Chris Human

Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple are household names even where there are no houses. To put it in perspective, nine and a half out of every ten people on this planet know the Coke brand and the vast majority associate it with refreshment.

But Coca-Cola has a global advertising spend of around 3 billion to throw at the awareness challenge. What then of the little guy – the humble small, medium or micro enterprise? Is it worth spending serious money building brand when world domination is not on your to-do list? Well there’s good news and bad news: yes.

To begin with are two myths to dispel:

Firstly, brand development is not the same as creating a logo and sticking it on everything, it goes much deeper than that. Your visual identity should just be little hints for what the broader brand is all about. It’s the positioning, beliefs, trust, and personality attributes that lie beneath that maketh the marque.

Secondly, advertising is not the only way to build brand. Sure it works for Coca-Cola but for every global behemoth there are thousands of brilliant small businesses that are going places by gaining fans and presence (and building the all important recognition) through smarter, more subversive means. Think differentiated customer experience, sharable content, and online presence. And the great news is these tactics and channels are much more cost effective than traditional advertising if you know what you’re doing.

How then to go about it? First up you need a compelling positioning, some personality and stories to boot. Part (but only part) of this will usually be a logo that is “smashable” (Google it), that you can really work and that will be able to grow and evolve with your business and market if need be.

Then you’ll need to look at how you bring your brand to life and an increasing part of this is creating and nurturing digital presence. A Fleischman Hillard Digital Influence Index from last year said that 89% of consumers across three continents use internet search engines to research before making purchasing decisions. The survey did not include Africa, but while the continent might be lagging in communication infrastructure we have massive mobile penetration.

Finally you’ll need to get word out there – and remember, when it comes to that, there’s no better way in this low trust world than by nurturing a community of happy customers and giving them enjoyable ways of spreading the word.

While these are the most basic steps for SMEs, there’s a lot more to brandcrafting and there are no stupid questions about building a brand as a business grows.

The only stupid question would be whether your business even needs a brand because, quite clearly, it does.

This article was first published on TheRedZone.co.za