When most people think of branding, they think of the big-name brands: Coca-Cola, Wal-mart, McDonald’s, Amazon, etc. We think of the Golden Arch or the Nike logo. We don’t think of the local deli or auto repair shop down the street.
As a consumer, this doesn’t pose a problem. Consumers look to logos to navigate the increasingly crowded world of shopping. As a small business though, it can be extremely hard to become and remain competitive when you don’t have the same branding as the big companies.
This leads to the question, how can you compete with the Apples and Amazons of the world if you don’t have a huge marketing budget or the staff necessary?
Branding has become one of the marketing buzzwords that everyone is advised to take notice of. Marketing gurus point out that every business with a strong brand converts more potential customers and retains loyal ones. When advice on branding is given, it is often aimed at the big corporations.
The problem for small businesses is that little advice is actually tailored toward their needs. Case studies demonstrating how Starbucks and similar companies redefined their brand abound in magazines like Forbes, Enterprise, and Inc. But very few of them cover the struggling small business who needs to reposition their brand.
How Branding Saves a Small Business From Financial Ruin
Jeremy Miller believes that small business can, and should, focus their branding like big businesses. Even in this competitive market. To illustrate this point, he shares his own story.
In the book Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers, and Grow an Incredible Brand , working in a family-owned recruiting business, he recalls watching sales leads dry up before his eyes. His company’s leads and revenue continued a downward spiral after 2004, following a series of unfortunate circumstances. Every single sale took more and more effort to obtain.
As Miller continues, things got very desperate. He mentions taking on clients that he normally wouldn’t have given the time of day to, and leaving his executive role to engage in cold-calling just to keep his business afloat. In times like these – it’s either get better or get out of business.
Miller says that he worked with his team to actually look at what went wrong. After some digging, Miller and his team found out a horrible truth.They were just another brand like all the others. They were another recruiting company like all of the others. In a customer’s mind, there wasn’t a difference between Miller’s company and the company across the hall doing the same thing. If the company across the hall charged a few dollars less than Miller’s company, they lost the sale.
While this insight sounds intuitive, it’s actually very profound. Jeremy Miller realized that his company was not a sticky brand (his term for brands that attract and retain loyal customers). His company was just another brand. He would have to do more if his business was to survive.
After that insight, Miller analyzed sticky brands to see if he could apply the principles of a sticky brand to his own business. After a rough period, he managed to get his business to a point where they were overflowing with leads and referrals. These principles he developed form the basis of the book Sticky Branding.
Small Business Can Succeed at Big Branding
Sticky Branding offers small to medium-sized business a guide to refining their brand for better success. The objective is to create a brand that attracts customers without strenuous effort.
Miller provides 12.5 principles (using 12.5 is a handy marketing technique) that covers the mindset, principles, and actions that will help a company create a memorable brand or redefine a current one. It is divided into 4 sections that move a reader from planning and assessment through implementation and back again to assessment.
Is Sticky Branding Worth the Read?
Sticky Branding definitely seeks to be a sticky brand with its meme-friendly content. If you are a fan of simple marketing phrases (“Punch Outside Your Weight Class” is an example from the book), this book is full of them. Quite a bit of the advice repeats a lot of branding advice that other branding gurus offer, but there are important parts of the content that stand out. Those parts feature experience-based advice and recommendations provided by the author.
Jeremy Miller goes a little further than most branding books by actually delving into the process, rather than the principle. In an early part of the book, he describes how a logistics company transitioned from a general company to an industry leader in retail and fashion. The process took over 18 months involving lay-offs, turning away paying clients, and seeking to develop relationships with new ones. Most branding books won’t tell you that. Miller describes this period of low sales and redefinition as “Sales Purgatory” and describes how to survive it based on this case study.
Two additional features of the book that are particularly helpful include the author’s use of case studies and end-of-chapter activities. Miller selects a variety of businesses, big and small to demonstrate his principles. The activities provided at the end of each section are tailored for easy (surprisingly simple) implementation. Most involve creating a list or reviewing some aspect of your brand with an eye on a particular attribute. While simple, these activities highlight things most owners overlook when trying to improve their branding.
Sticky Branding provides valuable recommendations for businesses of any size who want to re-evaluate their brands. Branding is a global activity for everyone now. It is particularly useful for small businesses, because it focuses mostly on low-budget branding activities. It is ideal for a small business owner who is familiar with the concept of branding, but doesn’t have the budget to implement large-scale efforts like the big-name businesses.
As mentioned above, it is a bit meme-friendly. But the book’s experience-backed and insightful advice can be extremely helpful in looking for areas to assess when branding. Once you find that your business is devoted to the branding process, Sticky Branding provides quite a few answers to the “what areas of my branding should I be paying attention to and why” question.
About the Author
Jeremy Miller is a speaker, branding consultant, and President of Sticky Branding. He can be found on Twitter (@StickyBranding ) and on his company website , Sticky Branding. His book, Sticky Branding: 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers, and Grow an Incredible Brand will be available in January 2015 and is available now for pre-order at Amazon. This review is based on an electronic copy of the book.