10 Branding Ideas for Small Business (Easy Wins)

Today, it’s easier than ever to start a business. Tech platforms have leveled the playing field, making it possible for anyone to become an entrepreneur doing what they love.

But with greater opportunity comes greater competition. You need a competitive edge to stand out. With the right small business branding ideas, you can stand out and thrive.

If you don’t have a huge budget to hire a branding agency, you can get help from a tool like Looka. However, visual identity is only part of the puzzle.

Branding is all about how you position yourself in the eyes of the consumer. It includes other elements, such as trust, authenticity, tone of voice, and purpose.

That’s why I’ve decided to provide these business branding strategies that you can start implementing today for easy wins. Without wasting any time, let’s dive in.

Emphasize Emotional Benefits

A major component of branding is how you make your customers feel. According to research by Harvard, “95 percent of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind.” This means that emotion, as opposed to logic, is what drives the majority of buying decisions.

Considering this, your branding efforts should be geared towards the emotional response people should get when interacting with your business. Every last detail, from your logo design to your color palette, should work harmoniously to serve this purpose.

Colors, in particular, are an essential aspect of branding because they are loaded with subconscious meaning (and those sweet emotions). Blue is typically associated with loyalty and stability, orange conveys energy and warmth, and so on.

Display chart showing four components of visual identity

Provide Exceptional Customer Service

People usually think of branding in terms of the original brand assets (logo, fonts, etc.) that form a graphic identity. However, one of the best branding ideas that is sometimes overlooked—yet equally, if not more important—is customer service.

While it may not be the most rousing idea on this list, going above and beyond to make your customers happy is a powerful engine of growth for small businesses. Top-notch customer service builds brand loyalty and increases the likelihood of those people recommending your business to a friend.

This is backed up by research. In one study, Forrester found that “77 percent of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.” In another, PWC discovered that “82 percent of U.S. consumers want more human interaction” from the companies they make purchases from.

The message is clear: Exceptional customer service must be at the forefront of your brand strategy. What’s more: Adding a personalized touch will help you stand out in the marketplace even more. One easy way to do this is through an active social media presence, where you have a direct line of communication with your target customers.

Strive for Consistency

Another important branding idea is the notion of consistency. That’s because consistency leads to trust, trust leads to brand loyalty, and brand loyalty leads to more sales and revenue. This concept applies to visual content, brand messaging, content marketing campaigns, how you show up on social platforms, and much more.

Basically, whenever a repeat customer interacts with your business, it should feel on-brand and congruent. Everything should be in sync so that your mission, purpose, and values align with your personality, visual identity, and how you communicate. Through this consistency, you become more memorable.

Strive to be consistent in every aspect, including your physical space, emails, and digital marketing channels. Unlike your logo or brand assets, consistency is something you and your employees need to cultivate over time. The first step is defining your brand guidelines.

Find Co-Branding Opportunities

Co-branding partnerships are an excellent way to increase awareness, grow your online presence, and add value to your business. However, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind.

First, make sure your values are aligned. Values are the foundation of any partnership, so look out for any fundamental differences that could result in conflict down the line.

Next, discuss your core business goals and objectives. For example, some questions you might ask are: What do you hope to get out of the partnership? How long will it last?

Finally, there should be brand synergy. Your target markets should be highly relevant to one another but non-competing at the same time. A perfect example of this would be the co-branding partnership between GoPro and Red Bull.

With the right match, co-branding can be one of the best ways grow a target audience fast, especially for young startups and personal brands.

Refine Your Visual Identity

Graphic design legend Paul Rand once said, “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” What this means is: People are inherently visual. Therefore, design can smooth the way towards trust, memorability, and positive emotions.

The idea of “good design” is subjective, but your branded graphics should reflect your core business values and personality in a striking and cohesive way. This applies to everything from your banner ads and business cards to social media posts and digital marketing content.

The four main components of your visual identity are your brand logo, typography, color palette, and imagery. An overarching consistency should tie these elements together across all of your branded assets.

One of the main benefits of a strong visual identity is that it can lead to brand recognition, which is essential for building customer loyalty.

Display chart showing four components of visual identity

Define Your Purpose

Defining your purpose is one of the early steps to take when building a successful brand. Ideally, it should be fleshed out before you start working on your tagline, logo, and other visual elements. In fact, if you do this first, it will make the rest of your work a whole lot easier.

The first step is figuring out your why. Of course, we all want to make more money, but think about it more from an emotional standpoint: Who are you trying to help? What problem are you trying to solve?

Your purpose is what makes you unique and separates you from other brands, so make sure it’s authentic. People want to buy from companies whose core values are aligned with their own, which is why a strong sense of purpose is one of your superpowers in a competitive market.

Publish Branded Content

An excellent method of building awareness is through branded content. Not to be confused with content marketing campaigns, which have a more promotional flavor to them, branded content uses storytelling to convey values, elicit emotion, and pique interest.

Think of branded content as a long-term play for your business. It may not lead to many immediate sales, but the rewards are plenty, if done correctly. That’s because branded content tends to be shared more, builds brand loyalty, and makes you memorable. 

According to Forbes, “Branded Content is 22x more engaging than display ads.” And an interesting study by IPG Media Lab found that consumers are “14 percent more likely to seek out additional content from an advertiser after being exposed to branded content.”

Many companies invest in this type of content as a part of their brand strategy because it works. It’s worth mentioning, as well, that branded content can take many different forms, from a blog post or video content to an art project or photo editorial.

Graphic Design quote by Paul Rand

Build a Brand Community

You may be wondering: Why should I build a brand community? Well, the answer is simple: It provides a space for your loyal customers to gather and builds brand culture.

It can be a Facebook group, an email newsletter, a video platform, or a forum. You can create a community through a unique hashtag on social media sites like Instagram or use the comments sections of your blog articles to have conversations.

The truth is, no single platform is ideal for every business. The best option for you is contingent on your industry and customer base. The key is choosing a platform that perfectly aligns with your target audience and encourages user interaction.

Generally speaking, these are the people follow you on all the social platforms and buy your products. They are your true fans, so building a community is one way for you to reward them and strengthen that bond.

You can also use it as an additional marketing channel to try out new branding strategies. It’s a place where you can run polls and contests, announce new products, or interact with potential customers. In this way, it holds massive value by facilitating target audience development.

Run a Loyalty Program

Yet another effective way for a small business to build brand equity is through a loyalty program. It’s no secret that it costs more money to acquire new customers than keep old ones, which is why loyalty programs are so common among the most successful brands.

While there are many different types of loyalty programs you can offer, the idea is basically the same. That is: People who repeatedly interact with your brand are rewarded with discounts, freebies, or other exclusive perks. 

Interestingly enough, recent studies have shown that younger generations respond to different incentives than their parents. Millennials value personalization and innovative experiences, whereas others value low prices and product quality. The takeaway is that your loyalty program must be tailored to your specific audience.

Demonstrate Authenticity 

With so much business moving online these days, it’s more important than ever to be authentic. The reason is simple: People are weary of perfection: They want to know the person behind the curated Instagram feed and beautifully-designed site. This is partly why B2C video content has become so influential.

An authentic brand is one whose words and actions are perfectly aligned with its identity. Connecting with customers one-on-one, being genuine, and good follow-through are key indicators as well.

Authenticity exists on a spectrum—it is rarely black-and-white. However, being committed to improving your brand’s authenticity in every way, shape, and form is a worthwhile endeavor that will naturally attract more potential customers over time.

Conclusion

By now, your mind should be spinning with the possibilities of these small business branding ideas.

It’s a lot to consider, but if you commit to doing one small thing each day, the cumulative effect will be massive for your business.

Whether you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur building a personal brand, I hope you found these branding tips for small business helpful.

FAQ

How do you stand out as a brand?

In addition to the company branding ideas listed above, here are three actionable steps you can take:

  • Being original is the best way to stand out. You can cultivate a unique business presence by always staying true to your purpose, mission, and values. One way to do this is by creating a brand story.
  • Know your ideal customer. Do your research to know exactly who you are serving. That way, you will be able to optimize their experience and become more memorable in the process.
  • Finally, be authentic. This is like a cheat code for brands. Nobody enjoys receiving a response that was copy-and-pasted from a template, so do your customers a favor, and interact with them on a more personal level. 

Why is branding more important than ever?

Branding is everything for a small business. No matter what industry you are in, branding gives you a competitive edge against the more established players in your niche.

While the bigger companies have more resources, you can outmaneuver them with smart branding ideas that a large entity might have difficulty pulling off. Community building and personalization efforts are examples of this.

The important thing to realize is that can use your size as a strength with the right tactics.

How are photos used in branding? 

Photos convey complex ideas and emotions into a single image. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This makes photography an essential part of any toolbox. It is also one of the easiest branding ideas to implement.

Photos can also help you humanize your brand. Above, we discussed the importance of authenticity and trust. Candid photography, in particular, is useful for giving a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Showing the hard work and struggles that go into your brand makes you infinitely more relatable than a polished persona.  

You can implement photos into your branding by creating a mood board and then a style guide. For example, you may decide that all of your stock photos can only come from a single source. Or maybe your images all have a specific color palette. Whatever method you decide, keeping a style guide handy will help you maintain a high level of consistency.

What are Carl Jung’s 12 brand archetypes?

Psychologist Carl Jung believed that humans use symbols, or archetypes, to make dense concepts more understandable. These archetypes “are hardwired into our psyche,” he said. Today, many brands use them as a positioning strategy.

The basic idea is that by building your brand on the foundation of one of these archetypes, your customers will have an innate understanding of your business and feel more connected to it. 

Carl Jung’s 12 brand archetypes are:

  • The Innocent
  • The Everyman
  • The Rebel
  • The Explorer
  • The Creator
  • The Magician
  • The Lover
  • The Caregiver
  • The Jester
  • The Sage
  • The Hero

What comes first: logo or branding?

The short answer is that branding comes first. When you think about a brand, the logo is usually the first thing that pops into your mind. However, the logo is just a symbol or an icon. You might call it the tip of the iceberg. Your mission, purpose, personality, and other details (including the logo) collectively make up the brand.

That’s why you need to define what your business stands first to effectively design a logo. What are its values? What problem is it trying to solve? If the logo is not aligned with your company’s ethos, it will be tough to maintain a consistent brand presentation. 

Designing a logo first is like putting the cart before the horse. Sure, you can make an attractive icon for business cards, email marketing, and other marketing materials without answering the important questions. However, the groundwork should be laid out beforehand for a complete brand identity package.

Further Reading

For more DIY branding info, check out my step-by-step guide on how to make a logo with Photoshop, how to make a zine, or get some personal logo ideas. You may also be interested in my favorite gear, such as laptops for graphic design.