When many small businesses first start out, they are so focused on just getting started that their only thoughts regarding branding is their logo. While this makes some sense considering everything that goes into simply running your business, this is a strategic marketing mistake. Even small businesses need to think about going beyond a logo and having their brand encompass the heart and soul of their business.
It is not enough to simply have a great product or offer a great service. There are just too many businesses who can make and offer the same, especially when those businesses are online and location is no longer a roadblock. Consumers today want an experience; they want a community; they want so much more than the product or service you provide. Marketing to these consumer expectations is extremely reliant on authenticity and building trust within communities, and a logo just isn’t going to cut through all the noise. You need a well thought out brand, with a personality and voice, to build that authenticity and community.
Your brand is also something that should not be put on the back burner. It can be so easy to think that you will just focus on getting your product or service out there right now and then come back to your brand when “things calm down,” but we all know that in business, things rarely calm down enough for this to be true. If you don’t define your brand and your voice right away, something or someone else is going to define your brand for you, and not always in the way you like. You will have less control over your brand and will need to adhere to whatever split second decisions you are making rather than being able to follow a well thought out plan. You don’t want your brand to be defined by one snide reply to a review or–heaven forbid–the review itself.
Your brand must be carefully considered and authentic to what you want your business to be. And always think long-term strategies when it comes to your brand, rather than what is working for other businesses right now. You don’t want to define your brand as something that is currently trendy, and be stuck with those decisions 10-20 years down the road when it no longer works.
Take Pepsi, for example. Pepsi was founded in 1898 — six years after Coca-Cola. They defined themselves as the younger, cooler version of Coke. It’s not just that this was part of their marketing strategy in 1898; it’s that this was their entire brand identity. And over 100 years later, they are still calling themselves young. Now, this identity of being the younger, cooler version of Coca-Cola could still work for them if they were constantly staying on top of trends and marketing toward younger generations. But they are not. Who else remembers their awful attempt at being young with their Kendall Jenner commercial? Their brand identity does not match their brand voice, and it comes off at best as inauthentic and ridiculous. Remember Regina George’s mom in Mean Girls? That’s Pepsi. “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom.” Changing your brand identity and voice can be difficult, and Pepsi is a cautionary tale of how a branding decision over 100 years ago can still affect a business.
But as wrong as Pepsi’s voice is, there are other companies who are getting it right. For example: MoonPie. MoonPie was founded in 1917, so as a brand, they are also over 100 years old. However, when they decided to reach out to the younger generation, they didn’t do it by giving lip service or virtue signaling. MoonPie successfully updated their brand voice to be snarky, quirky, and irreverent. This brand voice resonates with the younger, Gen Z audience who finds it fun and funny. Now, this 100+ year old company has an entirely new audience and generation to support their brand.
It can be easy to push aside branding in favor of more immediate needs for your business. However, in today’s market, your brand is what is going to help you stand out and rise above your competitors, and you want to be in control of that process. Having a well thought out brand that encompasses all you are now and who you want to be in the future, keeps you in control and gives you a step up that so many small businesses need to thrive.