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Branding on the Cheap: How to Save Money on Initial Branding Costs

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If you follow the chain of articles I’ve written this year, it won’t take the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes to realize many of them share the common theme of “marketing under distressed financial circumstances.” Believe it or not (!), this theme abounds, not because we have a preference for working with clients that are short on cash, but rather because nearly everyone we work for these days is short on cash. We’ve had so many repeat scenarios recently where we’ve had to build brands “on the cheap” that I thought it would be a fun, insightful exercise to write an article about some of our tricks and recommendations. Like many of my other articles recently, this one will also be a multi-part entry, beginning with some suggestions on brand creation and print design.

Branding Midwifery 101: Bringing Your Brand into the World Without the Assistance of an Internationally Known Branding Consultancy

We’re going to make some assumptions in our theoretical discussion of how to build a brand on the cheap. Principally, we’re going to assume that, as a new business owner you have some cash. Not necessarily a lot, but enough to actually hire a couple of professionals along the way to birthing your brand.

For our hypothetical purposes, let’s say you’ve got a range of $3000 – 10,000 to work with to develop all the basic brand elements your new business will need. With this little pot of money, we’re going to presume the creation of a new logo/mark, stationery suite, website and a little incidental collateral.

The Birth of Your Brand: Naming It and Designing It

I’m not going to say too much about naming your brand here. Although it’s always a good idea to get a professional’s input on naming your new business, most new business clients we work with already have a name or are unlikely to hire us (or anyone else) to name their new brand if they are truly cash-strapped. One quick point though: if you can find it within your budget to hire a writer or agency to suggest names, they should simultaneously develop themeline ideas, as well. It probably won’t cost that much more, and you’ll have two significant brand elements in place, rather than just one. Designing the initial logo and fundamental collateral elements for your new business offers a few distinct opportunities to save money. In putting together this list, a few ideas immediately came to my mind, but I also consulted Jeremy Kucholtz, our Design Principal. Here’s the list we came up with:

  • Start out with a typographic logo only. Illustrations and symbols are great for well-designed logos but they add considerable cost. Clients of ours are often shocked when they request that we create an illustrated logo for them and find that our costs are nearly double what we would charge for a type-only logo. Although purists might disagree, illustration can be paired with a pre-existing type logo, down the road, when your brand is better known and your pockets more flush.
  • Limit your color palette. Not only do four-color logos cost more to print, but they also underperform in many collateral settings. In other words: while it is true that most logos designed in black and white or with two colors can be made to look good in every setting your logo is likely to find itself in, the reverse is not true. Start out with a two or three color logo design and you will not only save money but you will increase the likelihood that your logo will look good in all settings.
  • Stay on the Page. Full-bleeds and custom envelope conversion costs money. If your designer is running full washes of color off the edge of your stationery, he’s incurring additional costs for you. Envelopes are a special point of concern, as full-bleed treatments on envelopes can require that the entire envelope is cut and assembled from scratch, rather than on pre-cut and folded envelope stock.

That’s it for today’s post. If you liked this post about “how to save money on initial branding costs,” feel free to leave a comment below. In the next post, I’m going to be talking about designing the digital components of your new brand inexpensively.

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