The Budget Brand: How to tell a compelling story when you’re short on money and manpower.

July 19, 2013  

The Budget Brand Image

This post is adapted from a talk we gave at the Berkeley Communicators Conference in June.

We’ve yet to find a client with no constraints on their marketing budget. (If you’re one of those clients, please call us.) So we’re continually working with institutions, companies, and organizations of all shapes and sizes that need to tell their story authentically—without breaking the bank.

Here’s a concise version of some of the advice we often give our clients. These ideas are appropriate for any budget: they can be scaled up to support a big campaign or scaled down to help a small marketing department as it creates communications.

Create an Experience

Great companies understand that a brand is much more than a promotion or campaign. It’s a filter that influences every aspect of your business—and in turn, it creates a distinct experience for consumers. For example, RedBull’s brand experience is adventure. And that idea is much bigger than energy drinks. The company has created entire categories of professional sports, along with its own media company to deliver them. Or take Apple: it stands for simplicity of experience, a concept that goes beyond its ads and billboards. Think about the feeling you get when you walk through one of its stores, or the radically different way the company approaches product design. Thinking about a brand as an experience makes launching a brand initiative a bit less daunting.

Map It Out

How do you tell your story in 30 seconds? How would you tell it in five minutes? What things do the people you’re communicating with need to understand? What might appeal to different audiences? Thinking through these questions and then mapping out your important ideas and messages can give everyone in your organization a good, and consistent, way to evaluate their individual work. Use this messaging map outline as a starting point:

messaging map image

Think Big

It’s easy to get mired in the day-to-day of pumping out communications for a large company or institution. So hit the pause button once in a while. Take some time to think ahead and set some audacious goals or find a pet project. Then plan out a path to achieve it. The most enduring brands don’t get there on a whim; they know how to take the long view. And it all starts with a plan. Here are some steps we typically take:

process image 

Do Something Unexpected

When money is tight, it’s even more important to do something unexpected. Fortunately, some of the best tactics are free. Look at what Moosejaw does, for instance. The wacky outdoor retailer is known for its quirky brand voice, and the company lives up to that wherever you encounter the brand—even in unexpected places like its 404 page.

Cultivate Consistency

A brand is bigger than any one manager. It’s your choice: load associates down with rules and regulations, or inspire them to live the brand each day. Sometimes, something as simple as a poster can turn your colleagues into brand ambassadors—and foster good consistency throughout your company.

Keep Your Ear to the Ground

At Ologie, we’re rabid consumers of industry publications, communications from companies near and far, even what our other agency friends are up to. We draw inspiration from books, plays, movies, art, music—even the stuff we hear at the breakfast table. The point? Making time to check out your peers and seek out creative stimuli is invaluable. The wider you look, the more insights you can use as fodder for creating your own original, compelling, comprehensive brand experience.