The importance of branding – all the basics for small businesses

A guide to the importance of branding for small businesses

Who can debate the importance of good branding?

Are you a small business owner thinking of taking your business to the next level? Or maybe for now you have an idea (but being business savvy) you want to get your branding basics right, before you launch. In the world of small business, the importance of branding simply cannot be denied as it can be a key differentiator in making you stand out amongst the competition.

Do you ever find yourself looking at big brands, wondering how their branding is so spot on? The fact is, big businesses know the value of investing in branding and marketing.

Design work however can be costly and shelling out for a creative agency at the beginning is probably not very high up on your list of financial expenditures.

The good news is that you can do some of the basic work all by yourself. Businesses of all sizes can follow some key principles to create slick, sleek and on point branding.

As a marketeer with a big re-brand behind me (I rebranded an organisation that had been running under a different name for 17 years!) and lots of experience working on branding strategy for the many organisations I’ve worked for, I KNOW the power and importance of brand.

This handy guide below will walk you through the steps you need to get your brand in a good place. Alongside I offer tips and the pitfalls to watch out for as you create your new brand.

A guide to what you’ll find in this article:

  • Thinking about target audience
  • Researching your competitors
  • Visual Appeal – make it easy on the eyes
  • Branding elements and their importance: logo, colours, fonts and brand property
  • Imagery and graphics – does your brand ‘feel’ right?
  • Consistency – use your brand everywhere, all day, every day

Think about your target audience

How to make your brand appeal to your target audience

Let’s start at the beginning. Whether you’re a product or service owner, your business is in the hospitality, beauty, sporting (or any other) industry, everything starts with the audience you are wanting to sell to.  A super basic example (excuse the stereotypically gendered nature of this!), if you’re a men’s’ accessories or watch brand you’re unlikely to want to create branding in female centric colours such as pink or purple. Or, you might be an up and coming home fragrance brand so using outdoor imagery probably won’t go

down very well with your audience. This is the first ‘why’ of the importance of branding – it allows you to think, to delve into your audiences’ minds and really get to grips with what will appeal to them.

Think about your ideal customer and then work backwards. Think about what defines this person (s), their age group, their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, how much disposable income they might have – these alongside a number of other key characteristics will start painting a picture of your ideal customer. Your branding should appeal to this person (s).

Research competitors

Researching your brand competitors

Once you’ve done some groundwork on your target audience, it’s time to cast the net wider and think about your competition. Start putting together a list of businesses that have similar products and/or services to yours.

Now evaluate their branding – what do you think they’re getting right that is attracting customers their way? Do they use more/or less vibrant colours, is their tone of voice super fun and conversational? Conversely, think about what they’re doing that isn’t so great. Is their copy a little sloppy? Does their logo not tell the customer what this brand is about? These are things you want to avoid.

Be inspired by the good and avoid the bad but don’t copy their branding! Apart from the fact that there’s a whole bunch of legal and not so fun stuff involved with abusing trademarks, the whole point is to stand out! Think about it this way, if you and another brand both had product A (which was an exact replica of each other) and your customer only had the £1 to spend on the product, which one would he/she go for? You best believe, it’ll be the product with the better branding. Researching your competition is a step of crucial importance in your branding journey.

What’s easy on the eye

Branding is ALL about visual appeal. There isn’t a single brand out there that will appeal to every single person in the world. It just doesn’t work that way, it’s subjective and different people have different tastes. A golden “rule”, to keep in mind however, is to place the visual ease of your branding foremost. This is because over saturated, garish, cluttered and/or inconsistent branding can go so far as to put people off.  Make sure it’s easy on the eye. Everything works with each other, all the brand elements (we’re getting there, keep reading) are in harmony and not battling it out for attention.

Branding Elements and their importance

Basic branding elements and their importance

Here’s where a lot of the fun begins. Branding shouldn’t feel painful; it is in fact one of the most fun parts of your business and also the part that begins to define you and your vision. Your vision comes alive through your logo, colours, fonts and brand property. And together these make up your brand elements.


Picking your logo can be tricky business. For that matter, given the amount of choice and freedom involved, getting all four of these elements right can feel like a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be though– remember go back to your ideal customer and your competitor research. This should have already provided you with some great starting points. A tip here is to be a little ruthless with yourself. Choice can be very distracting and you may have to set yourself some ground rules to ensure you’re not wasting time and energy on branding that won’t serve you.

Set out to design a logo that is clear, communicates your product/service and is eye catching. Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it simple and clean. Some handy advice here – utilise some forward thinking. Think about all the places you may have to use the logo – could it be on black and white or a coloured background, in a website header, on a product? Make sure this logo can be used in multiple places with NO alteration. The maximum change you should have to make is using the logo in reverse (i.e in white on a coloured background). There are plenty of logo making options out there, including getting it custom designed by a graphic designer or using a logo builder online.

Brand Colours

Your brand colours will define your brand to an even greater extent so their importance in your branding work is pretty high. Remember the acid test for brands – if you cover up the logo, can you tell what brand it is? If you went to a website which was predominantly red and white, what brand springs to mind on auto pilot (If you didn’t say Coca-Cola I’m concerned)? Colour psychology can help you get started by suggesting colours that convey particular emotions. For instance, red and shades of red can emote fiery excitement while green tends to be peaceful and trustworthy and is very often used by eco-friendly brands for this reason.

Use the colour spectrum to pick your brand colours and use them to create a number of assets (website, posters, business card etc.). This will give you an idea of what your branding will look like in these colours. You might love a zesty neon yellow but will you love it when it is plastered all over your website – probably not. Choose wisely. The mistake most people make at the beginning is to go with too many colours, you only need two to three colours (two can often be enough to begin with). Start adding more and you will create chaos for yourself.

Brand Fonts

Funnily, most small or home businesses forget about fonts. You don’t need to be armed with a full typeface to begin with but having a staple font that stands out as YOUR font can really take your branding to the next level. I’d suggest using an online tool like FontPair to find flattering styles for headings and body copy. Job done – that’s all you need for now. BUT remember fonts are for reading (duh) so keep them clean and easy to read.

Brand Property

Admittedly, brand property isn’t an element of ultimate importance that every brand uses or even needs to use. It’s an extra that can work nicely for some brands and add that little something more. A brand property is a style that you use consistently, over and over again within your branding. For example, Apple designs an event invite and places imagery inside the shape of their logo – a bitten apple. This bitten apple isn’t just their logo, it’s also now their brand property. A stylistic element they use over and over again and have trademarked. Therefore, no one else can get away with creating this image.

Imagery and Graphics

How you use imagery and graphics will make or break your brand. Think about what you want your images to convey. If you’re an outdoor/sporting brand, does it make sense for your product to be photographed in the studio? You want to use moving and action shots of people outdoors actually using your product. You want believable, relatable images that your customer will engage with. Apply this thinking to your brand’s imagery.

It goes without saying that using professional, high quality imagery will put you ahead of the competition. Having someone professionally shoot your product so that you have a portfolio of images to use across your marketing – website, print, social media channels, will make a world of difference. A great way to make this happen without having to fork out a bundle for professional photos is to offer your product/service to a content creator. Depending on their experience they can create content in exchange for the product with no extra costs. You must however, remember to get explicit consent to use their photos across your marketing materials.


The biggest tip I’d give anyone starting off – consistency, consistency and more consistency. Do not deviate from your branding. Use your logo, colours, fonts and imagery to bring your brand to life. The worst mistake I have seen people make (aside from using low res images – don’t get me started on how I feel about this) is sticking random memes or images off the internet somewhere on their social channel because the mood struck them. BIG NO. No one is saying don’t be creative – just do it in your brand colours. There are a number of free apps and tools that allow you to design assets without paying a penny. I recommend Canva, a desktop and mobile friendly programme you can use to create beautiful designs with no design experience necessary. You can do a lot on its free version until you’re ready to upgrade.

So now that you are well and truly aware of the importance of branding and you’re armed with everything you need to get it off to the right start, go forth and create! Always happy to give advice so if you need any help, give me a shout at


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