Nextphase Strategy Blog

Building Brand Equity for Small Businesses

The Basics of Building Brand Equity

Brand equity is a buzzword that is often tossed about in conversation, but not typically defined or measured. So what exactly does it mean? Personally, I like this definition from

A brand's power derived from the goodwill and name recognition it has earned over time, and which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands.

Brand equity is difficult to measure, but very valuable. Think Coca Cola, Nike and IBM – the world’s top three brands.

So how can you build brand equity for your business, particularly when your budget is stretched? Here are three essential steps to leveraging your brand:

1. Begin with a clear, focused position

The first step to building brand equity is to define your positioning: the single thing your company stands for in relation to your target customers. The emphasis is on a single differentiator: what really matters the most. Is it bend-over-backwards service, unique technology that saves money or the ultimate in luxury? This exercise can sometimes be challenging, but it’s worth the effort.

When you’re defining your position, make sure that you survey internal and external audiences to ensure that their perspective matches yours. If not, there is work to be done to fulfill that promise.

2. Communicate who you are

Now that you’ve definitively determined who you are, you need to communicate that to your target audiences and make sure that the way your company looks and feels to the outside world matches your brand promise. Have a look at your branding program or hire an outside firm to conduct a brand audit. Do your name and logo make the impression you want? And what about your website – this is typically the first place a prospective client goes to learn more about your company. If you’re in a conservative field that requires a high level of trust (legal, accounting, engineering, finance), professionalism is paramount. If you’re marketing to young consumers, fun and edgy might fit the bill. At any rate, you want to look like you’re a going concern and not home-grown.

3. Reinforce the message

A good way to erode your equity is inconsistent branding across different mediums. Ideally, all of your communications materials should have a common look and feel as well as messaging. Also don’t damage your brand by straying away from its values. For example, if you’re a premium brand, resist discounting, ensure that distribution channels are in sync with what is expected of a premium brand, and build consistent associations throughout your promotional campaign.

In Conclusion

The above steps are the foundation of a solid brand strategy. Remember: start with a clear, focused position, effectively communicate your message and be diligent in how your brand is represented in the marketplace. You don’t need a big budget to do this – only some time.

Put Your Best Face Forward

When you manage a brand, you have an image to groom. This is especially true online, where people from all around the world are constantly scrutinizing your brand. What’s more, it takes a very long time to create a positive brand reputation on the Web, but it takes just seconds to ruin it. 

What, then, should be monitored to protect your brand’s image and prevent any mishaps? Any posts, feedback, mentions, reviews, testimonials, comments, links and more containing the following should be monitored closely.

  • The name of your company
  • Brands operated under your company
  • The names of your employees
  • Your corporate website domain
  • Phrases that identify your brand
  • Your clients
  • Your competitors

Monitoring can be done quite easily by using tools such as RSS Feeds, Google Analytics/Alerts, Hootsuite, and Twitter Search. If you see any flags, respond in a timely manner, while being courteous and professional. Likewise, if you receive positive feedback, show your gratitude- a few words can go a long way and this will help in spreading a positive online image of your brand.

How to be a Great Branding and Marketing Client

Achieving great results from a marketing agency has two parts to it. Here is the obvious part: you should hire a company that best fits all of your requirements. The second and often neglected part is being a good client to work with. Without both parts of the equation, the work that comes out won’t reach its full potential. So, keep the following simple tips in mind when hiring an agency’s services.

  • Provide as much information as you can during the creative brief.
  • Communicate your objectives - short-term and long-term.      
  • Participate actively in the project.
  • Be responsive.
  • Make clear what success is in your dictionary.
  • Remember that changes almost always affect deadlines.
  • Give constructive, specific feedback.
  • Acknowledge your limitations.
  • Trust the expertise of the hired agency.

Adopting these traits will help you get the most out of your relationship with your agency – and optimum results from your branding and marketing programs. 

A Blast from the Past

Packing up and moving usually inspires and requires us to sift through all sorts of boxed away bits and pieces from the past. And that's exactly what we did during our recent move to our new Yaletown office. And guess what we found: a picture from the 80s of our old, burned-out office - now the Yaletown Galleria building.

On July 1st of 1981, as owner of USA - Ullrich Schade and Associates, I was at the cinema with my wife Robyn, watching Das Boot - a chillingly realistic WWII movie with lots of burning and torpedoed ships. On our way back home, we smelled smoke, but didn't give it much thought. The next morning, my friend Derek Murray, who owned a photo studio in the same building, called me with the bad news...his office had burned and my office was completely smoke and water damaged. It all started with a fire originating in the clothing importer's space down the hall - and something to do with getting rid of a large quantity of non-licensed kids' Disney clothing they couldn't sell due to copyright infringements. All my work was destroyed. My bookcases, design books, work samples, layouts, advertising memorabilia, graphic camera - the list goes on and on - was gone. In the end my company lost over $100,000 - which was a very large sum in the early 80s. From there, we moved to West Georgia...and now, we have traced our roots back to Mainland Street. 


Image of the burned out building.

Ullrich and his wife, Robyn, in the office after the fire.