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Options, strategy & prices for branding your business

Price written in chalk on a blackboard.

First of all, let’s be clear what we mean by a brand. A brand is a promise of a particular experience that has been created through the sum of various elements including the logo and tagline, the brand personality, promise, messaging and the visual elements.

But how much does business branding cost?

This really depends on the size and nature of your business – there are different budget levels for business branding, and they give rise to different approaches:

If you’re a large, multinational corporation, you will pay more for your branding than a small startup, for the obvious reasons that you have a multi-million-pound company to protect, profits to drive and a substantial marketing budget with which to do so. You will, therefore, most probably employ a top branding agency to undertake the work for you, and you may pay tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, just for your logo. BBC Three paid a whopping £400,000 for theirs and Edinburgh’s inspiring capital logo set them back over £1m!

Branding on this scale usually involves financing three phases:

• Brand analysis

• Brand strategy

• Brand systems

The first, brand analysis, typically involves customer analysis, to identify the audience, influencers, trends, needs and existing perceptions. It also involves analysis of competitors, their market position, brand position, strengths and weaknesses, as well as an audit of the current brand (for rebranding exercises).

Brand strategy involves the creation of the brand promise, personality and position, as well as the market position and value proposition which includes the features and the functional and emotional benefits.

Last but not least – the brand systems: the verbal systems which include the company name, tone of voice and headline styles, and the visual systems encompassing the logo, typeface and graphical style. Brand systems may include digital templates for elements such as blogs and eNewsletters, printed stationery including business cards and letterheads and office templates for presentation slides, invoices, etc.

A set of brand guidelines will also be created which will probably include event, signage and advertising guidelines. The grand total for all this work will most likely cost upwards of £70,000 with many of the biggest players spending in the hundred thousands and even the millions.

SMEs are likely to spend substantially less than this. They are likely to use smaller branding or design agencies and may conduct some of the brand analysis and brand strategy processes internally, making do with a less comprehensive spectrum of brand systems. Depending on their precise requirements, most SMEs will spend somewhere between £10,000 and £50,000.

So where does this leave the start-up business who wants to brand on a budget?

The most important thing for start-ups is to be aware of the branding process and its importance – and not try to circumvent it completely due to cost.

Instead, consider the areas of work you can feasibly undertake yourself. Nobody knows your company better than you do, so do as much brand analysis work as you can. Research factors such as the market size, needs and trends, the scope of your competitors, the growth rate and current growth cycle of the industry, the number and size of your customers, and the kinds of distribution channels used to access existing and potential customers. This will enable you to size up the business situation and inform your second phase of work – your brand strategy.

While truly comprehensive brand strategy can be complex and beyond the scope of most start-ups, every brand should have a core purpose and values at their core. Nail down your brand promise, personality and position, as well as your market position and value proposition and start defining how these will translate through expression to the audience in a manner that’s contextually relevant.

Your third phase of work will be creating your brand systems. At this juncture, many a start-up business has seen all its good analysis and strategy work transformed into naff stock logos and clip art. Tread extremely carefully. Very cheap design services will make your company look exactly that, very cheap, completely undermining all your branding efforts. You can try your luck searching through freelancer and crowdsourcing websites, but consider first whether trial and error is a process you can afford – finding a designer who can provide the quality of brand- focused design you need within budget, is unlikely to be easy.