What I wish small business owners knew about branding

November 29, 2021

Filed in: Education, Marketing

Whenever the twin concepts of ‘Design & Branding’ pop up in a strategy discourse, it’s not untypical for organizations figuring out this thing called ‘running a small business’ to get it all muddled up. If this is you, then Christmas came early. 

Let’s be honest. As a small business owner, you’re probably not asking for too much: Ramp up productivity. Rocket revenue. Probably garner just as much brand visibility, attraction, and retention to form a pool of clientele solid enough for you to get by.  

Where you come up short, though, is where you’re left to ponder about how best to kick-start this chain reaction. Which one does it for your business? Branding? Design? You’re still in a bit of conceptual deep waters, struggling to draw a line between these two seemingly interwoven aspects to your business.

Seeking some clarity? Buckle in as we shed some light on the difference between design and branding, the role each plays, which one’s the rain-maker for your business (Hint: branding), and how you can harness both in this post:

What is the difference between design and branding? 

Nailing this question means getting to the meat and potatoes of what branding and Design REALLY entails, individually. Branding is a perception you want to create amongst your clients. It’s what places you aloof from every Average Joe, Inc. in the room. It’s your purpose. Your WHY. Your superpower. 

Design, however, is a cluster of visual expressions about your small business, for instance — your colors, logos, typography, and your brand’s overall visual identity. Restricted to pure aesthetics, your design will mark your small business with a physical distinctiveness that your customers will recognize and admire.  

The Design v. Branding Dilemma

Regrettably, design is odds-on to be the first thing that comes to the minds of business owners when they think of a brand. Not quite. Design, being an unmistakable physical element of your brand, may deserve its place as a vital piece of the puzzle, but its relevance pales in comparison to, say, mapping out a narrative that paints an ‘HD-clear’ picture of your brand’s purpose. This narrative is what should drive the visuals. 

Brands are no longer what business owners tell customers that it is. Brands are now more of what customers tell one other that it is. This means (logically) that the catalyst for that word-of-mouth, brand evangelism that is responsible for making raving fans is a product of deep-rooted emotions that leaves them gushing about your product/services. The million-dollar question now is: “how then can you achieve this?”

Drum rollsssss . . . . BRANDINGGGG. 

 Without a tinge of uncertainty, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your customers aren’t talking about your brand assets, design, logos, or visual identity. They’ll rather hold meaningful discussions about your brand’s inception and all the fantastic stuff your business has been up to (and how they have become your raving fan) lately.

Will they talk about your design? Sure, a few nice words, here and there. But some won’t give a hoot (if we’re being honest). And this’s why you see several brands who may fare terribly on the aesthetic front but killing it when it comes to the business end of their operations. 

Effective branding is not just of the essence. It’s an absolute must. 

Design feeds your branding. Your branding feeds your business!

The interconnectedness of these two concepts means it’s worth digging deep into the core WHY of your business before you make any branding decisions. What is the brand image you want to impress on your clients? 

All these tie into your brand’s storytelling. Hence, branding should pull heavy emotional punches through storytelling to leverage the substance of your business’ existence over forms of intangible assets, like design. 

What is your Brand’s WHY?

In locking on your brand’s purpose, you might have to answer these questions: 

  • Why did I start this business? 
  • What are our core values as a small business?
  • What do we do better than anyone else on the block?
  • If we could describe our brand in a couple of words, what would they be?
  • What kind of impression do we want to leave on our customers?

In the final analysis, mapping out your purpose is a game-changer. Why so? As human beings (even before we become business owners), we all want to be accepted for who we are — our real, authentic selves. 

Being the best version of yourself, and harnessing our superpowers in a way that contributes to a satisfying life for you and those that matter to you (your family, loved ones, and customers), is the entire idea of living life “on purpose.” This is what evokes the emotions running through the minds of your customers every time they make a purchase or spin a good yarn about your brand. 

So, next time you’re caught in two minds about how to spruce up your small business and infuse it with some meaningful purpose that’s poised to secure customer loyalty, you might wanna ask yourself: 

“Why do businesses thrive even after committing horrendous design fails or losing their production-related assets to a disaster, but won’t survive an absence of its brand promise?”

… And there you have it. 

If your branding is spot-on, design gets your brand’s juices flowing as far as communicating your essence is, making your entire messaging a whole lot more resonant with your customers.

Final Thoughts

Not to spin a web of scare tactics, but you can only go so far without expertly distilling your brand’s WHY for your audience. 

Remember, it’s about curating a narrative that pulls your customers in. Not just assembling a logical flow of facts — or data. It’s the fall before the rise. The chaos before the calm. The need before your existence. 

We’d wager most of the branding mistakes — including terribly done designs — were made by folks who overestimated their branding skills. That’s why it’s best to leave it to professionals ( . . . raising our hands) 

You want to ensure you’re not just working with an agency whose only strong point is designing, but also branding experts. So you’re not just building fancy aesthetics that lack meaning and purpose

We remove the ‘hem’ and ‘haws’ out of your branding and powerfully relay your WHY with brand storytelling that is rooted in emotions, structure, and rhythm that resonates with your audience, draws them into your brand’s purpose, and turns them into loyal customers. 

Give us a shout-out to conduct a high-level assessment of your current branding (per a brand audit) today. 

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