As an entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner, chances are you aren’t a branding expert. Because you aren’t, it’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of developing a compelling brand for yourself or your small business – after all, don’t large corporations spend thousands or even millions of dollars developing their brands?

Even Big Companies Have Trouble With Branding

Branding isn’t easy, and it’s not a given that any new brand or branding element will ultimately be successful, even if exorbitant amounts of money, time, and talent is applied to the process. In a famous case that we often like to cite on our blog, the clothing brand Gap unveiled a new logo in 2010 that was estimated to have cost $100 million, and it was retired in less than a week after a public outcry and almost universal ridicule from other designers! On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are many famous logos and brands that were developed for almost nothing that went on to become international successes that have stood the test of time; a wonderful example is the Nike Swoosh logo, which was created in 1971 by a designer who was originally paid $35 for her work, although she was compensated further in 1983.

Branding Is All Around You

If developing a brand is so difficult and the results so unpredictable, where do you even begin the process to develop your own brand? Luckily, the answer is right in front of you, or behind you, or in the drawer or cabinet to the right – chances are you’re already surrounded by products and materials that display branding elements from your favorite brands, and identifying what makes them so compelling to you can help you begin the process of adapting and incorporating those ideals and emotions into your own brand!

The $100 Million Dollar Question

After reading the preceding paragraphs, you may be asking yourself, “How can a business, any business, justify spending $100 million dollars on a logo? That’s outrageous!” To many of us, it can seem incredulous that so much money can be spent on branding, or even just a single brand element like a logo. After all, if you’re a fan of Coca-Cola, you may believe that you would continue to buy Cokes even if they were labeled with a plain white band that had “Coke” written on it in with a Sharpie marker. However, the idea that branding and rebranding is unimportant to consumer spending is simply not true. For example, when Tropicana orange juice unveiled a disastrous new product design for orange juice cartoons, sales plummeted 20% in just one month, and the original carton design was quickly reinstated. Effective branding incorporates and conveys so much, both consciously and unconsciously, that we often choose products from our favorite brands even when a competing product may be on sale or provide a better value. That is why large retail chains are unable to replace well known products and brands with their own “store label” products, as consumer demand forces them to stock both products side-by-side on their shelves.

Finding Inspiration In Other Successful Brands

If you can identify brands that have inspired loyalty and even personal advocacy on your part, chances are you would like to adapt what makes those brands so compelling into your brand. Before you proceed, it is important to ensure that what makes another brand compelling to you will also make it compelling to your target market, so carefully consider whether or not your tastes and interests align with your target market. Next, carefully consider exactly what element of the brand you would like to adapt, instead of simply writing down the name of the brand and moving on. You can’t just outright copy another brand and their branding elements, but you can adapt the best elements of your favorite brands in an original way and make every effort to make your brand as effective as the ones you personally admire.