Dear business owner, why you need to stop being professional


One of the biggest challenges in brand consultancy can be finding clients with high levels of creative ambition, especially when it comes to small and medium-sized organisations.

It’s entirely understandable that business owners, and particularly start-ups, are consumed by delivering a quality product or service. And when it comes to launching a brand, above all they want to be seen as credible, as professionals.

Herein lies the problem.

Businesses use branding to look professional. They want something that doesn’t look DIY. It’s like the new recruit turning up to the office in a shiny suit to compensate for a lack in confidence.

Shiny suit branding can be delivered by anyone with a grasp of graphics. It’s the kind of output you get from online design competition sites. It follows a template and it’s about looking the part. Fitting in.

But it’s a huge missed opportunity. The role of branding is to help you stand out, not fit in. I understand. You simply need business cards or labels. Basic branding will communicate what you do. But it won’t help you compete.

My first conversation with prospects is always to establish the creative ambition. I want to find out if the organisation believes in creativity and understands its potential. Do they understand that they can’t rely on quality product alone? All too often they don’t fully appreciate the power of brand.

I want small businesses to ditch the desire to look professional and start thinking about finding a brand idea. As a small enterprise, there’s a big opportunity in challenging norms. It’s your secret weapon. Which is why it’s such a shame to aspire to be corporate.

A good brand idea can take the form of a metaphor or a mission. Importantly, it’s about telling a story. It should be meaningful, reach out to audiences, help them understand and remember your brand. Provoke feeling.

It needs to start with the brand name and should join up visual and verbal parts of a brand identity. Recently I worked on the name and story for beauty brand Good Science Beauty, and for its creative agency, Almighty studio, too. These are two brands with a point of view. Brands that set the tone for the business and motivate the team internally.

Business owner. Creative branding is an investment. And a risk. But as entrepreneurs, you’re already striking out, making a mark, doing something you believe in.

Don’t let boring branding undermine that.