The Branding Process for Small Businesses: How to Get Started

The Branding Process for Small Businesses: How to Get Started

If you’ve got Netflix and you haven’t spent the past three months holed up in a cave in Siberia, it’s likely you’ve heard of Riverdale. Pegged as Gossip Girl-Meets-Twin Peaks (yeah, we would have labeled that an impossible Venn Diagram) this teen TV show has been hitting the headlines solidly for the past few weeks. Fans have been fawning over the cast’s good looks, trading thoughts on the central murder mystery, and even discussing the fact that in several scenes, COVERGIRL makeup products are seen on display, often centered in the shot in such a way that you would assume it’s cut to an ad break. It’s genius, of course. The teens who love the show are too used to this kind of corporate involvement to be deterred from watching. But more importantly, COVERGIRL is the perfect brand for this kind of gig – the moment we see that logo, we think of the all-American girl next door. She’s bright, peppy, youthful and refreshingly uncomplicated. And that, my friends, is the power of good branding.


Stop right there. That letter you’re writing to Netflix, explaining why they should show off your products in the next season of Jessica Jones? It can wait. Before you start doing any advertising, your company needs to work out its branding. Branding is often separated into two categories: the tangible and the intangible. Tangible branding engages the senses; it relates to COVERGIRL’s packaging, font, logo and color scheme. Intangible branding is tied up in the feelings and opinions elicited by those tangible elements. It’s the instinctive association we feel between the COVERGIRL logo and the inoffensive, middle American, pop-culture vibe of a show like Riverdale.

Strategize before you advertise

You’ll want a solid business strategy in place before you even think of looking at fonts (seriously, step away from the Helvetica). A good strategy begins with looking at your company and asking some big questions: What makes you unique? Who are your customers and what are their needs? What are your competitors doing? Once you’ve answered these questions thoroughly, you can begin to build an idea of your branding.

Lather, rinse, repeat

Humans love repetition – not least because it makes things simple. As a small business, you must teach people what it is you do, and how you do it. So, think up some pithy taglines, settle on a good logo, and get your message out there – over, and over, and over, and over, and over again…

Make sure Mark got the memo

Your business is just starting out, so it’s probably small. But as you expand you’ll need to make sure that everybody – even forgetful Mark from accounts – understands your branding. Knowing the logo or company catchphrase isn’t good enough; everyone who represents your company needs to know what they stand for. When employees go off-brand in the search for customer satisfaction, it can end up doing more harm than good.

Simplicity = good

Above all? Don’t over-complicate things. Your branding message should be clear, so ditch the logo that draws on Freud/Eastern Mysticism/the filmography of Tom Hanks and go for something focused and precise.


At Swift Whale Creative, brand identity is our core.  We love nothing better than breathing creative life into a start-up business or grabbing an out-dated logo image by the horns and forming a design that inspires emotion, grabs attention and creates action.  Give us a shout, we’d love to hear from you.