How to brand on a budget

Budget written on a blackboard in chalk.

What is branding?

A brand is a promise of a particular experience that has been created through various elements including the logo and tagline, the brand personality, promise, messaging and the visual components. It’s not just a logo, it’s the collective emotional response to the logo and other elements. Your branding is all geared towards generating that response. So before you commission a graphic designer, it’s important to consider the emotional response that you want the design work to elicit. Branding on a budget is about ensuring you have covered all the bases before starting.

Step one: Consider your purpose and values

What feeling is your product or service going to give the consumer? What is the desire or need it will fulfil? It might be the desire for freedom, safety, confidence or success, or something completely different. Understanding your audience is key – their age, sex, ethnicity, income, education level and locale. What motivates them to buy? How do they think?

Once you’ve identified the purpose, define it as succinctly as you can as it will form the basis of your branding efforts. Consider this commonly used core purpose or mission: “We strive to meet or exceed expectations through exceptional service and a dedication to quality”. The problem with this is that it’s too ambiguous, it could belong to any number of businesses and so doesn’t differentiate the company from its competitors. It doesn’t tap into the hearts and minds of customers. So strive to identify exactly what does – and make sure it’s something inspiring, specific and believable.

From this, you will be able to define your values which set out how you get your customers to that ‘place’ you’re taking them in their minds. This is not about your own personal values, this is your company’s values which underpin the purpose you’ve defined. They should reflect the vision, culture, and goals of the company and clarify what you stand for and why you do business the way you do. Core values focus on the “why”, more than the “how”. Why are these qualities the key to success? Leave room for these values to develop into new and exciting interpretations of possibilities later down the line, allowing your company to adjust and adapt in a changing world.

Remember: the more work you do in this area, the less you will need to spend on your branding and graphic design in the long run, as you’ll be able to approach your chosen branding or graphic design professionals with a clear outline of your core purpose and values. It costs you more in the long run if you don’t know what your brand is and can’t share it.

Step two: Choosing a name for your business & brand

When choosing your name, it’s a good idea to bear in mind what a useful tool it is in getting across to customers the benefit of using your business instead of your competitors’. After all, it’s the first thing your customers are going to see, and they’ll base split second judgements on it. Which is why it’s so important that it’s memorable and gives the right first impression. The perfect recipe for success is a good name combined with good branding.

One method which can be useful for inspiring trustworthiness is to link your business’ name to the area in which you operate – customers associate such firms with strong local roots and a friendly approach. Humour or a play on words can help your business stand out, but the overriding aim is to make sure that whatever you choose is snappy, original and instantly informs the customer what the business does.

You’ll also need to bear in mind that your business name will dictate which Web domain you can register and your trademark if applicable.

Step three: Create a logo and visual identity

Most successful businesses will tell you that logos and the visual identities they are a part of matter a lot. In the early days of your new business especially, perception is everything. So investing a little money to encourage the perception that you’re professionals is pretty high up the agenda for the vast majority of new businesses.

You’ll want to work toward something smart, not just something pretty. What I mean by that is you need, to begin with a thought: What is the emotional response (worked out in step one) that you want your product to elicit? What else can you think of that will help people understand not just what you do but how you’re different from your competitors?

You’ll need to brief this information to a talented yet affordable designer – which can turn into a costly process of trial and error if you’re not careful. You need somebody with a proven track record in creating strong brands for new businesses.

A Brand in a Box is a brand-focused design company, established to fulfil this need. Dedicated to start-ups, it offers transparently priced, affordable packages for under £1,000 to new businesses nationwide. These incorporate the most crucial first elements of a branding system – website, stationery and business cards – and can be tailored to suit.

Step four: Note all the times your brand makes contact with customers

Every time you touch a customer or prospect, your brand should be felt – whether this is through your advertising and promotional activities or customer-facing communications. Your brand is your DNA so make sure it works its way upwards through every layer of your organisation.

Step five: Communicate your brand experience mercilessly

This is where you take your brand to the next level and get out there and communicate what your brand is about as much as you can, not just when you absolutely have to. So get fully immersed in social media, blogs and content marketing to ensure your products and services reach the hearts and minds of your audience. Great customer experiences attract more of the same. Buyers can easily find you, tell their friends, and remain loyal when you are at the forefront of their minds.

For further reading have a look at our guide to creating a brand.