You can’t define your own brand.

You can name your store, design your own logo, determine your values, and get all the other marketing tools ready. But at the end of the day, a brand is something that is intangible and it’s the way in which other people collectively perceive and identify your company.  

This is why sharing your brand story in a way that resonates with existing and potential customers is so important. Oftentimes, our favorite brands may not be the ones that sell our favorite products. Sometimes our favorite brands are simply the ones with the best stories to tell.

So how do you become one of these brands? We’ll guide you through a checklist of the 5 essential branding elements that all small businesses should consider before launching their business.

Item 1: Brand Purpose

This is arguably the most important step in the checklist. A brand purpose is the reason your brand exists. Although it can be tempting to start with your “what”–or what you will sell–starting with your why sets you up for success.

Ensure you can answer some key questions to help determine your “why”:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • What benefit are you delivering?
  • What jobs does your product or service do for the customer?
  • Who are you targeting? Who is your ideal customer?
  • What are your core brand values? Mission statement? Vision statement?

Determining all of these essential elements helps you clarify your brand purpose. Let’s take a look at a small business who has a very clear brand purpose.

Banz is a carewear for kids brand that started from a very real problem a very real parent was having. On their way back from the hospital with their newborn, the Beames parents tried to shield their baby’s eyes from the hot Australian sun. After trying several different sunglasses that didn’t do the trick, Bevan Beames decided to design his own pair for his newborn.

Today, BANZ sunglasses, earmuffs and sun hats guard infants, toddlers, and kids from the environment in Australia, New Zealand, North America, UK & Europe, Africa and Asia.

Branding checklist–A screenshot from Banz Carewear for Kids with a title reading "Meet Banzee and Bubsee" and an image oh two cartoon monkies.
A screenshot from Banz Carewear for Kids About Us page. 

What we love about Banz’ purpose is that they’ve made it relatable to parents everywhere. They’ve made the story relatable through Banzee and Bubzee, two characters that represent themselves. It’s cute, heartwarming, and most importantly, appealing to parents who would do anything for their children.

Banz’s purpose is clear–providing parents across the globe with high-quality carewear for kids.

Item 2: Brand Positioning

Brand positioning determines what makes you different from your competitors in the eyes of your customers. This is an important part of branding because you need to give customers a reason to shop from you instead of your competitors. There are several ways to differentiate your brand including pricing, target market, or the quality of your product. Positioning is beneficial because it helps inform your pricing strategy, shows you how to win new clients, and forces you to make creative decisions.

A useful tool to help you nail down your brand positioning is a positioning statement. It’s a good idea to write this when starting your brand.

For (Who is this product for? Target Audience)
Who: (What is the pain point they have?)
There is: (The what–your product)
Unlike Other solutions: (Competitive differentiation)

One brand who has positioned themselves very well is Xena Workwear. Founded by women for women, this brand sells protective and stylish safety work gear that women can feel protected and confident in.

They’ve positioned themselves in a niche target market by only focusing on women, and they differentiate themselves from competitors by focusing on function and fashion as opposed to other brands that focus primarily on men and don’t compete on fashionability.

Branding checklist–A screenshot from Xena Workwear for Women's homepage showing a pair of brown safety boots and a label saying "Women Owned".
A screenshot from Xena Workwear for Women's homepage. 

While a majority of options for women are bulky and uncomfortable, Xena Workwear ensures their boots are lightweight, comfortable, and help their customers feel confident.

No matter how you decide to position yourself in the market, ensure you are making creative choices that help you stand out from the crowd.

Item 3: Brand Promise

A brand promise is the value or the experience that your customers can expect from every single interaction they have with your brand. There are many different ways you can show your brand promise, from the customer service you offer to your brand values that you share on your website.

For example, if you sell food, you can promise to always use fresh ingredients in your products. On the other hand, if you are a skincare company, you can let customers know that you promise to only use natural, organic ingredients and never test on animals.

At the end of the day, your brand promise is unique to what matters most to your target customers and what will attract them to shop with you.

Branding checklist–A screenshot showing The Truth Beauty Company's values: community, health, and ingredients.
A screenshot showing The Truth Beauty Company's values. 

The Truth Beauty Company is a brand that makes several promises to their customers. They promise to deliver Canadian-made products made from plant-based ingredients that will only have positive health effects on their customers. By making these promises, customers know exactly what to expect when shopping with The Truth Beauty Company, allowing them to build trust and loyalty with the brand.

Whatever you decide to promise your customers, ensure that it is unique from your competitors, valuable to your customers, and that you can deliver it every single time someone interacts with you. After all, there’s nothing worse than a broken promise.

Item 4: Brand Personality

Brands are becoming more like humans nowadays. They form relationships and most importantly have personalities. A brand personality is the set of human characteristics that are associated with a brand name.

Your brand personality is conveyed through the tone of voice you use in your copy. This can be on your website, in your emails, and on your social media. You can choose certain characteristics based on your products, your positioning, and the target audience you want to attract. You can choose to be funny, serious, motivational, or any other combination of traits that fits your brand.

Branding checklist–An image of the 12 brand archetypes: innocent, sage, explorer, outlaw, magician, hero, lover, jester, everyman, caregiver, ruler, and creator.
An image of the 12 brand archetypes from Iconic Fox.

Another way to define your brand personality is to use archetypes. The 12 brand archetypes can be broken into four categories based on their motivation: exploring spirituality, leaving a legacy, pursuing connection, or providing structure.

One brand that has a clearly defined personality is Age Hams. This brand allows you to sell different ham memorabilia to your friends and family. Seeing as their founder is a comedian and the brand concept is not too serious, it makes sense that their brand personality matches.

Branding checklist–A screenshot of Age Ham's loyalty program explainer email with an image of a shaggy dog as the header.
A screenshot of Age Ham's loyalty program explainer email. 

This email explaining their loyalty program is the perfect example of their funny and sarcastic personality. Age Hams keeps this personality consistent in every element of their branding, allowing customers to know exactly what to expect from them.

By doing this, customers will feel like they can really get to know you and form a connection with you. When determining your brand personality, it’s a good idea to keep it consistent with your own personality. This will ensure that your content comes off authentic.

Item 5: Brand Identity

Once you’ve determined all the other elements of your brand, you can start working on the visual aspects. Often when people think of branding, this is what they will start and end with. In reality, choosing the brand colors, fonts, and logos should be the last part of the branding process to ensure they align with everything else.

In this stage, you can also solidify the text elements such as your brand name or slogan. These are important because they are how everyone will remember and talk about you. Making them catchy will help you stand out from the crowd.

One brand that has done a great job with their brand identity is Bachan’s. This Japanese barbecue sauce brand has a clean brand aesthetic with consistent colors, fonts, and designs. Their loyalty program launcher also blends in very well with the website, creating a cohesive customer experience.

Branding checklist–A screenshot of Bachan's homepage showing 3 bottles of barbecue sauce.
A screenshot of Bachan's homepage.

They also have effective text brand elements. For example, the word “bachan” means granny in Japanese. Seeing as this recipe is a family tradition from the owner’s own grandmother, this fits in extremely well.

Bachan also is a great example of an effective brand story–or the story you share with your customers about the inspiration for the brand’s existence. In their case, Bachan brings customers into their own family history sharing their heartwarming “Bachanisms” that their own grandmother instilled in them growing up.  

Although it is tempting to start with your brand identity, it’s much more effective to clearly define your purpose, positioning, promise, and personality.

Ready to start branding?

We know we’ve given you a lot of information in this post, so let’s run through the five key steps in our small business branding checklist.

  1. Brand purpose. Why does your brand exist in the first place?
  2. Brand positioning. What makes you different from your competitors in the eyes of your customers?
  3. Brand promise. What value or experience can your customers expect from you every time?
  4. Brand personality. What human characteristics does your brand have?
  5. Brand identity. What are your visual, text, and brand story elements?

Once you’ve determined all of these key elements, you’re ready to start attracting customers and delivering a positive experience every single time.