Wouldn’t you love to be known as the go-to person or business in your area of expertise? In this article, I’m going to explain how to build your brand. Better yet, I’m going to show you how to actually get paid to do so.
You hear a lot about branding in business, establishing yourself as the must-have solution, idea, product or service in a particular field.
Branding is about associating your company or product with a specific problem, emotion, sensation or solution.
Large companies spend millions every year in advertising and PR to build a brand.
Viewing it as a gargantuan, costly effort, though, most small businesses largely give up on the notion of branding.
Well, here’s some good news. If you’re willing to strap on your innovation hat, there may be ways to brand your business without paying a dime.
In fact, you may be able to get people to pay you to brand your business.
How to Build Your Brand — And Get Paid For It
Here are a few ideas and examples to get you started with how to build your brand — and get paid to do so:
1. Label Your Takeaway Products
One of the fastest easiest ways to get people to literally pay to help brand you is to add labels, logos and brand ID to items they already buy.
So, for example, let’s say you have a restaurant and people take out food. You could add large brand IDs, logos and contact information on the packaging for their food.
If you sell drinks or water bottles, add a logo to the cups. Or consider having private label water. (FYI — private label water can end up being less expensive than buying bottled water from vendors.)
How much branding do you think the world’s water companies get from the labels on water bottles that people carry around all day? It’s free advertising on the product the consumers paid for.
2. Develop a Visual Brand that People Want to Display
There’s a shop in New York City called The Chocolate Bar and their labels and packaging are very hip. In fact, they are cool enough that people will actually buy the circular labels they use to seal packages, and display them as stickers.
Surf, skate and snowboard companies have used this same strategy effectively for years to help grow and brand their businesses. The challenge here is to create a visual brand that appeals enough to your market that they’d actually not only buy it, but want to display it for others to see.
Make your brand look like art. Add some kind of “movement” energy. This can be a strong motivator to buy.
So, for example, I might buy a sticker for Element surf wear, because (a) it looks cool, and (b) I want others to know I am a surfer. As I write this, the back of my notebook computer screen has a variety of stickers. Some I got for free. Others I liked enough to pay a nominal fee for.
3. Build a Visual Brand that People Want to Wear
A local kids band, Hot Peas & Butter, sets up tables after every concert with kids t-shirts boasting a vibrant, highly visual logo that every kid wants.
Parents buying t-shirts for their kids mob the table after every show. These t-shirts will brand the band for months to every other kid and parent who sees the t-shirt.
For my yoga studio in New York City, we roll out seasonal t-shirt and pant screen designs that integrate the name of the business, along with some specific energy or emotion.
Rather than looking to make a big profit from them, we sell them for just a bit above cost. Why? Because we know the advertising and branding effect will be more than worth it.
4. Attach your Brand to an Item People Use
The killer example of this is the expanding wave of shopping bags made from recycled materials. You see places like Whole Foods Markets now selling them for a nominal fee.
People pay something like $1 to buy a bag they will use every time they go shopping. And, the bag displays the company’s brand information all over it.
Plus, there’s the added benefit of the emotion associated with a company that’s trying to “do the right thing” by being environmentally conscious. Tote bags, in general, tend to be great examples of this.
5. Sell Snippets in Public, High-Volume Places
Sell small bits of your service or product in public venues as a way to build brand.
Perfect examples of this are face-painters, balloon makers and party entertainers of all sorts. Go to a local street fair and you’ll always find a face painter.
Usually, they charge just a few dollars to paint a child’s face. Why? It’s not about the money, it’s about getting paid to brand and advertise.
Paint a kid’s face and they walk around the fair all day long advertising your business. And, while the parents wait for their kids’ faces to be painted, inevitably a handful ask if the face painter does parties. A card is exchanged and a small handful of those parents turn into party clients, which is where the real money is.
Massage therapists offer a similar experience, with 5-minute chair massages that lead to paid sessions. And chiropractors offer mini-spinal assessments, then literally books appointments on the street.
In the end, what we start to see is that, if you really get creative, branding is not just a mega-company’s game. They make have to spend millions to become known on a global level. But in a small business your goal is to become known on a discrete, local level.
Even if you’re online, you can still focus largely just on a niche. Build your brand in that niche.
- Is there some way turn my visual brand or logo into something that people would actually pay me to buy and wear or display?
- Is there some way to package a sample of my service or product and offer it at a nominal fee? A fee that would cover my costs or make a small profit in a highly public, high volume, highly-targeted place?
As always, let’s continue the discussion in the comments.
And, if you have any other examples you can bring to our community for how to build your brand, please feel free to share those in the comments, too.
You mention those eco-friendly shopping bags . . . I love em and think they’re a fantastic idea . . . problem is, I’d need about 8-10 of them. I can never go to the grocery store and just end up with one or two bags of groceries. So the fact that they are somewhat small (at least at my grocery store) and I’d have to tote around 10 or so in the store . . . it keeps me from purchasing and using them unfortunately.
And you’re right about stickers and emblems. I know all of you have seen the black and white oval stickers for your vehicles that are usually a 3 letter catchy way to display where you’ve been. (Like for instance, C4S = Cooks Forest.) Those are everywhere and on everyone’s vehicles. Things like that really do seem to catch on successfully.
I agree with Chris on the size of the eco-friendly bags. I wish they would make them almost twice as big. I can’t understand why they don’t give us a larger option. I know they probably want to keep them cheap but they could have two options. The small ones for $1 and offer the larger ones for $1.50 or $2.00.
I have my business information on everything that leaves my home. They are on every product I sell, my receipts, my notes, my invoices, my bags, etc. Even in boxes I ship out, I add a printed paper thank you with all my info on it. Spread your name everywhere!
I just recalled McDo here in our country. Last time, their table napkins had printed McDo labels in it but now has changed into dry sealed McDo labels. Cost-cutting but I don’t find it appealing.
Great post (I’m a big fan of Awake At The Wheel).
You said “Is there some way to package a sample of my service or product and offer it at a nominal fee (that would cover my costs or make a small profit) in a highly public, high volume, highly-targeted place?”
Seth Godin is a huge proponent for “free” in order to get words spreading. A lot of stores are now offering those shopping bags for free – especially smaller boutique grocery stores.
“Is there some way to package a sample of my service or product and offer it at a nominal fee (that would cover my costs or make a small profit) in a highly public, high volume, highly-targeted place?”
I know your examples are mostly about ways to build brand in the off-line world. But here’s a suggestion for the online world:
If you are a consultant, create a video tutorial on some topic that you typically consult about. Put your logo and your URL right in the video, either through using screencasts or by inserting the logo and text in with the video clip. People will be able to find the video at YouTube and from there see/learn about your website and your services.
Because the costs of creating and loading video to YouTube are nominal to begin with, you can afford to give it away for free there.
Great article Jonathan and this also translates well to online businesses.
You can put together branded whitepapers or ebooks that users will read and or forward to others. Also having cool ‘fans of’ banners from your blog or site will get people using them and linking to your site.
@ Chris & Amanda – Great point, maybe something for the bag makers to consider, make a second larger size. Or, maybe there’s a deeper marketing strategy behind it?
@ Mary Grace – no doubt, the idea is to preserve or even enhance the value of what you are offering, while simultaneously branding. Making something worse as part of your branding effort never makes sense.
@ John – yup, Seth is a great example of giving away not only a snippet, but an entire product in a different format as a vehicle to not only brand, but encourage sales of the same item in a different format. So, he might give away a complete ebook, then sell the exact same thing in printed format. Rather than cannibalize, like most people imagine, this ends up actually dramatically driving sales of the print version. Because, reality is, nobody wants to read a full size book as an ebook. Smart dude, that Seth!
@ Anita & Chad – Great points! One of the hottest words in the world on internet marketing now is “free line,” as in moving the free line to provide great, high value content as a teaser for the sale. Done right, it works beautifully, plus if he perceived value is high enough, it also engenders a sense of reciprocity that makes people more inclined to want to “return the favor” by buying your product r service.
Custom label bottled water is a great way to market your products. We saw a huge increase in interest to our business after we started handing out bottled water as a promotional item with our logo on the label.
We found a great company (http://www.bottleyourbrand.com) that produces professional labels and doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for the water bottles. They deliver the customized water bottles quickly (within 6 days of our order!) and do a great job.
Custom water bottles are a great marketing tool. Good suggestion!
Exactly, Jonathan! 🙂
At a tradeshow last spring, I found a company that makes eco friendly bags in all colors with any logo you want. Thats for reminding me of that!
Well said, Jonathan! As one of Baltimore’s leading IT Staffing firms, we’ve found ways to do the spread our brand, G.1440, as well. When we place IT consultants, we’ll send them off with a candy jar that has our logo on it – a nice reminder to our client where their new talent came from!
Steven Paul Matsumoto
Can I just say as a Brand strategist and promotional products distributor I want to thank you for covering this topic. I’m from Seattle and it amazes me the number of small coffee houses that haven’t learned from Starbuck’s example. Coffee tumblers and non-woven bags are just the beginning. Apple is another great example of this as they were the first to put their logo on the top of their laptops so when it was open everyone knew it was an apple.
If any of you need help monetizing your brand to generate increases awareness I would love the opportunity to help. Check out the new ASI Impressions study on my blog at azimuthbranding.blogspot.com
This is an exceptional post. I love the fact that simple things that can easily be overlooked are my next steps and the steps I will assist many clients with. Great information and thank you so much I clear this will make a difference.
Cool post indeed and very true. Brand awareness is very important and attaching a brand name to something that people use (by wearing, eating, etc) on a daily basis is crucial. I mean just take some ordinary plastic bags that people can use, attach your logo, or maybe a map to your location (with a logo on top) or a cute slogan (again having the logo somewhere there) and people will jump at it, particularly if they are gifts. What better way to imprint your brand in their memories than having it carrying it along every single day 🙂