December 30, 2013
About small business branding
There are countless paths to mastering the arts of marketing and graphic design—I know of at least three: via the classroom, through a mentor, and on-the-job.
In the classroom, a teacher uses their knowledge of the subject, a curriculum, and supporting materials to lead you through theories and explain practices. Ultimately, you find a job and use what you are taught as a foundation for figuring what works and what doesn't and building your own mix of practices.
You learn from a mentor by going to work for a design studio, an advertising agency, or some other entity. The individual or the group that leads it, presumably, has already built a repertoire of practices that you ultimately amend and adopt as your own.
Perhaps the most challenging way to learn about marketing and design is on-the-job (to work on the engine while it's running). In this case, you are thrust into real marketing situations and invent solutions in response to the problems you are presented with. Ultimately, through trial and error, you cobble together what works for you and your clients. It's a tough, long-way-around learning process, but the fact that your ideas are proven by experience gives you the confidence that comes with that type of certainty.
Today I want to point you to a book and website produced by a designer who learned his craft that last way, on-the-job. His name is Dan Antonelli and the name of his book is Building a Big Small Business Brand. I point you to it for two reasons. First, because it offers a thoughtful look at small business branding, and second, because he provides an excellent model for promoting and selling marketing and design services.
First, the book.
As I said, Antonelli learned his craft on-the-job and Building a Big Small Business Brand is a blueprint for what, he found, works for real clients in the real world. His primary message is this: In small business branding, the logo is the hub around which all marketing revolves. The book presents a smart, clearly explained approach to branding that should be required reading for anyone planning to open a small business (or turn around a failing one).
"Most businesses make a critical error," he explains. "They never really consider a brand or logo for their business, they don't understand how important it is, so they opt for the expensive way to move forward. They've exhausted most of their funding on equipment, rent, furniture, etc. Ironically, they've spent all their money on getting into business, and they have little left to actually market their business."
The book lays out broad, foundational ideas, discusses specific approaches to naming, logo design, and branding, cites real-world marketing case studies, and explains how and where to get help.
Secondly, and what I think other graphic designers and marketers will find particularly interesting, is how Antonelli's uses the book and his website to promote his studio's design and marketing services.
The book presents the studio's philosophies, reveals its process, and shows examples of its work—and the web site fills in the details (displaying the book prominently throughout). I'm not suggesting that every designer or marketer need write a book, but when you view it as a package, you'll see the value of how the book and the website are used together to establish credibility and attract new business.