You Don’t Need Money To Build A Brand

“A brand is the sum of all feelings, thoughts and recognitions – positive and negative – that people in the target audience have about a company, a product or service.”
Steve McNamara, AdCracker.Com

I think there’s a misconception that it takes a lot of money to build a brand. Chris Garret has a series of posts about branding your blog, which he continues to add to and I encourage you to read. (Chris how about a dedicated page where we can find links to all the posts in the series?) Today’s post, Your Successful Brand reminded me of some conversations I’ve had with people who assumed that only rich companies could build a brand. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Whether you realize it or not you’re building your brand with every action you take. You build it with the quality of your products and services, you build it with the way you treat your customers and clients, and you build it with every communication you have. Read the quote at the top of this post again and also read the one at the bottom. People are forming thoughts and feelings about you every time they interact with you. The way you handle those interactions leads to a collection of perceptions about you, your business, and your products and services.

As Chris mentions in his post

A successful brand comes in two parts:

1. Recognition
2. Feelings

Most people associate brand building mainly with the first. You gain recognition through repetition. As you consistently get your name in front of more and more people you increase recognition. Include a memorable logo with your name and in time you don’t even need to mention your name. Show your logo and people know who you are. Watch a few Nike commercials and see how many times they actually use their name. I’ll give you a hint it’s zero times. They don’t need to anymore. We’ve seen the swoosh next to their name enough over the years. You’re more likely to see the “Just Do It” slogan than the name Nike at this point.

Keeping with the Nike example people begin to see branding as investing a lot of money in developing a logo and then more money in advertising in as many places as you can. Neither of which is something most small businesses can afford to do. Fortunately you don’t have to.

Branding Is Building A Consistent Experience

While recognition is a part of branding, the more important part is the feelings, thoughts, and perceptions associated with your business. This more important part of your brand doesn’t cost anything. At least it doesn’t cost anything more than the everyday costs of doing business.

You build this aspect of your brand by making all parts of your business work together to reinforce your message and who you are. From the products you offer to the way you treat customers to the look of your website and the words you use in your marketing messages.

Are you all about providing quality? Then you’d better not be the cheapest in your market. Cheap and quality don’t go together. Do you want people to think of you as approachable and friendly? Then I hope you have a real person answering the phones and you return email promptly.

In building your brand ask yourself what you want people to think about when they think about you. What kind of experience do you want them to associate with you? What’s the feeling you want them to have when they hear your name?

Your first step in building a brand is deciding who you are. What’s your message? What image do you want to convey to the world? Once you know you want to work to make every aspect or your business consistent with your image, your message, and you. Be consistent. Make sure all your business is in harmony with itself. It might take time to achieve, but whenever and wherever you are giving an impression that doesn’t align with what you want your brand to be change things so it does align.

Apple makes the iMac, iBook, and iPod. Did you need to be told who was the company behind the iPhone? The first time you saw an image of the iPhone did you even need to see it’s name to know that Apple had designed it?

The recognition will come in time. Sure money can help you get that recognition faster the same way it can help you get a lot of things faster. But the key to brand building is in consistently presenting yourself the way you want people to think and feel about you. That doesn’t cost a dime.

“A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.”
Colin Bates, BuildingBrands.com

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

4 comments

  1. Glad you like Kristine. I’m feeling the love. By the way don’t I owe you another box of chocolates? I seem to recall you reaching a milestone earlier this week.

    I know exactly what you mean about the companies that say stupid things somewhere. I guess they don’t realize the impact it can have. Reputation Management is an important part of marketing, but if most companies remained consistent they would have a lot less reputation that needed management.

    I think consistency is the key too. I always try to think about it whenever I’m making any kind of statement in public. None of us are perfectly consistent. I know I’ve changed my mind over the years and I’m sure I’ve given advice here or on a forum that I now no longer agree with and recommend the opposite. But still it’s important to think of your brand in all the things you do. Think about who you are and how you want others to see you and ask yourself before publishing something if it’s consistent with your brand.

  2. This post is so right! The thing that constantly amazes me is the companies that will spend so much time and effort building their brand and then they will go online and say something stupid on a forum or a blog and ruin everything.

    Your second to last sentence should be burned over the entrance to every marketing department in the world. You have to be consistent in how you present yourself and you have to be aware that someone can always find what you’ve said and link it back to your company.

  3. Good article Steven. Though a budget can certainly help in this regard, I agree that a brand starts from the ground up. Even small operations can start ‘walking’ (little investment) before they try and run. :)

  4. Thanks. I completely agree that money can help. I wrote this after seeing one too many people complain they couldn’t do any branding without a lot of money. Good point about it starting from the ground up. You brand yourself where you can given the money you have to spend and build from there.

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