A strong brand is the result of several factors. While your budget is one of them, being tight on financial resources shouldn’t hold you from wanting to make your brand successful.
Yes, it’s absolutely possible to build a strong brand on a budget, but you should focus on the right activities in order not to waste money: strategy, identity, consistency.
First of all, what’s a strong brand? Go ahead: Coca-Cola, Tesla, Disney, Apple. The usual names you see in every branding article, presented as best cases to imitate. The problem? Your budget is much smaller, so you might just give up and choose to focus on tactical marketing activities, rather than investing in such an exotic discipline as branding.
Let me stop you right here: you are going to regret this decision. In fact, a strong brand can compensate for smaller budgets. In other terms, neglecting to make your brand strong will make it all more costly.
But how do you create a strong brand on a budget? Well, keep your cool.
To create a strong brand, be focused
The first ingredient for a strong brand is not money. It’s focus. Knowing exactly what you stand for, where you come from, what your brand promise is. In other words, your brand strategy. The term might be scary – isn’t it a five-hundred document with a six-figure price? – but it shouldn’t be.
Brand strategies come in all sizes: your business probably doesn’t need Coca-Cola’s brand strategy (even though Coca-Cola’s “one brand” strategy was rooted in simplicity!). But still, it needs a strategy. And it needs to be focused. This means knowing not just what to include, but what to exclude, too.
The smaller the budget, the more the strategy should be brutal, asking for some sacrifices. Strong brands are damn honest about what they can’t do and who they can’t convince. Know your weaknesses and blind spots and build on your strengths.
A strong brand needs a strong brand identity
Memorability plays such a big role in a brand’s success that you don’t want to rush this part: visual identity makes sure your brand conveys the right feelings and stays in your audience’s memory.
For this reason, it’s not enough for your brand identity to look good. That’s not enough bang for your buck. Your brand identity should be strategic and deliberate.
In other terms, each element of your identity should be engineered to be memorable. The smaller you are, the more this holds true. You don’t have millions to put your logo under everyone’s nose, so you’d better find other ways.
Make brand strategy and brand design work hand in hand. Make sure that no elements are random or purely decorative: know exactly why every color, character, sound is there.
A strong brand is a result of consistency over time
Consistency is actually the cheapest ingredient, and yet it might be the hardest to come around. A brand’s strength is built over time. Especially if you can’t afford a strong media pressure, with big budgets invested over a short period, the next best thing is to stick to your messages and identity. Repeating them to the point that the brand stays in your audience’s mind.
It seems easy in theory, but people get bored and so do companies. You will be tempted to change everything quite often, overhaul your identity or refresh your messaging. Please resist that urge.
Unless there was a big shift in context or in your product, that will be an unnecessary waste of energy. Please invest your media budget in reinforcing your brand, rather than starting everything from scratch.
Both you and your agency might be pushing to change things every now and then: always evaluate the actual need with a clear mind.
Can you build a strong brand on a budget?
Let’s be honest: of course money plays a role in building a strong brand. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to wrap a building or buy a space in prime time, but you should plan to invest something in brand building.
This means taking some of the budget away from short-term marketing activities like promotions and investing them in brand building ones. This can be hard to do and to justify to your business partners and yourself, as results will not come tomorrow. But this is how your brand will grow strong.
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