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Small Business Tips

Best Practices for Small Business Brands

Dayna Steele
a crowd shot at rock concert

A brand makes you memorable. And things are memorable because they make us feel something.

In my first (and now updated) book Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars, I called the chapter on branding, “Keep the Makeup On.” It was a reference to the rock band KISS, and that time they decided to leave the makeup shtick behind. It was their brand, and the fans were not happy.  

It was because the KISS brand made the fans feel like they were part of something. It was fun; it was irreverent; it was mysterious trying to guess who they really were. When they took the makeup off, they were just another rock band.

When the band returned to the makeup and embraced the brand the fans loved—the brand that made them feel something—the KISS comeback made the group bigger than ever, which they still are today. Yet, with the makeup on.

Think about it. How often do you say something like, “Let’s go get a Coke.” or “Hand me a Kleenex.” or “Do you want Jello with that?” These are all brand names that have become synonymous with a branded product—soft drink, tissue, and gelatin dessert—and, more likely than not, each brand makes you feel good or brings up a fond memory probably underscored by a lovely television commercial that resonated with you at some point in your life. Those brands make you feel good.

What is a brand?

Wikipedia defines a brand as “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” But a brand is so much more. It is more than a name or a logo. A brand is what your customer buys into, what they perceive you to be and what that means to them, or how it makes them feel.  

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Creating your brand

When a customer hears your name or sees your logo, how does it make the customer feel? This is a question most entrepreneurs never consider when creating a brand. But that is the question you must be able to answer to begin to create a brand.

It’s not about you or your product or your service but rather what feeling it invokes for the customer or potential customer. If you can come up with a name and a logo to support that feeling, all the better.  

Think of your favorite brands. Why are they your favorites? What are the words you think of when you think of your favorite brand? Happy, excited, sexy, calm, smart, what? Human beings always reach for what makes us feel the best.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer and answer these questions. What are the things you want that customer to feel when they hear your name or see your logo? Think about what it is your product or service does for the customer and how that makes the customer feel in turn. Put that into words, and you have your slogan. Hence, your brand.

One of my recent favorites is a dog walking app called Wag! In the animated logo, the exclamation point “wags” like a happy dog. When I open the app, it makes me smile and it makes me think of happy dogs. MY happy dogs. Brilliant!

Building and maintaining your brand

Take these words and feelings and weave them into your tagline, your “About” synopsis, your packaging, your website, your social media. Once the brand is created, most entrepreneurs start to weave outside their lane. Stay between the lines and focus on those words you want your customer to be thinking, to be feeling. If what you are creating (ad, post, article) doesn’t support that customer feeling, ditch it. A brand grows and becomes unforgettable when you can evoke the same positive emotions over and over for a customer.  

Everything you do leads back to how you make the customer feel. If it is a good feeling, they will be back again and again and bring friends along over time. Don’t tell me how great your product or service is. Tell me how great it is going to make me feel.  

KISS rocks baby!

I spent years as a leading rock radio personality, eventually leaving those wild, fun days behind to pursue my entrepreneurial side. Not learning from KISS or my own book, I tried to put the rock brand aside and move on. It’s not what my readers, customers, and longtime fans wanted. I finally woke up and realized I had spent years building a memorable brand and I should use it. So, I let my rock chick back out into the world and have built on that ever since.  

The name of this column for The Growth Center? Rock Your Business. So there. Rock on!  

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