How to Build Your Brand on a Shoestring Budget

Budgets have been slashed. Advertising is in a slump. Social media is on the rise, with a yet-to-be-defined return on the hype. Companies are struggling to make sense of the conventional landscape of the market and of all they thought they knew about marketing. Yet one clue emerges out of the chaos: Brands drives business. Optimize your brand to optimize your market share. But is it that simple? Each week since the economy has taken a nosedive, we have been bombarded with companies and organizations announcing their new name, new logo and new brand. But how many will master how to best invest in building—or rebuilding—their brands remains to be seen. Some are laying out millions against full-blown commercial ramp-ups across media to introduce their new image and credo. But in the midst of a recession, many must deal with the reality that every dollar counts. How do you afford branding when building a brand entails building an entirely new customer experience? How do you make branding cost-effective and its business impact measurable? â–¶ Make the brand experience-driven. To start with, it could be simple. If properly managed, the brand delivers a promise through experience. If the experience delivers beyond marketed expectations, the brand drives the business. The better the experience, the better the business. But most businesses struggle with defining their brand, as they wrestle with capturing its breadth and concretizing the intangible nature of the experience. Brand-driven businesses create a significantly higher return on investment because they focus on driving actions, as opposed to just relying on traditional advertising that merely captures attention. To do so, companies must understand what motivates the customer, what drives their choices, behavior and actions. To capture those drivers is the only way to create meaningful connections with your company’s brand. So how much do you need to invest to capture the behavior analytics behind your offering? Choose a strategic ratio of budget against insight/understanding to drive the power of all of your communications. Disconnected campaigns at the messaging, creative and behavior-inducing level are the first pitfall. Marketing, public relations and advertising are no longer independent. To create an effective brand that penetrates the consumer and the industry in which a business operates, it has to be an integrated approach. Deliver the experience of a promise, then focus on the consumer reaction to drive action. â–¶ Make persuasion pervasive. One cannot persuasively promote a brand if said brand does not occupy the mind and environment of the customers. Pervasiveness can be managed through integration on a shoestring budget. In short, how will your brand persuade users to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do? How can your brand generate the power to convince people to buy your goods or service? A brand’s impact can be greatly improved in two ways: 1. Unifying it under one promise 2. Integrating all its connections across multiple marketing channels, including traditional media, advertising, social media, trade show participation and e-mail campaigns. A campaign-driven approach and integration will stretch your marketing dollars. The more pervasive your approach, the more persuasive it will be—and the more return you will be able to measure. â–¶ Use social media to socialize your brand. Take it from companies like Zappos, Ford and Starbucks: Social media does make or break brands. Each has utilized social media to build a positive brand image that has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, and in the end have improved their bottom lines. From tweeting to Facebook fan pages, these brands have built a consumer experience around social media platforms rather than the goods they sell. If your brand is not that well known, you may wonder what social media can do for you. The answer is simple: Social media humanizes your brand, giving the consumer an authentic person or figure to relate to. And that increases loyalty to a brand. In addition, social media allows your business to accelerate and combat current conceptions or rumors in the digital world. With determination, constant interaction and having your CEO join Twitter, you too can get millions of followers for your company without driving your company budget into the ground. â–¶ Keep tabs on the analytics. If your business has any budget, it must have one for branding. Branding enables marketing executives to keep track of where every dollar is spent. An integrated branding approach will capture, in a straight forward, linear and legitimate way, the analytics of your spending, how dollars spent are converted and where your business has received the most return on its investment. Using a platform as simple and cost-effective as Google Analytics allows a business to generate detailed statistics about Web usage. Google Analytics can track visitors from all sites, including search engines, display advertising, social media platforms, e-mail marketing and digital collateral. By setting goals for your company’s rebranding campaign, you can determine which initiatives are performing and which are not, allowing your business to further optimize or end the campaign. Most importantly, you get insight into how users react and act upon your brand. Analytics is power: power to drive actions, power to control the course of your brand and power to improve your business. â–¶ Remember, it’s not about the money invested. It’s about how you invest the money in a campaign that will best saturate your market. Until recently, branding was not considered a strategic driver for a business; it was viewed as an exercise to create identities around a market or an idea. As the economy worldwide has fallen on hard times, companies recognize that the brand-driven approach invigorates a customer base and crystallizes the delivery of their strategic plan, often improving the bottom line and, more importantly, building a long-lasting relationship with customers. PRN CONTACT: Sophie Ann Terrisse is CEO of STC Associates, Inc. She can be reached at

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