Guest Post #4: Small Business, Big Brand by Sean McCarthy of Stratabeat

Small Business, BIG Brand!
By Sean McCarthy, Director of Client Strategy, at Stratabeat.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a little tournament going on in Brazil this month and with it has come some of the most creative (and expensive) advertising on the planet. Whether you call it football, futbol, or soccer, global brands such as McDonald’s and Nike are sparing no expense to put their brands on your television, in the World Cup stadiums, and on billboards around the world. Even emerging brands like Beats by Dre are creating five-minute long mega-commercials with global stars of the sport to grab your attention.

If you’re the owner of a small business, what should be grabbing your attention is their branding. While I’m sure you don’t have the budget of a big brand, that doesn’t mean you can’t act BIG when it comes to the branding of your small business. If I say Nike, I bet a Swoosh just popped into your head. What emotion does Coca-Cola evoke? That’s easy, happiness. And if I asked what Budweiser’s slogan was, I’m sure you’d answer King of Beers. All this greatly influences what people buy, and it comes from years of successful branding.

Here are eight tips for how you can do BIG branding for your small business, just like a mega-brand.

  1. Define Your Brand – Who are you? Most small businesses try to explain too many things in their branding. Think of VISA, “It’s everywhere you want to be.” Simple and let’s people know VISA is reliable, accessible, and can be used anywhere. In fact, they just removed “It’s” from the slogan earlier this year, because it better represents the brand. Define the essence of your brand, as it should inform all of your marketing.
  1. Take a Stand – Consumers connect with brands they can understand and appreciate. If you try to be everything to everyone, your message can and will get lost. Let customers know what you’re great at or what you’re passionate about. For example, Budweiser: they are the King of Beers. Tom’s Shoes are passionate about helping the poor and underprivileged have footwear. Let potential customers know what your brand DNA is all about and let them connect with it.
  1. Be Bold – “Just do it.” In three words Nike connected with every aspect of your life by telling you to be bold and by being bold themselves. Don’t be afraid to make big statements in your branding. If your product can empower consumers, let them know. If your product can save consumers time, let them know. Don’t be afraid to be bold and aggressive in your brand messages.
  1. Pick a Color – Big brands have simple colors and they use them consistently. If I said the name Home Depot, Starbucks, IBM, or General Electric, I’m sure you could tell me their primary brand color. An accent color here and there is fine, but big brands want you to think of one color and identify with it always.
  1. Be Consistent – Whether it’s your brand slogan or the color of your logo, be consistent. The VISA campaign I mentioned earlier has been running since 1985! You can’t reinforce the character of your business if elements of your brand are constantly changing.
  1. Keep It Simple – Caterpillar is one of the largest heavy machinery companies in the world manufacturing massive, expensive, complex construction machines. If you go to their website though, you’re presented with four simple verticals and even a “Need a part” search feature. Big brands don’t overwhelm their customers; they help their customers meet a need. A startup called Buffer began in the bedroom of one of its founders with a simple product offering social media post scheduling and nothing else. Everything the company does has been focused on simplicity. Three years later Buffer had 700,000 monthly blog readers and over 1 million users! Keeping it simple works, whether you’re a large company or a solopreneur.
  1. Promote Your Expertise – Marketing is expensive. Marketing on the level of a global brand is astronomically expensive. However, you don’t need a billion dollar budget to set up a blog; all it takes is time. The software startup KISSmetrics built its blog religiously (without spending money) and took it from zero monthly blog visitors to 350,000 in just a few years! The blog now accounts for 70% of the company’s leads. Consistent blogging can serve multiple functions from sales to customer service resource all while establishing your brand as a thought leader in your industry or area. Whether it’s introducing a new product feature or giving your point of view on the latest industry news, consumers connect with stories and a blog is a great way to tell yours. And it’s free!
  1. Analyze This – Big data, small data, stats, information; whatever you want to call it, big brands spend a lot of time and money analyzing customer data. As a small business, you have neither the time nor the money. But fear not, there are free tools! First, Google Analytics is free and there are very simple reports that can be set up rather quickly to help you understand how customers are interacting with your website. This can help you identify pages with high bounce rates or low time-on-page to improve customer experience and better convey your brand message. Second, another free platform to track data is which allows you to integrate basically all of your web services into one analytics dashboard. From Twitter to AdWords to Ebay, you can see it all in one interface saving time and money while getting a big picture view of how your brand is performing.

Remember, big brands weren’t always that way. So while you can’t afford Ronaldo or Messi for a commercial right now, you can still use many of the same branding tactics these mega-brands use to make your small brand BIG!

To learn more about Stratabeat, visit


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