Many estimates have been made as to the number of advertising messages the average American sees each day and the numbers range from about 150 to 5000. It is hard to pin the exact number down because it is hard to define what an advertising message is. When you walk down the aisle at a grocery store and pass shelves full of labels, are those considered advertising messages or do they simply blend in to the periphery?

When examining the numbers various studies have rendered, one thing becomes clear: branding is a phenomenon worth studying.

How do companies utilize visual and verbal messages to gain our patronage? The most established way is through branding. The most successful firms in the world have developed brands that say something unique about that company and they pay close attention to their brand equity model.

In a recent article from Branding Magazine, Louis Rix made a compelling case for why branding is more important for small businesses than for large corporations. Rix makes the argument that the biggest companies in the world are mostly focused on maintaining their current customers and their current growth rates. Small businesses are in a state of flux in which they are trying to convince consumers that their product is worth some attention and investment. The best way to accomplish this, Rix writes, is through an effective branding campaign.

A few of the benefits of branding for small businesses are:

  • Creating perceived expertise. Successful branding creates a long term relationship with the customer and the quickest way to do this is through creating a perception of expertise. When customers perceive you as being an expert in that field, they will trust you with their purchase decision.
  • Creating transparency. This involves using your company’s size (which is probably relatively small compared to a company like McDonald’s which employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide) to your advantage. You can brand yourself as one of “the little guys.” You can create this perception through forming personal relationships with your customers. One way to  achieve this is by having employees answer phone calls as opposed to using message services.
  • Creating customer loyalty. After a long enough period of time, your customers will come to trust the brand that you have created. Once a customer has tried your product enough and has not been let down (or has been cared for when they were let down) they will develop loyalty to your brand. Ask just about anyone using an Apple computer what they’re thinking of getting for their next computer purchase. Ask the person who walks into the office every day with a grande non-fat soy caramel latte from Starbucks if they’re interested in trying out the Caribou Coffee that just opened down the street. Chances are that brand loyalty has kicked in for these people and it will take a bad experience or a series of bad experiences to break their loyalty.

When you’re considering whether or not to bother creating a brand for your small business, remember that it doesn’t take a multi-million dollar advertising budget but a strong brand that inspires confidence can make all the difference in convincing customers to patronize your small business vs. another.  And this can make all the difference in your growth and success.