Big business branding strategies on a small business budget

Play to your audience

Many small business owners make a crucial mistake before they even make their first sale — they forget about the power of business branding.

It could be we are conditioned to think that a “brand” is a concept limited to big businesses like McDonald’s, Apple and Toyota. Luckily, due to the evolution of the digital age, you no longer have to spend millions to create a big impact with your business branding strategy.

In this article, you will learn why business branding is incredibly important for your success no matter the size of your enterprise, and how you can create a big business branding strategy even on a small business budget.

4 steps to better business branding

We’ll cover how to map out your strategy using four key steps:

  1. Create an impactful branding aesthetic on a budget.

  2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and those of your competitors.

  3. Create your brand personas.

  4. Embrace the power of storytelling.

Read on to learn more about business branding.

Related: A beginner’s guide to branding a business

1. Create an impactful branding aesthetic on a budget

First of all, your brand is so much more than just your logo and your Pinterest-worthy colour scheme. It is made up of your vision, your mission, your loyal customers, your employees and your overall story. For now, however, let’s focus on how you can use free and cheap resources to create your brand’s aesthetic at a level that matches the big players within your industry.

Do-it-for-me options

For affordable logo creation and help with other brand assets like business cards and promotional materials, you can hire a freelancer on Fiverr or Upwork for as cheap as $5. Of course, the more you pay the better the result.

Related: Tips for working with a graphic designer

Business Branding GD Design
Looking for a new logo that’s professionally done yet fast and affordable? Check out GoDaddy’s Logo Design Service.

Do-it-yourself options

If you’re looking for more of a DIY solution, Creative Market has affordable (and even free) options for professionally-designed assets you can use to create your branding materials. This includes logos, fonts, PowerPoint presentations and just about anything you can think of! For color scheme inspiration, you can browse color palettes on Pinterest or use a free tool like Coolors.co to help you find complementary tones to your favourite colors.

For more DIY branding tips and tools, see:

Ultimately, this forms only a small portion of your overall branding, but it’s important to get it right and remain consistent.

Here’s an example of how confectionery giant Cadbury has done this through its Instagram feed and how, on a smaller scale, The Melt has achieved the same thing with its orange-centric, playful Instagram page:

Business Branding Instagram
Photo: Cadbury UK on Instagram
Photo: The Melt on Instagram

2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and those of your competitors

Whether you’re just launching your business or you’ve been going strong for 20 years, there’s never been a better time than now to conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of your brand. Here are some questions to answer and actions to take at each stage of your analysis:

Business Branding Strategy
Photo: Living to Roam

It might seem like a simple exercise, but big brands are continuously performing this analysis to make sure they’re staying ahead of the competition.

A great example of this in action is the rise of the Dollar Shave Club. When the company launched in 2012, Gillette owned 72 percent of the U.S. market and was worth billions. By 2016, Dollar Shave Club was the No. 1 online razor company, with 51 percent of the market compared to Gillette’s 21.2 percent. How did Dollar Shave manage to completely overtake the Gillette brand, which has been around since 1901?

Company leaders lived, breathed and implemented their SWOT analysis. They knew they could never beat Gillette’s established reputation. They could, however, be cheaper, more convenient and more approachable.

3. Create your brand personas

To pull off a truly fantastic business branding strategy, it’s crucial for you to know who you’re talking to, and equally important to know who you’re not talking to. This is where your brand personas come in.

A brand persona is a fictional representation of the members of your target audience. Here’s an example of what you should know about your brand personas:

Business Branding Marketing Plan
Photo: Living to Roam

It’s important for you to know the age, gender, location, marital status and other surface-level information about your audience members, of course. But I encourage you to go further and uncover their goals, values, pain points, and even the books they read and blogs they follow.

The more detailed your personas are, the more impactful your brand messaging will be when delivered to solve their exact problems.

 

You can use free tools like the Facebook polls to survey your existing audience, or Quora to find out what questions your audience needs to be answered and what problems they need to be solved.

Related: Why a target audience matters (and how to find yours) and What information should you include in your buyer persona customer profile?

Take a look at the following example from Wendy’s that demonstrates exactly how knowing your audience will help shape your brand’s voice:

Business Branding Wendys
Photo: Wendy’s on Twitter

Wendy’s knows that their millennial and Generation Z audience responds incredibly well to their lighthearted, sarcastic approach to marketing, and they shape their tactics accordingly.

A response from a big tech company faced with a similar situation would be drastically different, as their audience would expect a more professional response.

So no matter your budget, knowing your brand personas will help you mix it with the big businesses.

4. Embrace the power of storytelling

You’ve likely seen big brands like Nike launch campaign after campaign created with one goal in mind — to make you feel something. Again, multi-million dollar budgets will help with this kind of emotional magic.

Take the following ad campaign from Carhartt, featuring actor Jason Momoa:

You don’t even realize it’s an ad for a pair of pants until the last minute of the video, but at that point you don’t even care what’s being advertised — you’re already sucked in.

So how can you make this powerful branding strategy happen on a small business budget? Simple.

Find your own unique angle that leads potential customers to feel connected with you.

 

Take the following ad from Furkids Animal Rescue as an example:

This video has minimal production value and hilariously terrible acting. And yet between YouTube and Facebook, it’s managed to rack up an impressive 6.5 million views and thousands of shares. This is because Furkids went against the grain by making its audience feel the joy of adopting instead of the guilt of not adopting as is the case with a lot of other animal shelter campaigns.

Video is perhaps the most shareable content you can create, but if it’s too intimidating (or costly) for you at this stage, try testing out your storytelling skills through your social media captions or updates to your followers.

Related: How to create a social media content calendar, then post engaging content

Wrapping up

To summarize, the four strategies you learned in this post were:

  1. Create an impactful branding aesthetic on a budget.

  2. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and those of your competitors.

  3. Create your brand personas.

  4. Embrace the power of storytelling.

Hopefully seeing how these big business branding strategies can be done on a small business budget has inspired you to begin putting them into action in your own business.