Wouldn’t you love to be known as the go-to person or business in your area of expertise?
You hear a lot about branding in business, establishing yourself as the must-have solution, idea, product or service in a particular field. Associating your company or product with a specific problem, emotion, sensation or solution.
Large companies spend millions every year in advertising and PR to brand themselves.
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 not only brand your business without paying a dime…
You may be able to get people to pay you to brand your business.
Here are a few ideas and examples to get you started:
- 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, if you have a restaurant and people take out food, add large brand IDs, logos ad 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?
- Develop a visual brand that people want to display — There’s a shop in NYC 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 other to see. Add some kind of “movement” energy can be 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 m notebook computer screen is covered with a variety of stickers, some of which were given to me, others, I liked enough to pay a nominal fee for.
- Develop 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. The table is mobbed after every show with parents buying t-shirts for their kids. 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 NYC, 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, because we know the advertising and branding effect will be more than worth it.
- Attach your brand ID to an item people will use every day — The killer example of this is the expanding wave of shopping bags made from recycled materials that are now being sold for a nominal fee by places like Whole Foods Markets. People pay something like $1 to buy a bag they will uses every time they go shopping. And, the bag displays the companies 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.
- Sell snippets in public, high-volume places — 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 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.
- Is there some way turn my visual brand/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 (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 to serve as ideas, please feel free to share those in the comments, too.
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About the Author: Jonathan Fields is a former hedge-fund lawyer turned serial lifestyle entrepreneur, copywriter, Internet and direct marketer, speaker and writer. You can find him blogging on entrepreneurship and lifestyles at Awake At The Wheel, crafting high-impact copy for clients at Vibe Creative or training people to become entrepreneurs and career renegades at Career Renegade (also a book published through Random House/Broadway Books).