It used to be that if you were a big company, you needed to have a strong brand. That rule doesn’t really have much clout anymore as everything from your favorite online store to the coffee shop just down the road all utilize branding in an attempt to stand out and be notable.
A lot of small business owners fear the world of branding because it is seen as expensive and daunting. I’m here to tell you that that just is not true. As a matter of fact, it is incredibly easy to brand your business, or any venture for that matter, with as little as the phone or computer you’re reading this on.
All it takes is some light reading, analysis, and trial & error. Let me explain how you can start branding your business for free.
Experiment with No Budget
Don’t think that you need to be an expert in Photoshop to know how to make fancy banners and your logo (I’ll talk more about logos later on). There are online tools and free apps that are tailor-made to help you build a brand identity. Some of the most notable include:
- Pixlr (a great, free photoshop alternative)
- Canva (even big businesses use this)
- Hubspot blogs (reams of free branding information)
- Fiverr (a few cheap mock-ups from designers can help you visualize stylings)
Use each of these as though it was a game, and you’ll soon see yourself learning how to make everything from announcement banners to product labels with ease.
The Drawing Test
McDonald’s has its arches. Starbucks has a slightly odd looking mermaid thing. Apple has an apple with a bite out of it. What will your logo be? It is the simplest designs that work best, so when you’re sitting on the likes of Canva and messing around with different shapes to build a logo that reflects your ideas, you’ll want to have someone close by to do what I call The Drawing Test.
The game is simple; hand someone a pen and paper, and then quickly show them your logo for just a second or two. Then ask them to draw it from memory. If they can get it right out the gate, you’ve just made a memorable logo and have a strong brand out the gate. If they struggle, it might be worth going back to the drawing board.
Ask for Honest Feedback
Big brands will use focus groups to gauge product interest and see what potential customers think of branding, so what do you do with no budget? You ask your family and friends for honest feedback. You might think a new logo or poster looks the ticket, but if those you trust the most can honestly turn around and say it makes no sense or looks horrible, it is much more helpful than putting poor branding out there for customers to avoid.
Don’t Be A Copycat
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but taking the outright approach of creating copycat branding, even if it is tongue in cheek, will cheapen how your product looks.
The clearest example of this I always use are sneakers. Whenever a new “must-have” pair hits shelves, you’ll also see big department stores selling their own versions a few weeks later. Now, the product may work just as well, but customers know by looking that it isn’t the real thing. You don’t want your product/brand viewed in the same way, so don’t copy others.
Look at What Experts Think
The best thing about taking a DIY approach with your branding is that you can go online and see for yourself how some of the best brandings are created. If there’s a big brand whose branding and packaging you like, there will be a branding agency out there who have designed every square inch to be just right.
Think of it as a treasure trove of free insights into how branding works and how big companies enlist the help of designers and product engineers to create everyday items we use. Everything from food containers and water bottles to soap and cookies all has expert packaging and branding to thank.
Take these ideas with you, have fun, and see if you can build yourself a strong brand image from the ground up.