Branding has many definitions. There are two of these which apply to marketing specifically. The brand is often thought of as the business name/logo, but more clearly defined, it is what people think about when they see your businesses name/logo. Some brands are very identifiable. Think about the “Swoosh”, of course it is Nike, and you think of quality running shoes. When you hear Kleenex, you are most likely talking about an absorbent, disposable paper tissue. You may not even care if it is the Kleenex brand tissue, you just want a tissue.
For local businesses, it would take too much money and too much time to create the type of branding similar to Nike or Kleenex. But if you plan to be in business for many years, then you will want to get going on developing a basic core of branding. For starters, your logo (which may include your name), should be everywhere and consistent. It should be on your website, your social media profile, your stationery/business cards, and on giveaways to your customers. Yes, some of the giveaways are useful, like chip clips or pens, and some are less useful, like Frisbee’s or stress relievers, but people still like them and appreciate them.
Improving branding through effective marketing can be done with TV, radio, magazines, mailings, city buses, or billboards. The goal here is to get as many impressions of your name and what you do to as many people as possible. Cost per impression is one measurement that can be used to compare one media to another or within one media. The type of impression matters as well. An impression on a shopping cart may have someone looking at it for an hour, but a billboard on a freeway will only have a few seconds at best to make an impression. The shorter the impression time, the easier it needs to be for the viewer to understand the message.
Budgets will play a factor in your branding strategy. Knowing your budget as well as the cost per impression will help determine where to start. If you can’t afford television advertising, not that television advertising is for every business, then start small and build as your business builds. Start somewhere! Planning to use 20% of your marketing budget on things which help improve brand awareness will get you going in the right direction. As your market builds, you will want to increase this percentage to grow your brand awareness. Nike didn’t become a well know brand overnight, so don’t expect yours to – yet. (ps – Nike was founded in 1964 to put things in perspective.)