1. Pick a great name
Naming is hard, but it's super important that you nail it first time around. ‘Not many brands get a second chance, so don't underestimate its importance,’ says Jono. ‘Your name needs to be likable, memorable, spellable and searchable.’
Why not use a thesaurus to find emotive words that describe the product, service or benefit? Also, be sure to consider a URL that works well with the name (the shorter the better).
2. Embrace your story
Consumers are more likely to engage with your brand if they can buy into the people behind it. So, you should look to embrace the story of how your business began, and put yourself out there. ‘A human touch and a real face or story behind the brand have marketing power – and it's something that many big brands would love to have,’ says Jono.
Leah from Young Authors Publishing says while her ‘brand’ evolved over time, ‘the one thing that we communicated from day one, and still continue to do, is letting our audience know who makes our books – black and brown youth. It's something we're proud of and want our customers to know.’
Tell your story – no one else will at the start. Keep things personable and engage in interviews, podcasts or articles.
3. Keep things simple
When it comes to your product proposition, Jono says it's best to keep it ‘simple, but significant – a classic Don Draper line!’ Your market research means you're (hopefully) already something of an industry expert, but it's important to remember that most of your customers won't be.
Sara from Ambessa Play says this part of the process took a lot of time. ‘We're a social enterprise operating a one-for-one model, so it was difficult trying to figure out how to communicate both the educational benefits of our products and the social impact,’ she says.
Cut to the chase and tell customers what they need to know and why, with relevance for today. Keep it short. Say what you want people to think.
4. Lead with a strong purpose
People want brands to stand for something more than making money. If you started your own business because you're passionate about change, embrace this. ‘Harness that spirit and get to a succinct articulation of what you stand for, so everyone understands your mission,’ Jono says.
Kendall from Ohm says that Otherway provided something that his company couldn't do itself: ‘It articulated our mission, values and core business focus brilliantly. Sometimes, founders are so close to their painting that they can't see the bigger picture.’ He adds: ‘We finally felt understood for the first time, and we had a clearer sense of what we were trying to do.’
Ask yourself: what's the reason you started your business, beyond just making money?
5. Stand out from the crowd
Whether you're in cosmetics or construction, don't feel like you need to stick to a certain industry aesthetic. ‘The most interesting brands sidestep from the norm and challenge what's gone before,’ says Jono. ‘Be bold. If you don't get noticed, you're not going to sell a thing.’
Kendall suggests working with a brand and design team: ‘It's something I initially thought of as a waste of time and money. But working with a graphic designer or brand clinic brings your entire company and vision to life in ways you couldn't imagine. It helps you to understand your core customer better, which will inevitably lead to building a better business. It's a lot like therapy… You think it'll be a waste of time before you go, and then you do the therapy and question how you ever lived without it.’
Don't be lazy and copy the crowd – question the easy choices. Find a new vocabulary and introduce an unexpected aesthetic to get noticed.
6. Embrace the power of people
‘People want to follow people – not brands,’ Jono says. As your greatest marketing tool, your customers need to feel looked after, and like they're really a part of something – not just a consumer of something.
Sara says she put this off in the beginning, choosing instead to prioritize hardware development and legalities. ‘But how you look and how you speak to your customers and your community is your first impression,’ she says.
Show your community that you care – reward them for helping to spread the word. Re-share their photos and invite feedback to make them feel part of your journey.
7. Get your website right
Even if you have a physical retail store, chances are your website or app is where most people will connect with your brand. ‘With the fickle digital culture we live in today, a bad website leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouths,’ Jono says.
Don't do it by half measure. Spend the time getting your website right, and make sure it's easy and intuitive for customers to use over everything else. But remember: nothing's perfect. Learn fast, adapt, change – and keep it simple.
8. Stay human and be kind
A killer product or slick website means nothing if your customer service isn't up to scratch. ‘The best brands prioritize great consumer interaction over everything else. The small things make all the difference – and cost nothing,’ Jono says.
Leah says don't put too much pressure on making your brand look ‘perfect’ right away. ‘Logos and brand colors are important, but they're likely to change as you evolve. Instead, focus your energy on who your brand represents and what you want to communicate to your audience,’ she says.
Respond promptly and show your thanks. Make it easy for the customer. Be kind and open to criticism – and stay humble.
Courier's Fresh Fund offers black business owners in the UK and US the chance at a cash injection to help them start or grow their brands. Stay in the know about all things Fresh Fund.