Build Your Business:

Branding Basics

Use these three tips to tell your shop's story and set it apart from the competition.

By Jeanene Edwards, Contributing Writer

Pick standout colors and a signature font that most embody your brand.

October 22, 2019

There’s a lot of jargon that gets thrown around in the marketing world, but if there’s one concept that decorated-apparel shops should consider when building their businesses, it’s branding.

Before divulging tips on how to take advantage of branding for your business, let’s cover the term’s basics. Branding is more than just a logo or company name; rather, it’s about creating a consistent, memorable and differentiated identity through a unique voice and story — brought together by a cohesive look and feel. It extends across products, services, employees, places and experiences to create a positive emotional connection with customers.

Branding helps customers more easily identify and understand your business and mission. It also helps communicate the business’s value and what makes it unique. More importantly, exceptional branding sets you apart from your competitors.

Why You Should Care
A compelling brand story allows customers to connect with your shop on a deeper level. Great branding helps customers answer the following questions: “Why should I do business here?” “What is this shop all about?” It also helps to differentiate you from your competitors.

Younger generations — Millennials and Generation Z, notably — value their individual relationships with businesses with which they associate. This relationship, however, is difficult to establish without a relevant brand.

Branding is crucial, especially when an abundance of print shops creates stiff competition. A memorable and distinctive brand will help customers think of your shop first.

“Branding can create loyalty,” says Jeff Traen, director of marketing, JERZEES. “Sixty-one percent of adults over the age of 22 say they are loyal to brands and will buy from them even when there are alternative options.”

With these concepts in mind, the following are three necessities for building a strong brand foundation:

1. Hang your hat on something. What sets your shop apart from competitors? Are you the best in your local area for embroidery? Do you serve a niche market that delivers the highest-quality athletic apparel? Are you a core contributor to your local community? It’s essential for your shop to “own” one thing and make it a reason for customers to believe in your work.

Are you unsure of what your shop’s “thing” is or are you having trouble deciding between a few? Determine what each of your competitors own in the market to help find clarity and “white space” for your shop. Customers are rapidly making decisions daily to choose one brand instead of another, so it’s your job to tell them what your brand stands for and why they should choose it.

Whether it’s something you believe in or a market you serve, make it known to your customers. These qualities, also known as your company’s unique selling proposition, will show customers why they should shop with you instead of your competition.

2. Define your purpose, mission, values and character. First, be authentic during this process. Don’t try to be something you’re not just to be different. Define your purpose; what goal or goals are you striving toward?

Your purpose is the “why.” Your mission takes your purpose a step further by asking, “What do we do, how do we do it and for whom?” Lastly, develop your company’s values, which are the core principles that guide everything you do. By remaining authentic, your values set you apart from your competition and bring your employees closer together.

It also helps to define a brand character or personality to carry through your shop’s messaging. If you think of your brand as a person, what words would you use to describe it — fun, serious, feisty, innovative, friendly, sophisticated, fast? Defining your shop’s personality will help inform your shop’s voice, which will be used in all your messaging and communication with customers. An established brand personality is necessary for forming strong relationships with them.

To effectively develop your brand’s character, think about your target audience. The best brands understand their target audiences’ personalities, as well as how to appeal to them. Are you appealing to an older population of customers or are you trying to attract a younger crowd? Who most likely will see your products or advertisements in your community? What makes them tick?

If you’re trying to reach an older crowd, you may prefer more traditional messaging. If your target persona is younger or more Millennial-oriented, ensure your message is short, quick and straightforward. You may want to sound less serious, and you even can throw in some emojis. You also can include some pop-culture references or current buzzwords that’ll make your brand relevant to younger crowds.

Remember that brand messaging now is more important than ever, as social media and technology have created new pathways for you to communicate your unique character in ways that resonate with your customers. With the majority of consumers from every demographic active via social media daily, companies are given the opportunity to directly communicate with their target audiences via platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Refine your brand’s look and feel. Now that you have your shop’s personality and mission nailed down, it’s time to carry it through visually in your brand’s look and feel. Regardless of your company’s persona, ensure any client-facing materials — website, promotional items and advertisements — reflect that.

The good news is you’re already an expert at decoration. Apply your design skills by giving your brand a little TLC from a visual and creative standpoint. This is important whether you are taking the first steps of branding or just want to give your current materials a facelift. Nothing generates attention like a fresh rebrand to showcase your company’s forward momentum.

Pick standout colors and a signature font that most embody your brand. Start with the basics. Are you an established, family run print shop with decades of experience? In this case, adopt a more traditional look with strong colors that show reliability and experience, like navy blue and forest green, and fonts that are intentionally structured and timeless.

If your company is new, cutting edge and features the latest, modern technology, use bolder fonts with sharp, sleek edges and colors that pop, like lime green or fiery orange. Regardless of what you decide, your brand’s colors and visuals should communicate your shop’s personality. Remember this when creating your shop’s logo. Again, tie in the fonts and colors that you selected to help maintain uniform branding.

Consistency is key when it comes to visual branding. Curate a running theme of a couple of signature colors (one or two primary colors and secondary accent colors) and one or two fonts displayed consistently throughout your website, shop, advertisements and promotional materials. This way, it’ll be much easier for potential customers to immediately recognize your brand and services.

Overall, your goal is to create a brand that is memorable for your customers, and one that differentiates your company from your competitors and accurately reflects your shop’s values. If you want to dive deeper into how to create your brand story, Donald Miller’s “Building a StoryBrand” or Bernhard Schroeder’s “Brands and Bulls**t” are excellent resources.

Jeanene Edwards is vice president of marketing and merchandising for Fruit of the Loom/JERZEES Activewear.