Branding on a budget

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Whether you’re a business or an individual, branding should be high on your agenda to make a lasting impression on those you want to influence.

Whilst branding traditionally was about creating a visual identity, these days its goes far and beyond colour palettes or logos and is about creating a unique and recognisable presence within a marketplace.

Because branding can be an expensive endeavour, in this expert guide, we take you through the key elements of establishing and creating a brand cost effectively.

Step 1: Your brand values

Every good brand, personal or business, stands for something. These principles are what guide you or your business and are at the core of everything you do. These principles are also known as your brand values.

Fortunately, they don’t cost anything to develop… just some questions and lines of enquiry that will help you distill what it is you stand for.

Answer the simple questions in the table below, designed to help you define your brand values:

  • Begin by brainstorming as many words or phrases as you can for each question on a large sheet of paper.
  • Once you have exhausted all possibilities and have a large list or map of words in front of you, go through and group words and phrases into common themes (e.g aesthetically pleasing, inspirational, eye-candy could all come under the theme of “looks good”)
  • Once you have these themes, choose the one word or phrase to describe it – the word that stands out most to you. List your themes/main group topics on a separate piece of paper.
  • Now, it’s time to distill the answers and choose one to three core themes and values. This can be tricky, so choosing two at a time and selecting the one that’s most important will help you eliminate any that aren’t necessary.
  • You’ll be left with one to three core values that your brand stands for. These words may be simple but they’ll be the driving force behind everything you do – the branding look, experience and how you operate.

Your brand is your promise

“Your brand is your promise.” -Dana DiTomaso

Step 2: Your brand mission

Now you have your core values, it’s time to create a brand mission – a statement that communicates your values but also where your brand is headed or the change you’re making in the world.

Answer the following questions to help determine your brand mission. These are relevant whether you’re building a personal or business brand:

1. What problem are you solving?
2. Who are you solving it for?
3. Where are you headed/what’s your goal?
4. What change do you want to make?

Once you have your answers, it’s time to combine them into a short paragraph that succinctly communicates what your mission is, who it’s for (your audience) and how you’re doing/going to do it (the problem you’re solving and how). You may also wish to weave in your core values.

Everyone’s will be different, so it’s about developing a statement that encapsulates all these things in a way that feels right to you or your business.

To help develop you business brand mission statement, here’s Ikea’s mission statement:

“At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

To help you develop your personal brand mission statement, here’s Amanda Steinberg’s (founder of

“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world.”

Step 3: Your visual brand

Next you want to develop the visual look of your brand.

If you’re developing a business brand this will include your:
• Brand colours
• Logo
• Fonts
• Any other consistently used visual identities e.g photography

If you’ve got a creative eye, you may wish to use a free design tool such as Canva to select a palette of colours and even design a logo.

Most businesses will outsource this to a designer. You may wish to seek out local designers, design students or use a gig economy website such as Etsy or Fiverr to find someone who can design at a very affordable rate. You can pay anything from £50-1000 for a branding palette, logo and re-usable identities.

If you’re developing a personal brand, the visual look of your brand will include:

  • Your personal appearance and the way you communicate
  • Your business cards
  • Your online presence

Your personal style brand could be that you always dress smartly and wear a suit, or that red lipstick is your consistent feature. Think of Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue… you can rely on her bob hairstyle and oversized sunglasses to always make an appearance.

Your communication style may be  friendly, warm and honest or professional, reliable and delivering expertise.

Your social media, business cards and website might cool, culturally relevant and forward thinking or sophisticated, established and authoritative.

Whatever approach you take has it’s own benefits. The most important thing is to ensure it’s authentically you or your business.

Step four: Your brand experience

The final step of creating your brand on a budget is to ensure that every touchpoint and experience your customer or audience has with you reflects your brand values, your brand mission and your visual identity.

This step comes down to consistency. Step into the shoes of your customer and imagine the experience that have with you in every interaction from a conversation to using your website to receiving your services.

Whilst it’s simple, it is one of the most challenging aspects of branding. It requires consistent commitment to your brand.

One of the best ways to maintain brand consistency is to keep a visual reminder of your brand on display where you and/or your staff  can see it daily. This will remind you to stay true to your brand and consider it in everything from customer service, purchase experience and the emails you send.

This guide is designed to help you develop a brand on a very limited budget, doing much of the thinking and consideration yourself. You are in a unique position to shape and develop this with true insight into what you’re trying to communicate.

After all, a strong brand will communicate a lot without speaking.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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