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Dan Antonelli

Is a poor identity and “nephew art,” holding your small business back?

Award-winning vehicle advertising - 1st Place, HVACR Business Magazine Top in Trucks Contest Since our rebranding of Timo’s Air, their business has more than doubled in three years.
It’s understandable why many small business brands need help. Fledgling businesses often exhaust their financial resources paying for fleets, equipment, and everything else they need to get up and running. Branding becomes an afterthought — when the budget is stretched thin. So, they quickly have something thrown together. Then this “design” becomes the foundation of your brand. But as you’re trying to grow your business and take it to the next level, is your brand could be holding you back? Here are six signs that it’s time it’s time to step up your image, and take a fresh look at your brand and what it says about your company:

1. You have a homegrown, outdated brand.

Homegrown brands are good for nostalgia, but bad for business.

Many small businesses have built their brands around logos that they or family members created. With the advent of desktop publishing years ago, and the prevalence of instant access to clip art on the web, this has become a common and rather unfortunate characteristic of many small business logos.

In the design world, we call this “nephew art” — because most designers have heard clients say things like, “My [nephew/niece, guy I know] is really good at art, and he designed our logo,” when asked about their brand origins. I’m sure there are some nephews and nieces who are in fact really good at art — and simultaneously — really good at branding. But the vast majority of them, well-meaning as they may be, are not actually qualified to be trusted with your most important asset: your brand.

2. Your brand is obvious.

Many businesses use common, generic clip art elements in their brand. The problem is that they are so common, they have no chance of standing out. Good branding should never fit in and blend with the rest of clutter vying for your customers attention. If your logo can be mistaken for a dozen other similar brands, how will your target audience remember it? They won’t – and you’ve just missed and opportunity. Also, keep in mind that if your logo includes clip art, your logo cannot be trademarked. That means any other company can use the same design.

3. Your brand makes no “promise.”

Good branding should tell viewers something about the company before they actually interact with the company.

A great brand should leave a positive impression of the business. So it’s critical that these first impressions say something about your business, and your brand promise.

What does your brand communicate to the viewer? Does it communicate concepts such as reputability, professionalism, and trustworthiness? Or instead does it scream sloppy, cheap, homegrown, and maybe not in business next year? Consumers need to know that your company is professional and is going to be around in the future. You face an upward battle when the brand doesn’t instill that confidence up front.

4. Your brand is inconsistently implemented across mediums.

Over a period of time, inconsistencies in how you present your identity can dilute your brand. When you look across all of your marketing efforts, are they clearly consistent in presenting your brand? At a quick glance, do all of your materials have that “branded” look that makes people see the connection in your advertising? If your marketing materials don’t share a common denominator, it’s a good time to examine your brand architecture and think about rebranding from scratch.

5. Your branding doesn’t represent you.

If your business is like most businesses, it has probably grown and evolved over the years. Maybe even your services or products have evolved and changed. So has your brand kept up with these changes?

Many businesses have outgrown their brand without realizing it. Maybe it was never good to begin with. But now the business is growing, they’re trying to attract better clients, and they just don’t quite look the part. When a brand ceases to represent you, or to speak to your target audience in a meaningful way, it’s time to give serious consideration to a fresh start.

Getting a Fresh Start

An amateur brand can be like an anchor, dragging your business down. I often see companies commit a critical error at this point: They decide to hang on to the old brand because they equate good business performance with using it. To these company owners I often say, “Success in spite of poor identity is not a valid reason to perpetuate it.” Imagine how much more successful these companies might have been with a better brand.

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