Branding Foundations for Home Based Businesses

If ten years of marketing and branding has taught me anything, it’s this: the most successful organizations have a clear sense of their own identity, and they communicate it really, really well to their customers.

If my first 15 months of freelancing has taught me anything, it’s that when home-based-business pay for graphic design work or tactical marketing help before establishing a foundational brand strategy, they’re losing. It’s like painting the walls of house that’s build on sand.

Think I’m exaggerating? Consider, for a moment, some of the biggest, most successful brands you know. The first five that come to my mind are Starbucks, Target, Wal-Mart, Disney, and Ford.

They don’t sell the same products, and they don’t necessarily target the same consumers. Disney is a family entertainment brand, while Starbucks is a food brand and Target and Wal-Mart are retail brands. So where’s the commonality?

Each of these companies communicates its brand so consistently and so intentionally that you—the consumer—understand almost intuitively who that brand is and what it stands for (its values).

Cases in Point*:

~Starbucks~
Mental Picture: the color green, the Starbucks logo, the iconic Starbucks paper cup
Values: Fair practices (fair pay for employees, responsible product sourcing) and a consistent (but totally customizable) cup of coffee no matter where you go.

~Target~
Mental Picture:
 red and white bulls eye logo, brightly lit, uncrowded aisles, stylish but affordable
Values: style and value, designer home & fashion, an enjoyable shopping experience

~Wal-Mart~
Mental Picture: 
impersonal, practical, big center-aisle displays, yellow smiley face
Values: lowest price, 24/7

~Disney~
Mental Picture: the Disney Castle, big-eyed cartoon characters, musical animations, family vacations
Values: Creating magic for families on screen, in its retail experiences, and at its parks.

~Ford~
Mental Picture: 
pick-up trucks, blue & white logo, blue collar life
Values: tough, reliable, American-built

It’s no accident that you imagine the things you do when you think about these companies. Big businesses hire knowledgable teams at leading agencies to help them own certain ideas in your mind:

Ford wants to “own” the image of tough trucks in the mind of the consumer. Target has designed a shopping experience that feels stylish but affordable; snazzy, but not out of reach of the average shopper, and honestly, does anyone do “magic” as well as Disney does?

Each of these brands has been built—or, in Target’s case, re-built—from a solid brand foundation.

What is your home-based-business’s brand foundation? What are your values, your goals, your mission? What is the experience of doing business with you like for your clients? What do you want customers to think of when they hear your business’s name?

These are just some of the questions that big brands ask themselves before they design marketing campaigns, write copy, or design ads.

Did you like this post? Come back again to learn what big brands do next after they’ve laid down their brand’s foundations. And, in the meantime, drop me a line if you’d like to talk about how to better-position your freelance work, your home-based-business, or your startup in your market.

*The mental images and values I’ve shared for each of the brands in this post are the mental images and values that I, personally, have for each brand. While I’d bet that there’s some significant overlap between my interpretations and each company’s formal brand, I want to completely transparent with you that these examples are not taken from official brand standards for any of the brands mentioned.

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