Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Branding...what is it good for? (4 things your business needs)

A potential client came to me with a logo request. I gave him a quick lesson on branding and social media. He then asked "How much is this going to cost?". Needless to say, my fee was "astronomical". He explained that logos are too expensive and that they have no value these days like they used to. His plan was to start a twitter and facebook account and "see how it goes". I was floored. Social Media might seem like a godsend, but it's just one of many tools that small business needs to get started. It is not a money-making machine you plug some info and characters into so you can sit back and count your dough. Branding comes first and foremost. Period.

And branding is not exclusive to your logo, but to all your materials. There needs to be a cohesiveness and consistency to everything baring your name (and hopefully your brand). 3 branding materials you need are:

1. Logo: Your logo is your brand -- what defines you as a business. Why? Because symbols are a part of our daily lives, and have been for ages. Picture these brands in your mind's eye as you read them -- Fruit of the Loom, Nike, Best Buy, Apple, McDonald's, Ray-Ban, Ford motor company. You recognize those brands because they've done their time. You have to do the same with yours.

2. Business Card: Simply put, when you meet someone you make your first and best impression, but your business card works to remind them. It's not just a card stock with your name and information printed on it. Take the time to invest in a nice card stock, non-glossy, so your first meeting will be a lasting one. (You can also add either a letterhead and or envelope)

3. Email Signature: Yes, even something as small as an email signature is an important element of your branding. Every email displays your logo and brand feel. It's a constant reminder of who you are. And it's a reminder, in general, that nothing is below having design.

4. Website: Some people still think they can operate their business without a website. Sorry, but that's just not true. People say they're too expensive. Again, this is your business, and there is going to be a level of investment going into your online presence. A facebook and twitter page is great, but they should be directing people to your website not filling in for the absence of an official website. Also, your site should be no bigger than 5 pages. Feel the need to over-explain yourself in 12 pages? Don't. And don't forget to get yourself a branded facebook and twitter page. Remember, nothing is below having design. (Below is an example)

Sound pricey? It's not, and most designers will do this for a package price. And if this still sounds expensive think about how expensive it will be without it. This is an investment that you're making. An investment in yourself and your business. Do not become a cheapskate on this because you will regret it down the line and people will notice it. I realize this is a quick overview on the topic of branding (and it skims marketing), but if you have any questions and would like to know what the average price for this kind of package would run you, please ask. I'm here to help and educate. And remember my philosophy...great and effective design is the product of creativity, knowledge and information.



Brad Johnson said...

I think it's the economy that causes people to think twice about these kinds of things. It can't be easy doing business during the worse economy in decades. But I do agree that these kinds of materials are needed if your to be taken seriously as a professional in anything you do. Would it help to lower prices?

Derek said...

I totally agree. but it's hard to change the minds of people who are never going to get it. You just need to move onto the people who value your work and understand that it takes to do business.

Anonymous said...

Right on!

Jeannette Paladino said...

Excellent post. Branding -- how you want to be perceived by your targets -- is a totally integrated effort, from website, to promotional materials, to how you introduce yourself and represent yourself on social networks. It all needs to work together. Derek is correct in saying that the people who will never get it -- on the tail end of the bell curve are not worth your effort. The true believers don't need convincing. Its the great middle -- those who would be willing but need more information. That's the great majority of people so we need to be better at explaining the value to expense ratio.

Tanoshiboy said...

You put it just right. "How do you want to be perceived?"
I've been doing this so long that I can usually tell over the phone if we're going to work together or not. Besides providing exceptional creative services and customer service, I also try to educate on why and how I do what I do and why it is so important. Thank you, Jeannette.

Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach) said...

Just last night I attended a networking event at which I received several compliments on my logo. Yes! It matters as do all your suggestions.

Catarina Alexon said...

Spot on when it comes to the visual part.

However, the most important thing is to define your brand. Everything is a brand even you and me. What do you want people to associate you with? If you get that wrong, it doesn't matter what you do when it comes to design.

Actually Dennis what is your brand? What do you want people to associate you with? How do you want to be perceived? And why?

Tanoshiboy said...

@Keyuri That's great. I always compliment people on their great taste in branding. If you don't acknowledge it, people wonder.

@Catarina What is my brand? I think I've demonstrated it pretty clearly. I think Jeannette said it best. To me the graphics and illustrations speak for me, and that's easy, but it's how I want to be perceived. Design is nothing if people don't like me. To relate to someone is probably the best way to do business. Salvatier Studios is my brand as a professional designer and illustrator. It's what pays my bills and I enjoy doing it. Tanoshiboy is a nickname that quickly became an idea to bring some of my fun, personal work, to the people. I'm slowly developing it, but it should be seen as fun and not businessy (not a word, I know). This blog is where I can work on my personal projects and unwind. I don't get paid for it, but If I can inspire or help someone, I've done my good deed for the day. So I'm both Clark Kent and Superman. :)

Joel said...

I can clearly see what your brand is Dennis. I've been to your official site and it still has the inviting feel to it that your blog has. I see you have two sets of branding, but I can tell which one is Clark Kent and which one is Superman. Nice analogy by the way. You do a great job of coming off as the professional that you are without looking unapproachable. We've never met, but you've opened up well here. Best of luck buddy.

Heather Fonseca said...

I'm so glad you wrote on this subject. Branding has been on my mind and my post on the subject will pop up tomorrow morning. I really struggle with the whole concept of branding, and I don't have a logo, though I do have some nice business cards. Maybe something we can discuss over lunch!

Susan Oakes said...

I think part of the problem regarding branding is people think it is just a logo. As Catarina said you need to define your brand and this is where small businesses have problems.

The brand identity comes from your positioning which comes from understanding your customers and knowing your differences with competitors. Without this knowledge then it is often just guesswork.

Tanoshiboy said...

@Heather Let's do that. :)

@Susan I have an appointment next week where the topic will be branding. The client wants a redesign on his website. I'm sure he believes that's the answer to his issues, and I've already addressed his current brand (which is almost non-existant). I'm going in to educate on the matter of branding. It might be a little difficult. My job is to rain down the strong customer service, which is a huge part of my branding. Most designers inadvertently get me referrals because of what a bad experience their clients had with them. I'm glad to change people's minds on what working with a designer is like.

KeepUpWeb said...

It’s amazing how many people do not take branding seriously. Graphic design is a critical part of a successful business. My current blog is built on a shoestring and I’m not particularly proud of the graphic that I created for it. Having said that, I am proud of the graphic that I paid to have created for our virtual tour photography business. At our 1st meeting with our graphic designer, she showed us her portfolio and explained how each logo represented her client. The logo that she designed for us represented the movement in our virtual tours.

It’s unforunate that there are so many options to buy inexpensive logo designs online these days. On the other hand, there’s huge opportunity for business owners who recognize that their brand is one of the most critical components of their marketing strategy. You mentioned Nike. Who doesn’t immediate recognize that brand? That brand recognition is what you’re paying for when you hire a professional designer. If you are serious about launching a successful business, that is one area that you really can’t afford not to invest in.

Catherine Lockey said...

Dennis - that client in the beginning of your story will have to learn the hard way. I prequalify clients before I meet with them now because I just don't have the time to do otherwise. Interest generating design is essential for successful branding.

New Internet Horizons for Small Businesses said...

Great post Dennis. Branding is so much than just a logo - it is the total embodiment of what you say, what you don't say, what you do, how you are perceived, what you write, your logo, your website, etc. I agree that this economy has made it difficult for many to get the most professional design into their brand but the concept is still highly relevant. In today's world of the Internet, we often "meet" and even do business with people without ever meeting face-to-face. Sometimes their first introduction to our brand is through our website and we all know what they say about first impressions.

Thanks for sharing your insights and talents :)