Building brands for small businesses


Design for SME / charity / enterprise start ups

Some of the most rewarding projects I’ve undertaken have been developing identities for new businesses. Being involved in the early stages of a company’s development has been very enjoyable and the clients have responded well to the effort we put in building their visual identity.

In many ways agency’s like ours are very good at the pretty bit – drawing the icons, picking the complementary colours and choosing the right font for each logo. However, it’s often the other tasks, those before and after the creative bit, that ultimately decide if the brand takes off and the process can be deemed a success.



Researching the marketplace in which the brand is going to come into is incredibly valuable. From the point of view of the branding process it means looking at the brands of the competitors and other organisations of a similar profile. Evaluating those brands, including finding inspiration from those leading the field can prompt important questions to how to approach the creation of the new identity.

For organisations who have not settled on a name yet, or those who haven’t already done a bit of research on their chosen name, there are also some general internet searching worth doing:-

  • Looking at domain names to see which are taken and which are available for the new organisation.
  • Searching for variations of the name and look at the organisations that come up.
  • Researching on Companies House for registered business with the same or similar names.

There is going to be an overlap between the research the company has already done in the journey to this point but reassessing that information from the point of view solely of brand building helps establishing the issues an identity needs to tackle. Additionally, simple tasks like undertaking a  SWOT analysis from a visual / branding point-of-view gives a fresh perspective on the challenges of branding the organisation.


Costings – drawing up a shopping list

Planning out and costing all the deliverables needed to create and disseminate the identity will help give a better appreciation of what needs to be done and what resources will be needed.

The list of items associated with launching a new brand might include:-

  • Brand work
  • Stationary Design (business cards, letterheads, compliment slips)
  • Website (design and build, hosting)
  • Presence on social networks
  • Photography / video
  • Writing of copy / press releases
  • Promotional flyer / brochure (and the costs for distribution)
  • Signage
  • Branding of vehicles / uniforms
  • Exhibition material
  • Promotional items
  • Advertising (design of adverts, cost of space)

Unless you have unlimited resources, you will be continually making decisions on what you can and cannot afford. Going back and breaking down the shopping list into the essential, desirable and optional will help decide what needs to be done and when. It’s also the point where the delivery of the items could be pragmatically split across time, so you have goals for year 1, 2, 3 or over the coming months.

It’s probably obvious but its also worth going back and assessing everything according to it’s impact – particularly essential if the budget is tight. For example 5000 flyers mailed out might well have a better chance or drumming up business than a glossy annual report, social media channels might be a low cost way of building your audience through word of mouth in the first months of launch.


Don’t skimp – investing in the brand

It’s tempting to under invest in establishing a brand for your new start up. In most cases it’s necessary to be pragmatic and make compromises with the initial investment, after all design may well not be the most vital thing you need to pay for in the first year of a business. However, it’s worth noting how much first impressions count. An underwhelming first contact with an organisation may colour any future interaction with them. It might also be the only contact they ever have, with no reason to return at a later date to see if the organisation has changed. There will never be a second chance to get that wow factor as customers/clients meet the organisation for the first time.


Sharing the plans

Having the views of at least one or two external people able to give an assessment of the plans and ideas is invaluable. It means getting an objective view of whether goals are achievable, costings realistic and whether the next steps are the right ones to take.

We often become one of the groups who provide that sounding board for fledgling companies. Coming alongside people early on in this process means we get the opportunity to add value to our services by making suggestions and supporting those making the many hard decisions needed to set up a new company.

It’s also a way to avoid an unpleasant flaw in the meticulously laid out plans. Hopefully it’ll stop money being wasted or mistakes being made which take time to rectify. In my early days as a designer I had been involved in what I and the client thought at the time was a great branding and marketing campaign for a new company. It flopped – not due to the branding but the fact that success would have only been possible if the new company was able to fight on the same level with an established, large, national organisation. They didn’t have anywhere near the resources to buy the advertising, generate the publicity and disseminate it to the levels they needed to compete. My error was not to ask come basic questions as to what the final goals of the organisation was, what there were trying to do and what they would count as a success.  Lesson learnt.


What we can offer

We like to think we can offer considerable extra value to clients who are setting up a new business. We have the experience, over 20 years of it, we make sure we keep an eye on the bigger picture and can fill the role of becoming an invested partner in the work. We also pride ourselves as being an agency that can provide all the things needed – the creation of the brand, design of the promotional material, development of the website. We also can source photography, copywriting, PR, print, distribution and all the other associated tasks needed to create and promote the brand for a group of trusted contacts.

If you’d like to find out more or see how we can help create your new identity, please get in touch.