How to Do Branding Without a Budget

21 Point Branding Check List

Branding is important as a company’s short hand. For many executives, branding is limited to their logo and advertising. But the reality is that branding is a connective thread that extends beyond your communications and touches every aspect of your organization. Your branding efforts should be incorporated into your overall marketing strategy.

Branding isn’t for major companies only. Regardless of how small your company or organization is, you’re doing branding whether you realize it or not. I’ve worked with not-for-profits who say we can’t afford branding. To me this is an excuse for not maximizing your investment because your brand is everywhere from the way your building or storefront looks to how you treat your customers.

21 Point check list for branding on a budget

Even without a marketing budget, you do branding. To this end, it’s a good idea to have brand guidelines rather than leave each decision up to the freelancer doing that project. Here’s a twenty-one point checklist to ensure that your organization is on board.

  1. Employees. How do you treat other employees? What type of behavior and language are acceptable? Do you have rules in your employee manual that are in line with your brand?
  2. Dress code. Since employees are your firm’s representatives, how do you expect them to dress? Do you give them a uniform? Are T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops acceptable?
  3. Human contact. How are telephones answered? How are visitors greeted and treated? Is there a guard at the entrance? Are there guidelines for how customers and the public are to be treated?
  4. Photographs. How is your company presented in photographs? Who is featured? How are they dressed? Do you use celebrities?
  5. Videos, both online and offline. Think in terms of who is your organization’s representative? How your audience is addressed? Are other elements in line with your brand? Think in terms of both visual and audio logos.
  6. Store. Is the look of your retail operation consistent with your brand? How are products arranged? What’s in your store window? Think in terms of external and internal signage.
  7. In the bag. What do your shopping bags and other packaging look like? Is the company information consistent with your brand?
  8. Physical non-retail location. How is the building maintained? What do offices look like? What type of furniture is in public areas and executive offices? Is there signage?
  9. On the road. Do your firm’s vehicles have consistent look and feel? Do they promote your company? Yarn store Flying Fingers has a yarn mobile that takes customers from New York City to their suburban location. The driver keeps handouts for interested passerbys.
  10. National advertising (if used). Does your organization’s logo appear? Is the wording consistent with your brand? Is other corporate information included?
  11. Local advertising (if used). How is your logo and business information presented?
  12. Brochures and related collateral. Are these print items in line with your brand? Think in terms of the color, size, paper and presentation. Do they look the same? Use a consistent logo and related materials?
  13. Business cards. Forget the Vistaprint ubiquitous look varieties, use your firm’s colors, logo, typeface and information. I’ve seen organizations where everyone does their own thing when it comes to business cards.
  14. On-going printed materials. This includes stationary, newsletters, invoices, and other items. How does your company information and logo appear?
  15. One-time printed materials. These are items that are used once such as invitations and flyers. Is your paper color, stock and ink consistent? Is the company information and typeface in line with your branding guidelines.
  16. Website. Is your online presence consistent with your offline brand? Does your URL represent your brand? Do you continue the same brand elements such as typeface and color scheme? Think in terms of who you’re targeting and the key search terms used? How is the content presented? Is the writing’s voice in line with your brand?
  17. Social media. How is your company presented on these platforms? (Here’s more information on social media content.) Is your company account branded? Who represents your company? Does your organization have social media guidelines?
  18. Online communications. Think in terms of email and other contact. What is your email etiquette? How do employees use their signature files? Are there any other guidelines? Also, consider newsletters, chat, IM, etc.
  19. Third party representation. Which services are used? Think widely in terms of customer service, order taking, online chat, etc. How is your firm introduced? What guidelines are used? Who is responsible for monitoring these services and ensuring that they’re in line with your mandates?
  20. Programs. Does your organization present or participate in programs? If so, do they reflect your brand? How does your firm’s affiliation get presented? What about hashtags and other elements?
  21. Premiums, such as bags and t-shirts. Do these items use your brand’s colors? Do they have a consistent level of quality? Do they represent your brand?

While major companies may have big budgets to accompany their branding efforts, every organization has the ability to enhance their branding with little if any additional cost. If you’re not thinking about your brand, this makes a statement about your organizations. So why not maximize what you’re doing?

What can you add to this list of areas to brand your organization and why?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: SwimParrallel via Flickr

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