A small winter festival that began in 1890 as a way to celebrate the “Mediterranean of the West” and showcase the Southern California sunshine and flowers has since grown into a magical world-renowned celebration. The annual tournament of roses New Years day parade is now a monumental celebration, drawing millions of spectators from around the world each year. The festivities are broadcast in 200 countries, and the “Rose parade” brand is an international sensation, synonymous with New Years day.
This is a classic textbook case of how a non profit organization can build a strong brand presence, without the bells, whistles and deep pockets of larger corporations.
This article will discuss branding for small business owners, specifically, how to develop a unique brand on a small budget. Readers will leave with an understanding of how to choose colors that best resonate with their target audiences, and a handful of creative, affordable marketing ideas. The end of the articles provides a few simple action steps pertinent to developing a strong, credible brand.
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.
The pictures below show examples of how several companies that started out as small, unknown brands have developed a commanding presence.
The first step in building your brand is to decide what you stand for. First determining your purpose and mission statement. Keep in mind that you are establishing a promise to your customers, and a brand personality that matches that promise.
If you are not selling an innovative product or service, think about companies that have outlasted the competition, like Nike, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s or Southwest Airlines.
These organizations don’t provide state-of-the- art, or rare products. They have differentiated themselves by enhancing the customer experience, creating memorable experiences, catchy tag lines, convenience, exceptional service, and a strong, integrated marketing plan.
Remember to use the A.I.D.A. formula in your branding:
A: Attention: Grab the attention of your target market.
I: Interest: Create interest in your story and brand by differentiating yourself.
D: Desire: Develop and instill desire for your product or service (why should someone purchase it-how will it make them feel or look)?
A: Action: Persuade them to take a specific action.
Companies with a strong sense of purpose almost always exude positive character traits like caring, courage, honesty, and respect. It’s everywhere; in the advertising, customer service, web presence, and brand personality. You come 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.
I recently walked into a quaint bookstore in a small beach community with a good friend. We were greeted with “Hello, can I get you a glass of chardonnay or hot tea?” We felt as though we had walked into a cozy living room. This got our attention and interest. It persuaded us to spend some time browsing through the books, and strike up a conversation with the owner. It was personable and memorable. It was a simple but powerful strategy.
Courtney’s Action Items:
Incorporate one of these unique branding ideas into your small business within the next 30 days:
Brick and Mortar businesses
- Pick a color that matches your brand, or choose a favorite color. Ask your employees to wear a hat, shirt or bow tie in that color to work.
- Infuse a delicious scent into your air ducts, so your shop smells of lavender, peppermint, or another irresistible aroma.
- If you are a florist, (or even if you are not) give every female who walks in your shop a free flower. Or give every tenth visitor a free gift – this works for both e-commerce and brick and mortar.
- Hire a massage therapist to come in every Friday from 1-4, and give free 10 minute massages to the customers.
- If you are a coffee house or restaurant, incorporate a dollar menu, or a Free Beverage Friday (customers receive one free small beverage on Fridays).
- Add a theme one day a week where you will give a segment of your customers a free gift or 50% off. For example, Monday Moms, Wednesday Kids, or Friday Dads.
- Partner with your favorite charity. Set up a Facebook page or add a button to your website. $2.00 of every purchase can go to the charity of your choice.
- Create a QR code (for free) that takes scanners to a special landing page of your website that offers an exclusive promotion. Embed the QR code on a promotional postcard. Place the 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 about this free gift, and add them to each package. Pick a relevant product for your target audience.
If none of the above work for you
- Reflect on your top two shopping experiences (online or in person). Think about the small details that keep you coming back. Sometimes they are subtle. Make notes of any ideas you can add to your service.
- Ask two friends (of varying ages) to tell you about their top favorite shopping/dining experiences. Listen for words and phrases they use to describe how they felt. See if there are any ideas (no matter how subtle or small) that you can use that will delight your 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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