visual style, and how to work with a designer.



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