Brand-Led SMALL business

I often get asked when speaking at conferences about how the brandgym principles of brand-led business apply to big companies but not small ones. "It doesn't work for my small business," the protests go, "I don't have the marketing budget of Unilever or Coke. In fact, I have no budget!"

Well, I suggest that whatever the size of your company or your budget, brand-led business principles can absolutely be applied.

One brilliant brand-led small business I have personal experience with is local photographer Annie-Armitage, here. Annie did a photo shoot for the Taylor family recently. The photos are great (I know, because my mum told me). What's more, the whole experience was fun for all of us.

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So, how has Annie gone about "baking the brand" into her small business?

1. Distinctive customer experience

Photographers are photographers, right? Well, Annie shows this does not have to be the case. She has created a number of little features that deliver a distinctive customer experience:

– Annie visits every family before their shoot to discuss, in person, their requirements and, most importantly, to meet the kids. This way, the children feel more at ease on the day of the shoot.

– Annie really brings her personality to the party. She is fun, bubbly and made us all laugh. Rather than being a chore, the family all enjoyed the shoot.

– After the shoot, you get an extremely wide range of frames, finishes and photo layouts, presented to you by one of Annie's team

2. Brilliant basics 

You can have all your fancy twists and features in a small business, but the most important thing is doing the basics brilliantly. How often have you been let down by a builder, cleaner, garage or any other service provider? I would guess quite often. In Annie's case, she promised to deliver on a certain time, and did so. The photos were of a high quality and exactly as we ordered. Don't under-estimate how important consistently delivering on your promises can be in creating distinctiveness.

3. Brand identity, not just logo

Many small firms think branding is about their logo, and maybe their business card, headed paper and the top left corner of their web page. Branding is really about much more than this. Most importantly, its about the customer experience, as discussed above. Secondly, branding is about having a distinctive identity. This is not just your logo, its making your whole look and feel distinctive. 

Annie has created a lovely identity and applied it with real love and attention to detail. She uses her signature pale blue colour not just in her logo, but also in the ribbon used to tie up the boxes the framed photos are delivered in.


And check out the jewell-like presentation of the USB stick with the photos on. The USB in its box is still on my desk, not just shoved in the back of a draw somewhere.

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These little touches make the service distinctive but also communicate attention to detail and a quality finish.

In conclusion, Annie Armitage is a great example of how you don't need to be big to be a brand-led business. What you need is dedication, creativity and excellence of execution to bake your distinctive brand into all you do.