A small winter festival in 1890 has become a famed annual showcase on the first day of the new year. The Rose Parade in downtown Pasadena, Calif., celebrates the “Mediterranean of the West” by celebrating Southern California flowers and sunshine. Shown in 200 countries around the world, the brand has become an international sensation synonymous with New Year’s Day.
This demonstrates how a non-profit organization can build a strong brand presence without the bells, whistles and deep pockets of larger corporations.
Small business owners can also develop a unique brand on a small budget. Building a brand requires a keen understanding of how you differ from your competitors, the problems your product solves and why consumers should select you over the competition. It encompasses the buyers’ experience and perception of your product. Developing a strong brand personality requires time, consistency, innovation and persistence.
Several companies that started out as small, unknown brands have developed a commanding presence, including Apple, Trader Joe’s and Virgin America.
The first step in building your brand is determining your purpose and mission statement. Keep in mind that you are establishing a promise to your customers and a brand personality to match.
If you are not selling an innovative product or service, think about companies that have outlasted the competition by differentiating their brand rather than their product. Companies like Nike or Coca-Cola have enhanced the customer experience; created memorable experiences or catchy tag lines; provided convenience and exceptional service; and a strong, integrated marketing plan.
Remember to use the A.I.D.A. formula in your branding:
Attention: Grab the attention of your target market.
Interest: Create interest in your story and brand by differentiating yourself.
Desire: Develop and instill desire for your product or service
Action: Persuade them to take a specific action.
Companies with a strong sense of purpose often exude positive character traits like caring, courage, honesty and respect throughout their advertising, customer service, web presence and brand personality. Customers will begin to expect and even depend on consistent quality, great service or fast turnaround time.
The most important aspect to remember is that branding is ongoing. It starts long before the sale, and sometimes the most powerful branding happens after the purchase.
Some companies reach out after the sale. Have you ever had a service rep call you to ask you how your experience was? Or have you ever received a personal thank you note after making a purchase? Branding is ongoing. When it’s done properly, over time, it can do wonders.
Incorporate one of these unique branding ideas into your small business within the next 30 days:
- Pick a color that matches your brand. Have employees wear a hat, shirt or other clothing item in that color.
- Infuse a pleasant scent into your air ducts to create an alluring aroma and atmosphere.
- Surprise every 10th visitor or so a free gift – this works for both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar.
- For food & beverage, incorporate a dollar menu or other specialty menu, such as Free Beverage Friday.
- Add a weekly theme once per week that offers special deals or promotions for a segment of customers. For example, give out a free gift or percentage off on Monday Moms, Wednesday Kids or Friday Dads.
- Partner with your favorite charity by adding a button to your website or setting up a Facebook page. Donate a percentage of every purchase to a charity of your choice.
- Embed a QR code on a promotional postcard to send customers to a special landing page with an exclusive promotion. Place marketing postcards on car windshields, or send them to a targeted list of prospects.
- If you sell products for kids, add a complimentary coloring book and crayons to each order. Create branded notes, and add them to each package.
- Reflect on your top two shopping experiences (online or in person). Think about the small details that keep you coming back. Make notes of any ideas you can add to your service.
- Ask friends or colleagues to tell you about their top favorite shopping/dining experiences. Listen for words and phrases they use to describe how they felt that could be incorporated to delight your own customers.
- Continue to periodically ask people this question. Keep an ongoing list of ideas and experiment to see which ones are most effective.
Let the founders of the Rose Parade inspire you to take small risks, that can lead to huge rewards.
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