Logos and a Piece of String – Branding an SME

The face value of small and medium sized businesses are more important than one might think. Industry pro and Designvow’s Veronica Botes delves into the reasons why this is more important than ever.


The question branding teams most get asked is “I need a new logo, how much will this cost me?” The usual, rather annoying answer is, “Well how long is a piece of string?”

I prefer to ask, “What does it need to do for you?”

If you’re a B2B business with limited consumer interaction, then your brand is probably important but not as important as it will be for the guy who is launching the next Chicken Licken.

Brands are all about investment in relation to perceived value. I often say, what people do not understand, they will not value and what they do not value, they will not pay for. Never has this been truer when it comes to design and branding.

We live in a day and age where logos can be developed for $5 online. Why should you spend more than that?

The short answer: strategy and process.

A five-dollar logo store will give you a quick generic symbol to place on your products and services. Conversely, briefing an expert branding team on a new logo will generate research, a strategy and brand definition platform along with the designed output out of that. It is the equivalent of putting up a shack versus building a concrete house off plan, with stone and mortar. It depends on what you need it for. The shack will keep you warm and dry in the short term but won’t stand up to stormy weather and possible building extensions.

Dr Ralph Speth, CEO of Jaguar famously said, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” Great brand development and design visually and verbally defines your business.  A good branding team should give you tools to drive and enhance your business.  If you take the five-dollar logo approach, that is exactly what you will get, a five-dollar solution to what could be a multimillion Rand problem. On the other hand, you often see small businesses spending a fortune on branding tools that aren’t immediately useful to them in their business. It’s about balancing what you can afford against what needs to be considered an investment in your future as a small business.

It all depends on what you need to use it for and what industry you’re in.

Here are some questions to help guide you in your decision:

      Are you in a commoditised industry or do you sell products or services, which are differentiated beyond price? If price is not a sustainable competitive advantage for you, then consider investing in developing a brand, which will stand up to price wars and represent your business beyond price, service, quality and culture brand differentiators are key.

      Are you in a consumer-facing business? If so, I would consider investing in what your brand is supposed to represent and look like in the market, in order to create a sustainable and DIFFERENTIATED competitive advantage. Why do you choose Chicken Licken, KFC or Nandos? Same product, different brand experiences.

      Do you want to replicate your business elsewhere, like a franchise? If so, clearly defining your brand platform and having a clear, simple and strong logo, along with strict application rules will give you simple and cost-efficient replicability, regardless of place.

      Is your business established (older than two years) or are you a brand new start-up? Depending on how much capital you have, it is great to invest in a small branding toolkit (brand platform, logo and look and feel) but it’s not necessary to invest hundreds of thousands on your branding – it can and will evolve as you grow. Get the business right and you can always refresh your look when you get more bucks.

      When is it not necessary to invest in branding? If you’re making millions and never have staff or customer retention problems. Some businesses just work, whether it is historic, inherited, pure genius, pure luck or a fluke of innovation. Many businesses survive without having a clearly articulated brand platform and visual language and I always ask them, but imagine how much more market share you could have if you did? Even established mega-brands are under pressure to refresh their brands in five-year cycles to keep their look and positioning current and relevant to the market – which is what has allowed them to remain mega-brands. Review your brand critically and ask yourself: does my brand look fresh and considered; is it clear to staff and clients what we do (can they articulate this) and can my brand be improved in order to attract new markets and retain established ones?

The long and short of it is, a clearly positioned and branded business always has an advantage over those who don’t. It all depends on what you want to get out of it, what you can afford and what type of market you’re in… just about the exact length of a piece of string.

By Veronica Botes

Designvow specialises in making your creative project exceptional. We do branding, big ideas, concepts, design, packaging and magic. For more information, visit www.designvow.co.za.

PS. If you’re looking for another great read on this topic, check out this one on the branding of Sorbet Man


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