Black Sheep Branding: How to stand out from the flock

Most businesses give key information right in their names. Starbucks Coffee. Nationwide Insurance. Dunkin Donuts. Your brand isn’t about the service you provide, it’s about what makes your company the absolute best option. A fill-in-the-blanks website and mass produced logo will let potential customers know what your business does – but that’s about it. In an age where there are hundreds of choices available, your brand must be about what makes you different.

black sheep branding

Be metaphorical

Many of the most successful brands have symbolic logos. The golden arches may not include a hamburger, but they make people think of McDonald’s right away. Just as you wouldn’t ask someone who doesn’t know you very well to write your resume, you don’t want someone who doesn’t know your business creating an image for it – particularly since cohesive branding means your logo should be prominently featured across your website and marketing materials.

Choose a logo that reflects your brand’s personality and incorporate that same feel in your Web design and social media presence. Are you friendly? High-end? Free thinking? Find a way to express those values graphically by working with someone with a deep understanding of your business and mission.

Know your hook

Sometimes the best branding is very specific. Walmart is affordable and it stocks almost everything. They don’t emphasize customer service or store design because it isn’t a priority. If you work in an oversaturated market, it may pay off to choose one aspect and focus on that in all your marketing. You may be the easiest cloth diapering service or the quickest copy shop. Make sure you have the data and resources to back up your claim, then use word of mouth and Facebook to emphasize your specific hook.

Think locally

Even major brands have had success in adjusting their branding strategies geographically. Even a slight tweak, like McCormick’s decision to offer links to Mexican-style recipes on the West Coast, can pay off in dividends. Small businesses have a particular advantage in this area; because they’re locally owned, they’re familiar with the needs of the neighborhood. However, larger businesses, even those that operate online, should try some form of targeted marketing based on local interests. If you don’t have a big budget for research, take advantage of Facebook and Twitter to track trends and get feedback.

Creating a unique brand is a huge challenge, whether you’re starting up or reinventing your business. Consider investing in consultants or designers who’ll take the time to get to know everything about your company, but also make sure that you and your employees are well informed. The company mission and philosophy, the most important products or services offered, and statistics about performance and growth should be offhand knowledge for the people designing your brand. In many cases, company culture itself is a huge part of building a brand identity. Keep employees informed and happy – and hire internally for marketing and PR projects – to take advantage of your workforce.

About the author: Dawn Altnam lives and works in the Midwest, and she enjoys following the business tech world. After furthering her education, she has spent some time researching her interests and blogging of her discoveries often. Follow her on Twitter! @DawnAltnam