Branding is important for any business. It lets potential customers know what your company has to offer and gives a quick insight to the style and aesthetic they can expect. Setting the tone and making a good first impression is important for all businesses, but especially start-up companies. Unfortunately these smaller companies are often the ones we see putting their branding on the back burner, so to speak.
This is a mistake. The branding will inevitably be front and center of a new company or product so it should be considered right off the bat. From a marketing perspective, the sooner your brand has a look and style, the sooner everything can begin to feel cohesive.
For small business owners who may have a limited budget, the good news is that every aspect of branding isn’t necessary right from the start. For companies on a budget, it’s best to roll the branding out in phases. These phases may vary by company, but generally would follow in this order:
Logo: This is the face of your brand. Whether you decide to go with a simple word mark, or a more elaborate, illustrated logo, this should always be your first branding step.
Brand Guide: A brand style guide will generally be provided to you by the logo designer. It’s important because it sets the rules for how your brand can be presented. This includes colors, fonts and appropriate times to uses variations of the logo.
Website: These days you can’t really avoid having an online presence of some sort. People want to have the option to learn more about your company, and the internet is generally where they will go to find that. Not having a website makes your brand seem sketchy and unprofessional. Even if you can’t afford a complex site, it’s best to get a homepage or landing page up so you have a place to send visitors.
Packaging/labeling: This only applies to companies selling a tangible object. Product labels and packaging design will be necessary for you to sell, and often production time on these is long, so don’t put this off.
Business Cards: Depending on how you’re getting the word out about your company, you may or not need these right away. I generally suggest clients go for it sooner than later, since it would be a shame to meet a potential customer and not have something to give themto introduce your brand.
Social Media: Not every social media platform is right for every business, but being active on certain platforms can really boost customer interactions and create a positive reputation for your company.
Letterhead: These can either be printed on nice paper and loaded into your own printer, or they can be designed as a template that you can type into and send off as needed. Some companies will find an official letterhead unnecessary if business is primarily conducted via phone or email.
Branded Envelopes: Like printed letterheads, the need for these will vary by company. If your business doesn’t plan to send out a lot of physical mail, it may make sense to hold off on these.
Advertising: This is a very important step for many companies, but it should take place after everything in phase one is completed. You want to make sure if you’re spending money on ads, potential customers are visiting a brand that looks polished and professional.
Brochures and Direct Mail: Similar to advertising, these are good ways to get the word out about your business and services and/or products you offer. You want to be sure everything else is in place first, since this will be the first impression you make on many people.
Trade Show and Event Materials: Assuming you started your branding project long before any trade shows or events, this should be one of the last big steps. Not all companies attend trade shows, but for those that do, it’s best to have a solid foundation and all marketing materials in place before spending the money on large scale displays seen at trade shows.
Promotional Items: These are the cool things you hand out to your customers to raise brand awareness and gain a following. Tshirts, pens, and mugs are all things that are nice to have, but not mandatory. Save these things for last, once you’ve established the rest of the branding, and have the funds to splurge a bit on the fun stuff.
Prioritizing a new branding project in phases helps keep everyone on track. It also allows business owners to budget not only their monetary spending, but their time and resources as well. A good brand can be created for almost any budget, so talk to your designer and have them help you come up with the best possible timeline for your business needs.
If you’d like to browse the end results of branding projects similar to yours and which follow this outline, make sure to check out our Print Design Portfolio page.