On set with Kathy Smart
What is branding? From a pragmatic 21st-century entrepreneur’s perspective, it’s becoming nearly everything. As a greater percentage of commerce becomes based in virtual services, an effective logo and/or website name can make or break an SME.
However, the mysteries of SME branding are ultimately not that complex and the answers to such questions may actually be found in the terms themselves. The much-cited American Marketing Association definition informs us that a “brand” is “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”
Meanwhile, the Entrepreneur.com “encyclopedia” tells us that “branding” is “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
The keywords in both are obvious: Branding is all about *identification* of unique qualities and *differentiation* of one product/line from the others. Easier said than done, you say? Not to worry: Most of the basic techniques are straight out of Marketing 101; a good list of tips to establish branding and keeping it healthy run below.
• The logo. With online culture making information intake increasingly visual in nature, the logo has become more crucial than ever. No one can teach inspiration, but note that all logos may essentially be reduced to two types: Word-based and image-based. As an SME, you’ll want to accentuate the image and make it iconic. Avoid abstract stuff: Nike can use the “Swoosh” because their marketing budget runs in the millions annually; the average SME doesn’t. Choose/create an image that imparts what you do as precisely as possible.
• The USP. Here’s the “differentiation” bit. The SME must address and sharply define its Unique Selling Proposition. Such a USP should be short and concise enough to serve as a company slogan or at very least a mission statement. And remember: Be exciting and active. “We provide marketing services for the SME” is bad. “Our expertise in cutting-edge marketing techniques can grow your SME dynamically” is good.
• Writing. With online self-publishing made so easily online and niche markets so readily accessible, start producing text that demonstrates the expertise and ideas behind product/line/SME. Quite popular at present are industry white papers and eBooks (downloadable from the branded website); a single good lengthy document can extend the brand’s shelf life for far longer than daily blog posts.
• Podcasting. Podcasts are simple, fun and an incredibly good way to get that brand out there. Even the most techno-illiterate can learn how to record and mix down a podcast in one hour or less, and each podcast puts your brand at the forefront of a potential customer’s mind for the length of show.
• Working in real life. Believe it or not, the internet hasn’t wiped out old-fashioned business dealings. Personal appearances at industry conferences and event sponsorships can assure that your brand enters the public consciousness – and stays there. A single name-dropping of a branded website in a business meeting or lecture is worth tens of hours of SEO optimization for that site.