The Beginners Guide to Branding a Small Business



Experiencing success in business is not only dependent on how great, inexpensive or luxurious your product or service is. Branding and communications are essential ingredients for success when building a business. Communicating your message accurately and in an engaging way may be the difference between failure and success.

Every company aims to be the number one brand associated with the service or product they sell. This requires time, investment and consistent quality, as well as a strong branding strategy.

At we are all about branding, which is why we have created the following comprehensive branding guide for small businesses.

Fun Facts about Promotional Materials

What is a brand, exactly?

A brand is a company’s ‘promise’ to a customer. A company’s brand should communicate to a customer what they can expect from the products / services, as well as how one company differs from others.


Why is good branding vital?

According to research, 75% of purchase decisions are based on emotion. As branding is primarily what influences a customer’s perceptions and feelings toward a company overall, this statistic highlights the undeniable importance of branding a new business effectively.


So, how do you brand a small business effectively?

Branding Infographic

Obviously there are incredibly talented agencies out there who specialise in this. However, in the case of the start-up, funding is often limited and branding may not be considered high priority. As branding has the ability to greatly impact upon the success of a business, particularly in the early stages of development, there is a strong case for investing in this area. If investing financially isn’t an option, consider investing time in progressing with branding your company in-house, with the help of these guidelines.

Step 1


The best place to begin is by ensuring you’re not barking up the wrong tree from the get go. Conduct market research to establish who your target market actually is. This means researching who is actually interested in what your business is offering (and not who you assume is interested), their age group, demographic and any other relevant information. Also conduct a competitive analysis to learn about what other companies similar to yours are offering, and determine what makes your company unique and better than the others.

Step 2


Define your brand archetype. Archetypes, or common recognisable characters, have been used to help brand many successful companies. Some examples of archetypes include “the hero”, “the helper” and “the adventurer”. Adopting an archetype isn’t intended to dictate the entire identity of your brand, but rather help you flesh out your brand’s image and persona in a more streamlined manner. Major brands who have taken this approach include Microsoft (who identifies themselves as “the boy / girl next door”) and Apple (who consider themselves “the visionary”).

Step 3


Similar to adopting an archetype, it’s extremely helpful when branding a company to personify your brand in detail. Our personality is what determines what decisions we make with regard to our actions, our appearance and our speech. Having a solid, detailed understanding of who your company would be as a person will help you make more consistent branding choices across the board. This will contribute to a stronger overall brand. It’s also helpful to have a list of brands with which you’d like your brand to be associated, and keep this in mind when planning marketing and branding events.

Step 4


Competition may be tight, so it’s crucial that your branding spells out what sets your company apart from the rest. Your “value proposition” describes why customers should choose you. Reasons may include the fact that your prices are the best or you have the widest range of products. This needs to be expressed in some form; on your website, social media or otherwise.

Step 5


A logo serves as the visual foundation of your brand. A great logo goes a long way. Brainstorm ideas with a few people and get their ideas and feedback on yours. It’s advisable to hire a professional to create your logo once you have an idea of what you like.
Consider these key ingredients for a great logo:
• Is it visually attractive?
• Is it functional? Can you use it on a letterhead, a poster and a business card?
• Is it original?
• Is it appropriate?
• Is it timeless? Have you used elements that are time / trend sensitive and that will seem outdated quickly?
• Is it simple?

Step 6


All copy associated with your brand should adopt the tone your brand would like to project.

Step 7


Select a brand message or catchphrase that you would like your brand to be known for. This phrase should be closely linked to your company’s mission statement and simple enough for people to remember.

Step 8


Embrace the current popularity of originality and authenticity with consumerism. Numerous chains are currently trying to create a more independent appearance in order to capitalise on this. Play up your independent operator status.

Step 9


Most recipients of business cards will not give them another look. In most cases, these cards are fairly standard and the content is predictable. This is an excellent opportunity to make your company memorable by creating a card with some “wow” factor. For example, one law firm created fake folded million-dollar bills as business cards. The lawyer’s photo was featured on the back side of the note, along with contact details and a call to action. Shock factor and memorability aside, chances are that very few recipients threw that million-dollar bill away.

With 77% of consumers professing to keeping promotional products because they serve a purpose and over 85% of people who receive a promotional item admitting to doing business with the advertiser in the future, why not consider doing something completely different? Design a USB Flash Drive as your “business card” and ensure your business is front of mind for your prospects at all times. (Tip: Make sure your drive offers a storage capacity worth keeping!)

Step 10


Consistent branding improves brand equity. Brand equity is the additional value given to your business’s products that gives you license to charge more for your branded product than what identical unbranded products command. Consider the example of a price of a can of Coke versus the price of an unbranded can of soda. The value in brand equity lies in the perceived product quality or the customer’s emotional attachment to a product they are familiar with.

Step 11


Endorsement from family or friends is more valuable than your company’s owned media assets. This is because customers will always trust the opinions of their family and friends more than somebody who is trying to sell them something. As a result, it’s essential to consider your current customers first and foremost while branding. This may include employees, clients and friends. Generating excitement and positive regard for your brand amongst this group of people will help the message spread more effectively.

Step 12


Popular websites have what is referred to as an e-presence. E-presence is an essential ingredient when it comes to effective branding today.

Growing a company’s e-presence is made easier when the following elements are in place:

1. Great design: The website looks professional, visuals are consistent with the brand in terms of overall look and feel, corporate image is reflected, and the layout is well planned.

2. Easily navigable: Users can find what they want on the site quickly and easily – ideally in 4 clicks or less. This can be done in a number of ways.

3. Recognisable: The site is advertised on other sites in the form of banner ads. This helps potential customers to recognise the logo, catchphrase and colors that represent a brand.

4. Reason to visit: Specials and promotions are featured on the front page of the website and these change regularly.

5. Fresh content: A blog is active on the site and posts are published regularly. This can help build a brand’s reputation as an expert in its respective industry. Posts should be unique, insightful, informed and offer readers something of value (be it entertainment, information, valuable opinion etc.). (See our blog as an example.)
6. Be active on social media: Make sure your social media platforms – ideally the ones your brand’s target market use most often – are kept up to date. These are used to engage with current and potential customers.

Step 13


Authenticity is essential when it comes to the values of a successful brand. Brand authenticity is boosted by honesty. If or when things don’t go well, it’s crucial that your brand voices the reality of the situation and actively works toward solving the problem. Branding a business can feel like a daunting task. Working through this approach step by step will help to give you an idea of what needs to be done, and how to achieve this.

However, non-profit small-business advisory groups or Small Business Development Centers are able to offer companies their expertise. If you feel that your start-up could use the extra support, then consider reaching out to one of these organisations. Either way, effective branding has the undeniable ability to make a big difference to a small business, so be sure to leverage this powerful tool and watch your business reap the benefits.


What NOT to do when branding a small business:

By following these fore-mentioned steps, you will avoid making the following potentially crippling mistakes when it comes to branding your small business. If you are not able to follow each of the aforementioned steps, use the following list as a checklist to ensure you don’t unknowingly jeopardise your brand.

Biggest branding mistakes

Best of luck on your branding en-devours!