No matter how big or small your business, branding is a key component to your long-term viability. That is a fact. Think about your own buying decisions in the past and how the most subtle details swayed your opinion of a particular company or product over another. Oftentimes, a consumer can be subconsciously and emotionally drawn in your direction by something as simple as an appealing logo design, clever slogan, or impactful colors. For this reason, branding agencies can charge upwards of $100K to establish a corporate identity. How can a startup or small business possibly afford those expert services? They don’t need to. Branding on a budget is all about itemizing and prioritizing the elements your company could benefit from in the short-term, and building from there.
Major corporations abide by brand books comprised of hundreds of pages, meticulously accounting for every possible marketing scenario. These guides often include extensive rules about logo usage, font families, spacing requirements, color libraries, image treatments, and the list goes on. You don’t need all of that (yet)! Here are the essential elements for any new brand:
Branding means consistency. Think about your favorite iconic companies such as Coca Cola’s classic red or FedEx’s dynamic purple. These brands have committed to a palette of colors and they utilize them in all marketing, advertising, and product design efforts. The end result is an association that fosters recognition and familiarity. It doesn’t cost anything to define your corporate colors—making it a perfect first step in establishing your brand identity.
Don’t go overboard. Select one or two core colors that compliment each other well. Maybe keep a few others in your back pocket that you can use supplementally on occasion. Keep in mind, that red you see on Coke cans and tv commercials is not simply “red” but instead a very specific hue. Again, consistency is key to brand awareness. Considering I don’t trust my own judgement on colors that go well together, I rely on platforms like COLOURlovers and Coolors to inspire my palettes.
Yes, this article is about branding on a budget—but if you’re not a skilled graphic designer, I urge you to spend any pennies you have on a professional logo design. In my opinion, the logo is everything. Potential customers, investors, and team members will make critical assumptions about your business based on the design of your logo. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. This piece is the cornerstone of your brand today and into the future, so don’t settle for good enough.
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to walk away with a solid logo concept these days. Fiverr hosts an expansive selection of experienced designers who deliver quality work at affordable rates. There are also a number of online logo studios that allow you to build your own design such as Tailor Brands, Canva, and Looka.
Whether you hire a pro, use a fancy AI tool, or employ your artistic nephew, be sure to get the file types and formats you’ll need for both web and print uses. Also keep in mind how your new logo or icon will look on social media, where you have limited control over its cropping and shape.
This is an important exercise—not just for marketing purposes, but for you as a business owner as well. We’ve all heard the term elevator pitch, but have you ever thought about what you would say if a stranger asked you to explain your business in 10 seconds or less? Just like with colors and visual design, your brand story needs to be powerful and consistent. Give yourself a toolbox of text to use on your website, social media profiles, business directories, and other marketing platforms. This arsenal should include:
- Company Slogan
- Short Blurb (1-2 Sentences)
- Mission Statement
- Extended Blurb (1-2 Paragraphs)
Branding for the Future
In all likelihood, your company will never need a 150-page brand bible. However, with this essential foundation, you can build and evolve your identity over time. Consistency breathes legitimacy, trust, and professionalism. While it’s true that nothing is written in stone, holding yourself to consistent guidelines will go a long way toward the success of your venture.