No matter the size, if you own or manage a business, it has a brand. That brand embodies how you are perceived by your clients, potential customers, and the general public. Companies that put thought, effort and resources into their branding can steer and guide those perceptions. Businesses that don’t risk allowing their competitors or anecdotal stories to define them. Here are some simple tips that will help even the smallest company create and support their brand.

Establish Basic Branding Elements

Let’s start with the fundamental elements of branding. Your company’s name is the first and most visible form of brand iconography, followed by its logo. After that come branding statements, and ancillary elements like shapes, pictures, mascots, and even colors associated with your brand. Think about Nike, and you immediately think about their name, the color orange, and the iconic “swoosh” mark. You don’t need all these elements, but the ones you choose to incorporate the need to be established early on.

Stay Consistent

Once you’ve established your branding elements, you need to be consistent with them. Always make your logo appear in marketing materials, as opposed to spelling out your company’s name in simple text. If you have a branding statement, incorporate it as often as possible. If you use a color scheme or proprietary font, don’t stray from it in advertising or social media posts. While it may be necessary to create slight variants of logos and icons for different platforms (digital, television, out-of-home billboards, etc.) keep them as close to your original as possible. The best way to do this is to be forward-thinking with your original designs and make sure they work in whatever settings you are likely to use them.

Be Clear with Your Messaging

It’s very important to stay simple. Too many brands are bogged down with complicated slogans or branding statements. Think again about Nike: “Just do it.” Or Apple: “Think Different.” Stay concise and obvious. Creativity and artistry certainly have their place in marketing, to be sure, but if they get in the way of clarity, they are doing you much more harm than good.

Be Diligent in Enforcing Brand Guidelines

Finally, whoever is responsible for deploying your company’s branding and marketing must also be responsible for policing it. If they see incorrect versions of your logo or violations of your style guide occurring, they must act swiftly to correct them.

A brand is a company’s identity. It must be crafted and maintained with care, and always treated with respect.