Reputation. Joan Jett apparently didn’t give a damn, and Taylor Swift is all about it. A good rep is built over time, and the same can be said for your brand. For a small business, a cohesive brand identity is essential to paving the way to success.

Stripping it back to the nitty gritty, branding is used to ensure your product is the first choice for consumers. Annie Lenon, one of the co-founders of Winsome Brave, sums it up perfectly: “A brand is more than just a logo, identity product or place. It's a gut feeling, an affinity, an idea someone wants to be a part of. It's why people buy into you. It's why people buy you." We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

One of our favorite stores in London was the menswear, lifestyle and homeware shop, O’Dell’s. Intended for the design-conscious guy (the number of which is growing, let me tell you), O’Dell’s was all about tasteful simplicity, which is reflected in the minimalistic stock displays and store layout. Rather than casting the net wide, O’Dell’s targeted their brand message to one particular audience, honing in on those who find value in their products. The owner, Tom O’Dell, decided to shut the doors at the end of 2017 in order to pursue a full time career advising on the very things that made O’Dell’s such a wonderful example of refined brand identity.

O’Dell’s is a perfect example of being consistent across the board. From store layout, to website, to the social media presence, the elements all tie in to give the same look and feel, so customers get the same story. Right down to the colors and graphics, O’Dell’s stuck to a minimalist aesthetic, creating a strong link across all of their marketing channels. It proves that your brand identity can be simple and straightforward! Too many things going on, and lack of consistency is confusing to consumers – there are enough complications in life, your brand doesn’t need to be one of them.

With the customer in mind, it’s important to relate what you’re doing to the people that you’re doing it for. Connecting with your audience is a massive part of your brand identity, since a brand’s reputation is almost entirely based around how it is perceived. For example, conceptual home décor line ANNA by RabLabs sets their branding tone by using raw materials and imperfect gems to create one-of-a-kind homeware designs. RabLabs plays on the ideas that there is beauty in imperfection, and that differences should be embraced. Instantly relatable! Not to mention, the idea of “no-two-the-same” makes customers feel special, and the strongest brands makes people feel better about themselves.

Even so, one of the most important parts of honing your brand identity is continual assessment and evaluation. Perhaps your image and brand message looked and sounded great when first conceptualized, but now they might be a bit dated. Are you still reaching your target audience? And is your message still relevant? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees (so to speak), especially for those running small businesses, and this can result in losing focus and direction. Whenever you feel like things are off kilter, just remember that it’s never too late to make a change, adjust course, and return to that key aspect of your company: your brand.

Ahhh branding… It’s not easy to differentiate yourself amongst all of the other brands out there, and you have to be tough survive (cue Hunger Games soundtrack). Building and refining your brand requires understanding what the message you’re trying to send is, and then connecting your audience to what you stand for. And it also requires trust. Because, at the end of the day, Richard Branson said it best: your brand name is only as good as your reputation.