Kathleen Brooks
Q. I am starting a new company and need to think about branding. Is there a way I can do it while keeping costs to a minimum?

A.The first thing to do is decide if you have the skills to do it yourself. The main components of a brand are visual: for example, the website, business cards and logo. Obviously having basic graphic design skills helps:?for example, if you have built a website before or if you have Photoshop experience, then you might want to do it yourself. Alternatively, if you have friends or family with skills in this area then enlisting their help can also keep a lid on costs.

But, regardless if you go it alone, the process of coming up with a brand that is right for your company is the same whether you use professional help or not. Firstly, your product or service has to be the best it possibly can be. “Lots of people focus on personal branding, but people don’t buy products because of the brand, they buy them because of the quality of the product,” says Jag Singh, co-founder of MessageSpace, the online advertising company. He says that branding need not be the be all and end all. For example, the iconic Apple logo has only come to prominence in the last 10 years. For 20 years before that, the company just concentrated on building really good products that people would want to buy. Likewise, Microsoft’s logo hasn’t changed much during the life of the company.

Secondly, you have to be crystal clear about what your brand stands for and your business proposition. Ask yourself why people would want to buy your product, what makes you stand out from the competition and what are your brand values.

If you are enlisting the help of friends and family, then make sure that they are perfectly clear on this so that everyone is working toward the same goal.

Q. Can you give me some practical tips for how to build a successful brand?

A.Singh says the branding cycle has five steps: first, find out what your competition do, second, either stand for or against something (for example, Apple doesn’t stand for corporate computing). Third, interact – get your brand out there. Fourth, measure its effectiveness and don't be afraid to alter your brand, but don't do it too frequently. And finally, repeat this process.

Keep things simple. Singh says making any words you use easy to spell and using a short domain name can make things easier for potential clients. Engaging existing clients to sing the praises of your company (as long as they had a good experience) is another way to build a brand identity.

The key thing is to make sure that you are consistent. Singh adds that it’s not just about your logo. It’s about the background of your Twitter account, the front page of your website and even the thickness of your business card. You need to make sure that you are uniform in everything you do.
Finally, once you have the perfect website you need to make sure you use it as efficiently as possible. John Phillips from Brand Sense Agency says that firms should make use of search engine optimisation (SEO) to make sure their websites are among the top results on search engines such as Google. “You want to make sure that your brand is available to the largest number of people at all times,” says Phillips. It doesn’t have to cost the earth to create a brand, however, be prepared to put in the effort to make sure it’s successful.