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Better Branding

Steve Woodruff, founder and principal consultant of Impactiviti , a consultancy that provides branding, identity and market strategy services to businesses, defines branding as the expression, projection and experience of the organizational identity and its promised value.

Sound too lofty for a small business?

Just look at some major success stories that started modestly, including Apple (AAPL - Get Report), which grew to revolutionize the way people listen to music, and Fuze, a small soda company that was just sold to Coke (KO - Get Report).

Debbie Millman, president of design for Sterling Brands , an independently owned branding consultancy that works with Unilever (UN), Campbell Soup (CPB), Nestle, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and others, reveals that many of the major branding successes in the past five years have in fact come from the underdogs because of their scrappy, nonhierarchical nature.

"There's not as much decision-making by committee in a small business ," says Millman, asserting that small businesses tend to speed to the market with a focus on product instead of getting bogged down with red tape and risk assessment. Larger companies often have to use think tanks to keep up and stay focused.

Woodruff gets excited over "No Wimpy Wines," the Sonoma, Calif.-based Ravenswood wines tagline, with a red crossed-out circle symbol to match. "While the elitist might consider this approach just a tad plebian, for the vast majority of wine buyers who are looking for a good quality, hearty wine, this is great branding," says Woodruff.

Ravenswood's strong presence in stores proves that small business doesn't have to mean small presence.

Simplicity Sells

For a small business to get noticed, the key, says Woodruff, is to keep it simple and direct.

This straightforward concept proves a challenge for many small-business owners who are often emotionally attached to their work. They will often try to get the whole package out there in one fell swoop, which can cloud an otherwise potent image.

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