Small Business Branding

Branding. What the heck is it, and do I even need it in my cake business?

Branding is having a unique personality to your business. It’s often a mixture of visual things – a logo, a specific font, a colour palette and non-visual things all of which convey the personality of your business. It can extend to things like taglines and packaging as well. GOOD branding is recognisable by your potential customers and conveys the message of what your business is going to deliver – they get an immediate feeling about your business by looking at your branding. Get it right and your business’s branding can become a valuable asset of the business, which then makes it very attractive to potential buyers (if that’s the direction you’re hoping to head in.) (Close your eyes and think about brands like Tiffany & Co or Facebook. You can clearly see those shades of blue in your mind’s eye.) Get it wrong or don’t do it at all, and you’re missing a great opportunity to stand out in a crowded market.

Elements of your brand should appear just about everywhere you can think of. You then use elements of that branding – your logo, those colours, the aesthetic of your work in a multitude of ways:

  • You logo should be on your website, business card and as your profile picture for your social media accounts…
  • The brand colours should be reflective in your business card, website, and background of your images, packaging, staff uniforms and vehicle decals…
  • Fonts should be consistent across images, memes or posts you create…
  • Visual style (such as minimalist, or very colourful, etc) should be easily identifiable across everything you produce either tangible or digital…
  • Personality – it’s not always visual! Branding can extend to the language and words you use, the way you reply to emails and answer the phone.

Once you’ve worked out what your branding is, you want to make sure you’re using it everywhere, so that a potential client could easily pick your business (and your work) out of a crowd. It’s another form of marketing in that it allows you to differentiate yourself from others in our industry – and I don’t need to tell you how important that is.

In short – your branding tells the story of your business and what it’s about. This is why it drives me INSANE to see tons and tons of cake companies all of whom use the same shade of pink or the same scalloped cake stand as their logo. That pink and that cake stand tell me very little.

Here’s some examples of sweet food companies who I think have great branding for small business:

Bakedown Cakery – foil lettering on cards and packaging, bright bold colours in both packaging and product, unusual flavour combinations – all of it flows together beautifully.

Holly Fox cookies – If I saw these in a store among hundreds of others, I could pick hers

Funky Cookie Studio – Same as for Holly. Immediately recognizable colours and products.

Katherine Sabbath – her website isn’t her primary avenue (Instagram is) but it’s still VERY much on brand with who she is and what she creates.

Here are some other examples from other industries you can look at too.

While it IS a good idea to create your brand and the guidelines for your brand from the beginning, we don’t always have that kind of vision at first. It can take time to 1) admit that you’re in business and 2) work out what that business is all about.

True story: my first business cards had cherry pies on them because that was the only baking related image I could find on Vistaprint back then. I don’t make pies and never have. Talk about a branding fail!

The good news is, you can evolve your branding over time. Large companies (think Coke, Pepsi) often refresh their logo or branding while still maintaining the major elements of it – the colours (red, white, blue of Pepsi) or the font (Coke.) Here at the Business of Baking, my logo has evolved a few times and the colours have too – but I’ve always retained the logo, the egg and the green/gold colours. Over time I’ve added in some additional colours (pink and blue) and an image (the sprinkles) because I felt those were a better reflection of my audience.  Now, you’ll find all those things – eggs, the 4 colours, the sprinkles – across everything from my podcast art to my newsletter header and my FB groups headers.  As you discover your preferred style of product, you also tend to discover your business style and then you can start to build a brand from that.  At the beginning when you’re taking every order of every type, it’s a little hard to work out what your business is about from a branding point of view but eventually that becomes a lot clearer.  You can hire branding companies to help you do this if you like, there are plenty out there – but DIY branding is also possible, especially if you’ve got a clear vision for your brand and have some graphics skills to hand.

Branding sounds scary, like something only big businesses do – but you’re probably already doing some of this already and don’t know it or wouldn’t call it branding. No matter how small your business is, it can benefit from some planned, consistent branding – and as we work in a visual medium, our businesses are especially able to benefit from this.

Don’t just make them pretty pictures. Make them pretty pictures with personality.



6 comments on “Small Business Branding

  1. A great article with spot on advice!
    I’d add only, that in branding less is more. So, fewer brand colours rather than many, a simplified, easy to make out even when tiny-logo instead of all the frills and tiny pidgeons with scrolls and cherubs, easy-to-read fonts, etc, etc. 😀

    I myself am almost the total opposite of a rose-patterned soul, so visual minimalism comes easily to me. But the other common downfall is to want to display all my guns at the same time and have different imagery for the newsletter, social media and the home page, because I want everyone to notice how versatile I can be. So one profile pic (the logo, square and circular!), one header to edit for different proportions, etc.
    The magpie-effect can creep up on you, if you don’t check yourself. 🙂

    When in doubt, choose less 😀

  2. Thanks Michelle! This is great advice. I’m working to reposition my business to attract more clients and high-end clients. I’m also launching my website this month and I want to make sure I send potential clients the right message about who we are. I think this will help me to refocus while still being consistent.

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