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Bring Your Brand to Life

Big brand lessons for the entrepreneur.

Ian Nel




SME owners are legends at wearing multiple hats to keep tabs on and develop each part of their company – a skill they master quickly to stay afloat. That said, building a brand is one of the first steps they need to take. Often, this can’t be done single-handedly.

If you, as a business owner, are concerned that you lack the knowledge to create a brand image and build your brand efficiently then don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve put our heads together to come up with a mini guide to give the SME owner a good start to branding your business.

Branding objectives

Whether you’re looking to create a new brand identity or rework an existing one, you need to work out what the business objectives behind the branding exercise are.

Brands without a purpose are flimsy and inherently directionless – they tend to come across as having more flash than substance and can easily take a business in the wrong direction.

Brands that perform a clear business function are much less likely to fall prey to inconsistency over time, as there is a bigger picture in which those brands find their reason for being.

Kulula is a great example. Its brand identity is playful in its interpretation which signals fun and enjoyment. It is also bright and highly noticeable thus building awareness of the brand. Additionally, it is simple and unfussy signalling the key point of Kulula’s affordability.

 Building your brand structure

Once you’ve figured out your objectives, structure your brand with the following five ideas in mind. From experience, we’ve found this leads to better brands time and again.

1. Engagement

It’s a busy world out there, full of clutter and interruptions. A good brand engages with people, it gets their attention and holds their interest. It delights and informs them. It is a welcome addition to their lives instead of an intrusion.

2. Relevance

A good brand is also relevant to the target market. It conveys information that is applicable and useful to resonate with the right people in a meaningful way.

3. Authenticity

Your brand needs to deliver on its promises – explicit and implied. Keeping it real is always a winning strategy. Never pretend to be something you’re not.

4. Consistency

A consistent brand, which follows the brand values at all times, makes a focused impression and reinforces the principles of the brand. It signals professionalism and attention to detail. An inconsistently applied brand can damage your business more than having no brand at all; Not only does it create confusion, but it also looks amateur.

5. Differentiation

A brand that has all four of the above-mentioned characteristics can still blend into a crowd of brands with similar concepts, promises, tones, or graphic styles. That’s where differentiation comes in.

In order to succeed, your brand needs to stand out from the rest. Vida e Caffe scores pretty highly on all these fronts – we think they’ve done an excellent job.

The brand’s bigger picture

A great brand needs to develop from a concept. A brand with an underlying concept tends to be much more effective because it works as part of a broader eco-system to reinforce a bigger idea.

Without a concept, branding runs the risk of coming across as fickle – just a pretty picture. At best this pretty picture will stand out in the competitive environment and become a memorable but meaningless icon. At worst it becomes a brand that no one remembers after the advert has passed.

Bringing the brand to life

Take the brand concept as far as it will go. The consumer must feel like the brand has a personality, which is brought to life across every possible touch point. This does not mean put your logo everywhere. It does mean make your brand concept real in the experience of customers or clients.

Put simply, this means that if, for example, your brand stands for old-fashioned goodness and wholesomeness then your choice of company vehicle, the way the phone gets answered, to your team building activities should all reinforce this.

A brand that does this really well is Nandos – there’s a story and an attitude behind everything; the brand has a persona, which is much bigger than just the logo – and the strength of that brand allows them to charge more than most other competitor chains.

Perhaps the most simple tip which we can give to the small business owner looking to build their brand is as follows – Brands are people too.

They have a mission; other people will remember or forget them; engage with or ignore them. They can be passionate or austere, open or private.

They can interact with other individuals and with each other in numerous ways. See your brand as a character, bringing the inane to life and creating igniting the passions of brand ambassadors, consumers, and the market alike.

With this core concept in mind, and by following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to bringing your brand to life.


Ian Nel, co-founder of Engage Brandcraft along with Chris Human, is a celebrated designer responsible for the origination and visual development of a multitude brands in South Africa, the UK, the US and Italy. Go to


Brush Up On Your Personal Branding To Cement Your Success As An Entrepreneur

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge.

Richard Mukheibir




When you run your own business, you are the brand champion and the brand ambassador – in fact, you are the brand. That is why in all the turmoil of start-up or getting a new product launched, you need to spare a moment to step back.

Think about how you are presenting to the world the brand that is so precious to you and that means so much for your future. Your clients certainly want to know and even see evidence that you are deeply committed to your brand. But there is a fine line between living the brand and letting the brand take you over and cloud your better judgement.

This is where personal branding becomes as important as your innovative product solutions or your customer service excellence. Edgy entrepreneur is one thing – but clients might shy away if they think that you have stepped over the edge and are more involved in process than delivery.

Check your life skills ratings in these three key everyday areas to see whether you need to pull back from the edge:

  1. Time management: Despite traffic problems or transport schedules, getting this right is vital. If you do not make it on time to an initial meeting with a client, this will raise alarm bells. The client’s immediate thought is, “Can I trust this person’s word about delivering on time?” Time is money and not being on time could ultimately cost you money.
  2. Look the part: If you look tired, dishevelled or have poor hygiene, instead of giving you a high five for pulling an all-nighter trying to troubleshoot a new product, clients might simply think that you do not fit with their corporate culture. Ask yourself if you even fit with your own corporate culture? Is this the way you want to present your brand and your business to the world?
  3. Clear the decks: You might just get away with your office or workshop looking like a tip where only you know where to find something. But do not let that attitude spill over into the world outside.

That apparently friendly and innocent courtesy of being escorted to your car by your host when you leave the meeting could cover them checking you out. Many business people judge potential service providers or partners by their car – not the brand but what it looks like.

Is it covered in dust and badly in need of a wash? Is it full of the rubbish of several lunches on the road and a muddle of paperwork? It is likely that they will deduce that this is how you run your business and how you would run your business relationship with them. In other words, the state of your car might get you the thumbs up or put an end to what had been a promising negotiation.

You can be how you like, do what you want when you are off duty. But when you are on your own business’s time, you are your own brand and you need to live up to it if you want to make your mark.

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5 Things You Can Do To ‘Humanise’ Your Brand

Face it: Consumers don’t automatically trust your brand or anyone else’s. Whaddaya gonna do?

Syed Balkhi




Let’s face it, consumers don’t trust brands. Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear. So, if your company wants to win over more customers, you’ve got to get them to trust you.

In fact, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018, more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their decision to shop at a particular retailer. How do you get consumers to trust your company? You do it by showing them the human side of your brand. That will inspire more trust from consumers and boost your conversions.

To form meaningful relationships with your audience, check out these five ways to humanise your brand.

Show off your funny bone


One easy way is to show off your funny bone. According to researchers from the Turku PET Centre, Oxford and Aalto universities, social laughter leads to an endorphin release in the brain and may promote the establishment of social bonds. So, if laughter can make us feel good and encourage connections between people, you should consider using it to get the same results for your business.

Not a comedian yourself? Don’t worry; you can share popular and funny content that already exists. It’s what Netflix does when the media giant shares funny images from its shows.

Showing your more playful side will help consumers see that you’re not just a business focused on selling a product; you’re a human who can put aside your seriousness and have some fun.

Related: Boutique Branding Consultancy Morake Design House

Put your team members in the spotlight

Letting consumers see the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. If consumers are looking at just your logo all the time, they might not see your brand as human. So, put your team members in the spotlight.

Shoot some quality photos of your staff members and display them on your website and your social media platforms. You don’t need to hire a professional photographer; iPhones today can take some pretty stunning shots. You might even share your employee of the month and include a story about what makes that staffer so great. Seeing the amazing people “behind the curtain” will help consumers put a face to the brand name.

Share user-generated content

Sharing user-generated content works to humanise your brand in two ways: First, it’s exciting and flattering to the user who gets his or her photo featured on your website or social media feed. Second, it shows other consumers that you have great relationships with their peers and that those people already enjoy your products.

Instead of being asked to blindly trust a company’s claims, consumers will see real-life people falling in love with your products, which will promote trust in your brand. Example? Airbnb does user-generated content well by sharing with its followers the amazing experiences its customers are having around the world.


If you don’t have any user-generated content, ask your customers for it. Do this in an email marketing campaign; add it to your branded packages for shipping; or create a post on social media encouraging users to take a photo of/with your product and share it in combination with a unique, branded hashtag.

Related: 5 Ways To Make Your Personal Branding Statement Stand Out

Tell authentic stories

Don’t spend all your time online just talking about how great your company is; humanise your brand by telling authentic stories. Sharing real stories about your failures, hardships and lessons that you’ve learned will help customers better relate and sympathise with you. According to Psychological Science, research suggests that shared pain may have positive social consequences; shared pain acts as a “social glue” to promote solidarity and togetherness between groups.

So, tell your target audience members stories that they can relate to, instead of simply presenting your brand as perfect. You could even share stories of your customers who previously struggled but then achieved success with help from your company/product. This will not only humanise your brand, but boost sales too.

Show appreciation for your customers

Letting your customers know that you care about and appreciate them is one of the best ways to humanise your brand. So, show appreciation for your best customers by sending them company swag or offering special discounts with a personalised message.

Buffer thanked one of its stand-out customers with not only company swag, but a personalised gift. I’m sure that those customers then became lifelong fans.


Not every company can afford to send out swag to all of their best customers, but sending a gift to just a few of your rockstar fans can go a long way. For a less costly strategy, show appreciation to new customers by simply sending a welcome/thank you email. Not only will such appreciation for your customers humanise your brand, it’ll turn those customers into brand ambassadors.

Related: How A Branded Car Can Boost Your Business

Over to you

Be prepared for your business to have a lot more die-hard customers. With these tips for humanising your brand, consumers will be able to connect with your business, relate to you on a deeper level and want to have a relationship with your company for the long term.

This article was originally posted here on

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How A Strong Brand Protects Your Business

Brand enthusiasts are welcome to follow Kyle Rolfe’s latest thoughts on brand building in South Africa and his analysis on relevant global trends and issues via Twitter @kylerolfeSA.

Kyle Rolfe




It is all too easy for small businesses to become victims of intellectual property theft and seeing their products and services copied by unscrupulous competitors. A clear case in point is that of Woolworths, which was recently accused of copying a baby carrier made by Ubuntu Baba, having a cheaper version made in China and selling it as its own in-house product.

Woolworths eventually apologised and withdrew its product, after Cape Town entrepreneur Shannon McLaughlin exposed similarities between the retailer’s baby carrier and that made by her company, Ubuntu Baba.

Small business owners can protect themselves from having their products or services copied by developing a strong and unique brand.

Brand uniqueness and an authentically developed product will give you a level of protection in the market, as it will be more difficult for a competitor to copy your offering.

What small business owners should avoid is the “white label solution”. This is taking any product, even one manufactured overseas, and putting your own branding and packaging on it and reselling it as your own.

There is nothing stopping your competitor from sourcing that same product and putting their branding on it and selling it as their own. In this case, as a small business owner, you would have no recourse.

Ubuntu Baba’s unique brand and authentically developed product, designed and manufactured locally, is what helped the small business successfully take on a giant retailer like Woolworths. They didn’t simply take someone else’s product and rebrand it as their own, they actually designed and built their own product.

A unique brand and product will position you as more than just a reseller and will give you a certain level of strength and protection in the market. It allows clients to differentiate you from your competitors and can also positively affect their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability.

Effective branding, that is well defined and distinct, will not only help build your reputation, but it will also make you stand out from the competition.

Ultimately, your brand is your business identity. It is the image that you show to your client, making it one of your company’s most valuable assets. Effective branding portrays a company’s values and attracts the right client.

A strong brand identity also has the benefit of making your company appear bigger and stronger than your competition and consumers are generally attracted to well-established companies. So, ask yourself whether your branding conveys professionalism, reliability and trust.

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