What is Branding? The Definitive Guide For Small Business Owner

Table of Contents

what is branding

Table Of Content

What is branding? I got pretty confused when I first heard it.

Have you ever wondered how as Coca-Cola, Apple or McDonalds create a memorable brand?

Or how does Rolex make you feel “rich” when wearing their watch?

This handy guide will show you the answer and help you to explore how even small businesses can build a brand.

Who Is This Guide For?

This branding guide is to help CEO, small business owner, marketer or future brand strategist to have a deeper understanding of what branding is and how they can create one to achieve business success.

But first, let’s understand what branding is.

What is Branding?

Branding is a big word that means different things to different people.

Some might say a logo is a brand.

This is partly true but does not tell the whole story.

For us at Brandmoss, we believe a brand is more than that.

We think a logo, a website or a business card are all part of a brand.

This is how Brandmoss defines what a brand is:

It is an emotion that people feel towards a business, product, person or service.

Business owners create brands to elicit a certain feeling or emotion from their audience towards their organization.

There is a difference between branding and visual branding. In this post, we will be touching both topics.

What Can Be Branded?

Nearly everything can be branded including :

  • Business
  • Product
  • Service
  • Person
  • An event or tradeshow
  • Geographical Branding (Remember the logo I ❤️NY?)
  • Even my grandpa!

Let’s see how I rebrand my Grandpa into a rebellious rockstar

Yes, you read that right! Even my dear old grandpa can be branded.

For this example, let’s pretend that I want you to look at my grandpa and get the feeling of a rebellious rock star.

Here how is he going to achieve that:

  • Swearing in each sentence instead of saying thank you
  • Studded leather jacket instead of a floral shirt
  • High top leather studded shoes instead of slippers
  • Donkey laugh instead of just a smile
  • Listen to metal song instead of Taylor Swift
  • Black vintage car with skull sticker on the side
  • Pink color hair, middle finger everywhere instead of high five
  •  Maybe a tattoo on his butt cheek?!!

How would you feel when you saw that grandpa walk in front of you?

I bet you would instantly think of a wild, crazy living rock star – which is just the feel we were going for.

The Importance of Internal and External Branding

Before we get into on how to create a successful brand, let’s understand what is internal and external branding.

External branding reflects how your customer views your business as a brand and internal branding reflect how your employee view your business.

Internal branding helps your employee to understand why they work and how much impact they make when working in the business.

Most of the time employee is neglected as part of branding because so much attention has invested in external branding.

Internal branding can boost employee morale by teaching them what they are doing and why it matters.

It also helps them easier explain their work to their family and friends.

Good Internal branding also helps in recruiting talent.

It helps to explain why it matters working here and that draws premium talent to join your business.

If they are proud of their work, they will stick around.

How would you feel when you tell your friends that you are part of the team in creating an electric car in Tesla?

I know my parents would be so proud of that.

How Can You Create a Successful Brand?

Each agency has its own process to create a brand.

The first step is to decide what emotion you want your customers to feel towards your business, product or services.

Then align that desired emotion that you want your customer to feel towards your business into four sections on what people see, hear, feel and read about your company.

These four sections apply to both internal and external branding.

Let’s take a look at this in chart format.


Creating a brand need to align every touchpoint of your business based on how you want your customers to see, read, hear and feel towards your business.

The Importance Of Knowing Your Audience

Identifying your audience not only benefits brand creation, but it also helps with your business strategy as well.

If you don’t know who your audience is, you might end up selling ice to Eskimos or designing a pink color corporate folder to attract serious investors.

Knowing your audience is the first step to positioning your brand in a way that will appeal to your customers.

Why knowing your audience is important?

Let me set you an example so you can understand this properly.

  • Knowing where they shop for grocery :  This will help you find out where to include your billboard ads so they can see when they are one the way to grocery store
  • Knowing what they read : This will help you find out which magazines you should advertise in
  • Knowing them which social media they use : This will help you understand which platform you should advertise on.
  • Knowing what social movement that they care about : This will help you to create a better brand story that they can relate
  • Knowing their gender : This will help to design a brand that has appropriate color and graphical elements that appeal to them

How to Identify Your Target Audience?

To make this simpler, the basic persona template will include the name, age, job, salary and the place they live.

This can be completed by any business to create your audience persona and identify your target audience.

You can go into even more detail if you want. At this stage, you need to imagine they are on a journey to discover your product or service. What will they go through?

From that, you can come up with the questions that will help you to know more about your audience.

Let’s pretend that you own a pizza shop and use Fabio as your target audience.

What will Fabio go through when he is craving for pizza? When Fabio is hungry and craving pizza, he would go to a nearby town to get one.

The problem is that living in the city center makes this difficult due to the jam-packed traffic.

So, the perfect solution for Fabio is to order a freshly made pizza online to be delivered. But which pizza would Fabio want to eat?

Once you know this, you can then create a flyer or brochure telling Fabio that you now offer pizza in his area that is ordered online and freshly delivered to his doorstep.

The flyer or brochure should also show a selection of bestselling pizzas to tempt him.

Define Your Brand Mission

Once you know who your target customer is, now is the stage where you will define your brand mission.

Brand Mission

Every company, whether large or small, should have a brand mission.

Sometimes it is called a mission statement or company values.

It’s like a principle that your company stands for.

Your brand mission can be as simple as “making pizza with homemade ingredients”

At Brandmoss, our brand mission is “to help businesses define and discover visual brand personalities to fit in with today’s offline and online presence”

Here are a few more examples of brand missions from other companies that you might be familiar with:

Ikea : To create a better everyday life for many people.

TED : Spread ideas.

JetBlue : To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.

Tesla : To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Nordstrom : To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.

Brand Story

Once you put a ‘Why’ on your brand mission, your brand story will naturally fall into place.

For example, why do you want to make pizza with homemade ingredients?

By asking ‘Why’ in relation to your brand mission, you will begin to discover your own brand story that your target audience can relate too.

Brand stories can help to create effective marketing values and propel your company through the business awareness stage.

You can create a video to tell your brand story or even a poster, infographic, and many more to tell your brand story.

New Brand or Rebrand?

When you launch a new product, do you keep it under the same brand or create a separate one?

When do you really need a rebrand? Let’s find out the answers below.

When Do You Need a New Brand?

One of the most common situations where you need to create a new brand is when you don’t want to dilute your current demographic.

Alternatively, you may have created a product that appeals to a whole different demographic entirely.

Let’s say you own a pizza restaurant and plan to sell Chinese food as well. In this situation, it is better to create a separate brand and restaurant for the Chinese food to appeal to that specific demographic.

By doing this, you won’t dilute the pizza restaurant demographic who may not be into Chinese food.

Take a look at Volkswagen. Do you know that they own both Lamborghini and Audi?

They keep Lamborghini and Audi as a separate brand as both businesses appeal to different audiences.

If I want to feel excited, wild and a bit crazy when I drive, then I will jump in a Lamborghini.

However, if I want to be more professional, refined and understated then I will hop in my Audi.

In essence, that is how the idea behind setting up two brands works.

When Do You Need a Rebrand?

There could be a few reasons that you will need a rebrand.

One of them is when your brand mission is irrelevant anymore.

For example, you have been only selling pizza for a long time and plan to offer more food options such as spaghetti.

This is the point when you need to rebrand and replace that pizza icon on the logo along with changing the menu so you can tell your customers that ‘something new is coming’.

Some businesses will even use logo redesign as a PR strategy to inform their audience that they have a new CEO.

For example, in 2012, Yahoo appointed Marissa Mayer as their new CEO.

As part of the PR hype to inform the world that a new CEO had been appointed, Yahoo went through a series of logo redesigns.

Influence of Copywriting and Visual Branding

Let’s do an experiment. If this scribble’s below were songs, which would sound more like a loud rock and roll song to you?

importance of branding

You probably chose the one on the right.

Did you know what just happened though?

I just made a song in your head without any sound!

That’s the influence of visual branding.

Colors, shape and even the type of font will influence how people think.

For example, if you want your product to appeal premium, then you can’t put rainbow colors on it.

There will instead be a set of visual imagery that screams ‘I am expensive!’ far more effectively.

Sounds : Messaging/Tone of Voice

We all use language differently. Different language appeal to a different type of demographic.

Let’s see how this demographic express themselves when

they are hungry.

• Old Lady : Oh, I am hungry again

• Rockstar : I am fuc**** HUNGRY!

• My Neighbour: Let’s get some food


This is why identifying your target audience is so important.

You need to speak the right tone of language to them so they can relate to your brand.

Who Should You Hire To Develop Your Visual Branding?

When you are looking for a branding agency, most of them will only offer services such as visual branding and messaging only.

Let’s find out what are the different options when looking to hire someone to do this.


If you are really looking to hire a student, go to your local art college when they are having a final year project exhibition.

You might be able to find some really good students that can help with your branding.

This is what happens to me when I was in college.

Me and my friend were lucky enough to get recommended by our head of department to help his friend to work on a logo and brand identity for his newly established organization.

The best thing is, this is a paid project.

This is out of topic, graphic design students are usually very broke from printing out their project, they will be grateful for the opportunity to work on a real paid project.

I recommend you to go straight to the head of the department and ask for a recommendation.

They might know a student that can help with your project.


Check their portfolio or past client to decide they are the real deal. 


Because everybody can be a freelancer.

All they need is a laptop and Adobe Suite. It is not like a doctor where you need to go through a strict qualification process.

There are no restrictions in place to become a freelancer that’s why you might need to find a few more freelancers so you can make a proper comparison.

As for the cost, a freelancer is usually cheaper than a small agency.

Small Branding Agency

Smaller branding agency tends to work with various type of business such as SME, startups, hotels, cafés, restaurants and many more.

The cost of working with a design agency can range from mid four figures to five figures depending on the scope of the project.

For example, one of our clients was setting up an ice cream shop and we were given a budget of RM50k to work on the brand identity and a list of promotional prints.

If you are just looking for a logo and brand identity this will cost you between RM8 – 13k.

One of the downsides of working with a small design agency is scalability.

If you need help with a project which includes an ad for 100 billboards to be done in two weeks, small agencies may not have enough manpower to take on your project.

However, if you trust and give smaller agencies enough time, you can help them grow along with your company.

This presents a great opportunity to forge a close and long-lasting working relationship.

Large Branding Firm

Large companies with HUGE budgets to spend will probably go for this kind of branding firm.

You can expect to spend anything ranging from 7 to 9 figures here though!

The Pepsi logo redesign, for example, cost $1 million USD and the British Petroleum (BP) rebranding cost them $211 million USD.

Yes, you read that right! Some of these larger firms have a wide variety of services and connections.

This means their branding services comes with PR and marketing as well.

Visual Branding Process

Each company has their own process of creating a visual brand. Below is the step by step process that Brandmoss use to create a visual branding.

Brand Strategy

The first step of creating a brand for your company is having a brand discovery session.

This sees a designer or agency come up with a brand strategy based on the brand discovery session.

In this session, we will get to know more about your business, competitors and your audience with a framework customized to you.

The brand strategy will then be a reference point moving forward.


The next step of our process is showing you a stylescape.

This lets you visualize how your overall brand will look, based on the brand strategy that we discover.

Logo Design

Once a stylescape is established, a logo will be designed for the next step.

There are a few types of logo design. Emblem, Wordmark, Monogram, Brand Marks, Abstract Mark, Mascots, and Combination Mark are the most common.

Of course, the major decision is which type of logo should you use for your company?

At this point, the brand strategy will come in handy.

It will decide which type of logo will be suitable for your brand and business goals.

For example, if most of your business touchpoints will be online then a Monogram, Brand Mark or Abstract logo might be a good fit.

This is because these logotypes are easy to scale to a variety of sizes for social media profiles.

If you own a university with various campuses scattered around town, a logo with an icon is perfect for this situation.

The word on the logo can be changed but the icon kept in order to help new students recognize which buildings in town are university ones. 

Brand Identity

This is where we will set a visual theme for your corporate identities such as business cards, letterhead, envelope, lanyard design, corporate profile, company uniform and much more.

Online and Offline Deliverable

When all of the above is done, the next step is making your offline and online deliverables come alive so your customers can see, read, hear and feel them.

Offline deliverables including posters, magazine ads, web design, and social media profiles.

These are the best promotional material for most businesses marketing requirements.


It is not easy to create a brand, that is why working with a branding agency is recommended.

In the long term, this will save you lots of precious time so you can focus more on your business.

When facing similar pricing and products in a competitive marketplace, a strong brand will work in your favor and help your business, product or services stand out.

Developing a strong brand is crucial to growing your business as it takes time to develop a brand relationship with your audience.

What have you decided to do in order to act and create a brand for your business?