Podcast 28 Transcript: Branding your business

Written by Ian Portsmouth

Ian: Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the hot issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses. I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the Editor of PROFIT Magazine and we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.

So let’s think about some great brands, Coca-Cola, Tide, Nokia, Sony, all big businesses. Now what happens when branding is discussed in association with a smaller mid-size business? Can small businesses be branded and how do you do that? Here to discuss these issues is Cheryl Sylvester, President of Beyond Brand Thinking, a Toronto-based brand coaching business and the co-founder of Cheryl, welcome to the Business Coach.

Cheryl: Hi Ian.

Ian: So what is your definition of brand Cheryl?

Cheryl: Brand is really everything you do or be as a company or product or service that makes you unique. It is what makes you stand out from your competition and let’s you build relationship with your customers.

Ian: So what, given that definition, is the act of branding? What are some specific examples of the things that create brand?

Cheryl: One way that I like to think about a brand is that a brand is like a person. It has physical attributes, rational or intellectual attributes and it has unique underlined values that make a person unique. And likewise, a brand does as well so the act of branding is really the act of knowing what that brand is, expressing the brand clearly and living that brand. Knowing your brand start being very clear about the values that underlie your business, your product or your service and consciously looking at why your customers choose you. Once you know that, then you can start to express it more clearly in your name, your logo, your marketing communications materials. And here is an important part small businesses forget and that is really living the brand. Everything you do in your business will either build or detract from your brand. What you need to think about is how you can live those values that underlie your brand that make your brand unique and give yourself and clients the opportunity to really live it.

Ian: So in other words, or to provide an example, the world’s most attractive logo might be some way to develop your brand as an excellent company but if you deliver really poor customer service, that logo really doesn’t mean anything, correct?

Cheryl: Right. And what you are talking about there, Ian, is some examples of the values. Early in my marketing career, I worked in logo store marketing with McDonald’s and our values were about quality, service and value. And so our job really was to think about how we can deliver those in store every day. And I think that’s what small businesses need to do as well. If you understand those kinds of values that underlie your business, you can find ways to express them every day in your interactions with your customers.

Ian: So speaking of value in a different context, what is the value of branding? What is the return on your branding investment for a lot of small businesses?

Cheryl: The return on brand is really about revenue. Brands allow companies to drive more revenue than if they are not a branded-differentiated company in their competitive space. One example that I have from working with clients is that they were trying to get business with Wal-Mart, they were a small medium-size Canadian company, they had great products but they just weren’t getting the traction and getting the attention and through a process of re-branding them, sending in some new communications to the Wal-Mart buyer, ultimately the buyer called me and said, you know that’s what made the difference in how they then get the sale. So small businesses want to do business with big businesses and they need to have branding and communications that signal the greatness of their products and services.

Ian: Now, we all hear advertising discussed in association with branding, we hear about logo design, that kind of thing. A lot of those things are for companies with larger budget, so what are two or three most cost effective ways to smaller businesses can improve their brands?

Cheryl: I think the most important thing for a small business to do is to get clarity of their brand because advertising is not effective otherwise. It is like a disco ball, you are doing little bits here and there and sort of not really flashing any light that’s focused. So getting clarity about the brand and what your brand stands for will enable you to than create a more focus light, more like a lighthouse and than you are able to shine a light that represents who you are and direct people to come to you. So that’s one way, I think that small businesses can really become more effective in their branding. I think the other way is to simply really be conscious in the day to day and look at their materials, looking at their interactions with customers, looking at their employees, looking at their signage and asking themselves honestly, do these represent what our company is about, does it really accurately represent our product and service in its best light?

Ian: And speaking of which, how do you determine the strength of your brand? How do you measure your brand?

Cheryl: I think measuring the brand is a tough one for small businesses. I think you can really use some feedback mechanism and one tool that I can suggest is on, we have a tool called “What’s your brand is saying about you behind your back”. And it is a little exercise that you can do to start to get some feedback and get a sense of what other people are seeing in your brand. In terms of the value of the brand, I think that companies can also look to some online market research tools, you can do focus group with you client base, there are different ways of getting some of that information but, really, even for large businesses, brand matrix are specific to the company, they can be specific to your experience.

Ian: And would it be fair to say that there are, I guess, two larger, broader criteria or matrix concerning brand, one would be awareness so how many people know what your brand is and secondly would be quality, what exactly is it that they think about your brand.

Cheryl: Right. So, in terms of what they know about your brand or what they think about your brand, you’re absolutely right Ian, and that’s one of the things that you can do with some basic online market research you can find out, you can use your own database to find out awareness, you can measure awareness of the brand and knowledge of what the brand stands for. Certainly, those are tools that can help you assess where you are at from a brand perspective. I think for many small businesses, depending on whether you have a large customer base or whether you’re more of a service base business, asking your customers is the most important thing.

Ian: As always. Cheryl, thank you for joining the Business Coach.

Cheryl: Thank you so much.

Ian: Cheryl Sylvester is President of Beyond Brand Thinking, a Toronto-based brand coaching business and the co-founder of

That’s it for another episode of Business Coach Podcast. And of course, you can download other installments in the series from, or iTunes. As always, I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions for future topics which you can send to

Until next time, I am Ian Portsmouth, Editor at the PROFIT Magazine, wishing you continued success.

Originally appeared on