How to Establish a Digital Brand Identity for a Small Business

Creating your brand identity for the digital realm can be a daunting task when you're a small business with limited resources. There are so many potential ways to present yourself as a company and reach your target customers. But when you have a smaller budget, as nearly every startup and small business does, you need to make sure you spend every penny of your funds wisely in order to efficiently and effectively connect with real customers.

Building Your Small Business Brand Identity

What is a brand identity?

A brand identity is deeper than just leaving a cool and modern impression on potential customers. The main purpose of establishing a brand identity is to deliver a consistent and unique message to your target audience not just about what you do, but who you are. You can achieve this by having a clear idea of who wants the kinds of products or services your small business offers, and knowing who your competitors are and taking an honest look at what makes them special. This crucial information will help you prioritize where you should build your presence online, and can save you a lot of time and money in the long run by empowering you to make smarter marketing decisions!

For example, Pinterest users are largely comprised of women according to a marketing poll on eMarketer.com. This social media website could be a great place to establish your brand if your customers are mostly women, but wouldn’t make sense and could be a waste of your valuable time if your business targets men.

Translating your startup’s strengths into visual brand identity design.

Once you know who your target audience is, what they’re looking for in a product or service, what motivates them, and how your business can best serve these individuals, it becomes a lot simpler to design the visual elements of your brand identity. In fact, that will probably be the first thing your designer asks about when developing concepts and rough sketches for your small business’s logo and other elements of business identity.

But your designer will also need to keep in mind the needs of the digital era. The logo must be scalable so that it looks as good on exterior signage as it does on your website's header and 16x16 pixel favicon, and it will need to fit a number of space and shape requirements for different websites in your marketing mix. It's tempting to add more colors and fonts as the whim strikes, but keeping it down to two or three main colors will leave a bigger impact. It is important to keep a coherent and very simple color scheme and typography for your site and various social media profiles.

Making your brand identity come alive on the web.

Now that you're sure of your key demographic and visual identity, it's time to put yourself out there! Once you have created incredible visual design elements and standards for your brand identity offline, now you have to translate that to the web, your online storefront open to the world 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Start by following today’s best practices in web design, like using high contrast in text and web-friendly typefaces, and having a simple and user-friendly experience that guides the user through their online journey with your brand. Develop strict brand standards and guidelines so that designers, web developers, and content developers can do what they do best while ensuring that all of their output stays true to your brand, no matter the medium.

Designing Corporate Identity for All Mediums

If you take an honest look at your small business’s website and it isn’t up to snuff for representing your small business to your ideal target audience, it may be time to redesign your web presence so that everything adheres to your brand standards and reflects the message you're truly trying to send. As you build out your presence and experiment with new digital marketing tools and tactics, you may find yourself adjusting and expanding the necessary brand standards accordingly. This is perfectly fine, as long as you remember that you don't need to be everything to everyone. It's all about connecting your unique brand with the unique needs of your target customers.

How do you start building your brand identity?

To get started building your startup’s brand identity, or improving upon the execution of your small business’s current identity, we recommend the following first steps!

  • Clearly define your target audience, how the products or services your small business offers can help that target audience. Evaluate how your brand is uniquely poised to serve these individuals.
  • Closely examine your visual identity elements like logos, color palettes, typefaces, printed materials, even your storefront and highlight the things that make you you.
  • Audit your web presence critically, and be honest with yourself about whether it reflects your brand’s true identity and the message you want to send to customers.

Need help getting your small business or startup brand identity on point? Contact Tentacle Inbound today to consult with our team of design and branding experts.

Lisa Partridge
Front-End Designer at Tentacle Inbound, LLC
Lisa Partridge is a graphic and web designer for Tentacle Inbound in Overland Park, KS. She is passionate about branding, typography, illustration, and coffee - not necessarily in that order.

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