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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Branding for Small Business: Lessons from Big Businesses

    Posted by Angela Suico

    What these Branding Giants Do and How You Can, Too

    Your small business may not have the fan base of a company such as Coca-Cola—at least not yet. But you can still learn plenty from big companies and their branding efforts. Below, we’ve listed some companies that have built their brands through special engagement efforts. Each has done something that made users sit up and pay attention, and each carries a lesson that can easily apply to branding for small business. 

    Asking Users for Content

    Expedia lets users share their travel experiences through its “Find Yours” collection. Submitted via Expedia’s social media apps, the “Find Yours” series groups together videos, photos, and content about their travel experience.  One video shows a man with his son at an amusement park, maybe Disneyland. “It wasn’t a good time to go away,” the man narrates. “It never is. But my wife and I had a talk. And so there I was on our trip. Spinning round and round. And in that moment I realized: That’s my boy. This is my life. And I only got one of each.”

    The Takeaway: Small brands can encourage the same kind of involvement by urging users to provide content to share with other fans and followers. Ask for videos, pictures, or stories relating to a certain theme. Doing this will help you promote your brand, not only by motivating others to pay attention to your company, but also by letting them get a sense of who your audience is, and how they use your product or service. 

    Holding Contests

    When Radioshack held a contest to celebrate its sales of Verizon phones, it introduced the new product on Twitter by encouraging users to Tweet at its account, using the hashtag #itskindofabigdeal. The Tweets were sent directly one of several Verizon phones, placed on a table and set to vibrate whenever they received the Tweets. Each vibration made the phones move, and the Tweeters responsible for making a phone fall off the table won that phone.

    Takeaway: Figure out a way to make a game out of your product or service—perhaps by adding a competitive element to your request for user-generated content. This will encourage even more engagement, and perhaps gather more fans and followers for you, since you’re offering an incentive. Once you’ve attracted new fans, however, you’ll need to keep creating great content to keep their attention. How can you do that? Read on.

    Being Playful

    Clearly, no one at Oreo heeds the childhood command, “Don’t play with your food.” From June to October 2012, the company held a 100-day campaign to celebrate its 100th year. Each day saw the debut of an Oreo cookie, cut, carved, and shaped to celebrate the historical significance of that day. One cookie had red filling with tracks pressed into it. This was on August 5, the day of the Mars Rover landing. Another was shaped like Elvis Presley’s head. That was on August 14, in honor of Elvis Week.

    The Takeaway: The best brands market their product in a way that will connect with people, no matter how mundane it may seem. Take Sharpie, for example. Its Instagram dazzles with colorful pictures that show the markers themselves and the drawings made by staff. The account is followed by 95,000 people. The lesson here? Think about the fun aspects of your business, and use them to draw people to your company.

    Making Workers Happy

    Zappos could have just gotten by on its great service alone, but its culture is what makes it really stand out. According to Washington Post reporter Susan Waldman, having a great culture was something the company specifically strove for; it uses employee happiness as a “performance indicator.” By shunning the usual eagle-eyed focus on results, Zappos creates a culture without the typical stressors, leaving its employees freer to innovate and work productively. Besides fostering a great work environment, the company’s approach to work also makes it a brand that people love.

    The Takeaway: Make your office a place where employees want to be. You can do this by offering nice perks, of course, but a large part of worker happiness is sharing values. Because in the Zappos mindset, “Culture is programmed by values, values drive behavior, behaviors drive actions, and actions produce results.” Invest time and energy in cultivating a company driven by values, and customers will be reminded of those values whenever they see your logo.

    The above are just a few examples of ways you can build your brand. You probably know of several other companies that have caught your eye because they did something creative or unusual. Think of how you can recreate their efforts with your own business, and experiment. When you make the effort to inspire, amuse, or simply connect with your audience, the results can be just the boost your brand needs.

    Image credit: freedigitalphotos.net/KROMKRATHOG

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    Topics: Inbound Marketing