Branding is crucial for small business, and although owners acknowledge its value, they’re often slow to react. Our experts tell you why you need solid branding now
In British Columbia, small business is a big deal. Besides accounting for 56 per cent of all private-sector jobs in the province and employing over one million people, small businesses account for 98 per cent of the total number of businesses in B.C. And all those little companies provide an incredibly diverse collection of services to B.C.’s communities, ranging from family-run restaurants to lumber mills and self-employed dog trainers.
The Canadian economy is still recovering from 2008’s economic downturn, and it remains a challenging time to be a small-business owner. So, what are B.C.’s entrepreneurs doing to help their businesses thrive? According to research released last month by American Express Small Business Monitor, Canadian small businesses are focusing on their branding.
Brand-obsessed British Columbia
The research, which surveyed 529 Canadian small-business owners across myriad industries, says that over 90 per cent of business owners see a “unique brand that differentiates them from the competition” as more essential than ever before. Just over half of the surveyed entrepreneurs consider branding to be a critical factor in attracting new customers, and 84 per cent believe branding is important to a business’s overall success.
The vice-president and general manager of American Express Canada, Athena Varmazis, sees this as “refreshing,” and notes that good branding can be “the difference between a business that blends in with the crowd or stands out from the competition.” But although the majority of business owners see good branding as a vital part of their strategy, few are actively improving their brands.
Branding in theory, but not in practice
The research conducted by American Express says that small business owners “are wary about the outlook of their businesses and are therefore making more reserved and thoughtful decisions when it comes to business growth.” Only slightly over half are currently using an online presence to build their brand, while 86 per cent choose to not consult branding experts to grow their business. Varmazis weighs in, saying she is surprised that more businesses aren’t using experts as resources to improve their performance: “Branding plays a significant role… and shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
Varmazis isn’t alone in her view. Rob Barnett, managing director and lead brand strategist at Vancouver’s Straydog Branding, is an advocate for compelling and distinct branding. “As an entrepreneur, you’ve taken a leap of faith in starting your own business,” he says. A good brand will both “help you connect with your customers” and provide a small-business owner with guidance. “Business plans will change,” he notes, “but your brand strategy will be the true north in your business.”
Mike Withers, a graphic designer with Hangar 18 Creative Group, also emphasizes the importance of branding. Withers has worked with clients such as YVR, The Vancouver Writers Festival, Richmond Centre and The City of North Vancouver. “Ideally,” he says, “your brand is a distillation of what the company stands for. It’s an expression of your company’s personality,” and tells consumers “something about the quality of the product or the service you’re providing.” It’s rarely as simple as creating a logo; good branding is a coherent system of textual and visual elements that work across many platforms and in many different contexts.
Branding builds business
Though the American Express survey shows that only 14 per cent of Canadian small-business owners have consulted a professional about branding their business, both Withers and Barnett tout the value of professional brand-building. “Everybody feels like they could do it themselves,” says Withers, “but there’s a lot that goes into creating a strong and consistent brand.”
For small-business owners that haven’t yet sought the help of a professional, Withers has a few suggestions about how to prepare for your meeting. “Small business owners should think about what they feel is the core essence of their company, and what differentiates them from the competition,” he says. They should consider the following questions: “What are their most important values? What kind of personality do they want to put forward? Who do they want to attract?” Withers adds that that the more time the owner spends reflecting on these aspects, the smoother the design process will be.
Sidney Meet Up/Peninsula Chamber of Commerce – branding workshop series
Branding Workshop Series Proposal
Series for presentation to the members of Sidney MeetUP and the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Holy Cow is an award-winning, full-service communications agency providing brand strategy, communications planning, graphic design, marketing, web development and social media & digital expertise.
Holy Cow has partnered with many of our region’s most recognized and loved brands — including Island Farms, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation, Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia, PenYoga, Knickerbocker’s, Mayfair Shopping Centre, Columbia Fuels, the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility, and the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
Today, Holy Cow has grown to a staff of eight and offers services from a relaxed, friendly and professional oceanfront office.
Again, we appreciate the opportunity to provide you an estimate and look forward to the possibility of working with your team!
Holy Cow Communication Design Inc.
301 – 2537 Beacon Avenue, Sidney BC V8L 1Y3
250 655 6597
Sidney Meet Up/Peninsula Chamber of Commerce – branding workshop series
Delivery and facilitation of a 4-part workshop series on branding. The objective of the series is to increase participants’ knowledge of branding and to empower business owners to develop branding
The goal is to deliver a workshop series in which participants gain the greatest benefit from attending all four sessions, with each session building on the last.
The sessions would also be designed to be accessible and valuable to participants who only attend once or twice.
Participants who attend all four sessions will be entered to win a FREE 2 hour, one-on-one brand strategy consulting session with Erin Brocklebank, Communications Strategist for Holy Cow Communication Design (value $250).
• 4 x 1.5hr sessions (February, April, June, September)
• Beverage and light snack will be served
• Location requirements: seminar/conference-style room, projector, screen, Wi-Fi
Session 1, 2, & 3 (see below for full session outlines) will consist of a 45min presentation, followed by a 30min interactive exercise.
1. Branding: The Basics
Find out what branding is and why it’s important for your business to have a strong, recognizable and coherent brand. We’ll talk about how to create a consistent brand identity, expand brand experience and increase brand loyalty.
2. Your Brand I – From Reflection to Action Learn how to determine a baseline of what’s currently working and what’s not for your brand. Reflect on the challenges your own brand has faced and identify realistic room for growth. Each participant will leave with a completed brand mini-audit.
3. Your Brand II – Values, Promise and PersonalityIn this fun and interactive session, you’ll learn how to identify your business’s brand values, promise & attributes and leave with a map for your brand’s personality. Find out how to use compelling communications to tell your brand’s story.
4. Sharing Your Brand Story In this final session, participants are invited to share their brand story (outcomes of the work we’ve done together in our sessions and the 2 months since) and provide feedback to one another. We’ll end the series by discussing further ways to integrate the brand into overall business objectives.The last 15mins will be a discussion of the session with a focus on peer learning.
The final session will be 1hr 15mins of Closing remarks In this final session, participants are invited to share their brand story (outcomes of the work we’ve done together in our sessions and the 2 months since) and provide feedback to one another.
We’ll end the series by discussing further ways to integrate the brand into overall business objectives.
We are looking for 4 sponsors . Your logo and contact information will appear on all marketing material for all 4 sessions Cost $250.00
All 4 workshops $200.00 up front
Individual workshops $75.00 each
Location Catalina Grill, Sidney Industrial Park
Date Feb 26th 5:30