Inexpensive Small Businesses Branding Strategies


neon dollar signs overexposed for blur effect


13 min read

Inexpensive small businesses branding strategies that work can be difficult to find.

And at times, finding budget friendly branding strategies can seem nearly impossible.

Without the budget of a large company or the resource of a branding agency, it can be difficult to set your advertorial goals and achieve them.

Here are some proven techniques to develop your brand and get your name out there without breaking the bank.


Maintain an authentic voice

Maintaining an authentic voice is a great way to develop your brand. Speaking the way your target demographic speaks is a great way to connect you to them. This helps build trust, loyalty and interest. It also makes you stand out from the crowd- a single voice of sanity amidst a wash of corporate copy.

Canny primarily uses the blog to do this, but anywhere copy appears on our webpages adds to our voice as well.

We like to think we come across as pretty authentic…

Another company that does this really well is Lucy and Yak. Lucy and Yak are a clothing company based in North East England who leverage their tone of voice all across their site, from product descriptions to blog posts.

Their content focuses on the ethical, body positive and inclusive aspects of their clothing lines.

Whilst pushing unique selling points is a classic marketing and sales tool none of the copy comes across as overly pushy preachy or salesy.

Because of their authenticity and the genuine passion you can almost feel from the way they talk about their products, the salesy aspect of their blog is so natural that you almost get caught up in it.

This is a brand that has got marketing right with very little effort.

The fact that their unique brand voice comes across as effortless just goes to show how genuine the tone feels.

If you can hit this just right for your target demographics and core audiences, you’ll be going a long way to cementing your individuality and branding without having to spend a major bit of budget.

louis vuitton box with brand name across the top

Have a Memorable Name

A memorable name can make all the difference, especially in crowded marketplaces.

It’s the first thing that draws a customer in and connects them with your brand.

If your name is bland or forgettable, then it isn’t working for you.

Your name is core to your business.

If people don’t feel anything when they hear your business name or see it for the first time, then the journey from potential customer to die hard brand fan is a far harder one to traverse.

If your name is super engaging and interesting, or even just evocative, then people will remember you, and you’ve won the first battle within five seconds of introducing your business.

One business that does this fairly well is the Duke of Uke.

In case you hadn’t guessed it the Duke of Uke is a ukulele store, based in London.

Obviously the name is a clever play on the fact that people abbreviate the word ukulele to uke more often than not (I think it’s because of the unusual spelling…).

This name is super memorable due to the half rhyme involved, and they way it rolls off the tongue. This adds a little bit of quirkiness to an otherwise fairly standard musical instrument shop.

The only difficulty Duke of Uke has is that there is a musical act that shares its name.

This means it is competing for space in search engine results pages, which makes it tough to draw organic traffic.

When it comes to naming your brand, unique is as important as memorable. Google and other major search engines won’t be able to differentiate between your branded terms and someone else’s if you share your name.

Ranking in Google for branded terms, especially your brand name, should be the easiest when you get from SEO.

Competing with people in a space that should be an absolute slam dunk for you is the opposite of what you want, and easy to avoid with a little bit of research.

Man sat on a white horse with a bottle of Old Spice for advertising campaign

Stand Out- Use Visual Cues

Using visuals to engage people with your brand is a simple and effective way to set expectations.

If your visuals are very spiky and punk in aesthetic, people won’t be expecting a gentle calming teahouse for example.

Old Spice used this concept to pivot away from their old image as a bit of an ‘old man’ scent, to a new and fresh scent.

On the other hand, too many conflicting visuals or a cluttered homepage can confuse your brand messaging and work against you.

The people vs. coffee leverages images in a really clever and clean way.

The images on their site are engaging, in that you can actually interact with them on the website.

This stops short of gamification, as there is no meaningful way of interacting and it’s purely aesthetic, but as a branding tactic I love this.

It adds a playfulness to the site, straight off the bat and front and centre.

By doing this, the people vs. coffee sets up a brand tone really well from the outset, and makes the website feel welcoming and engaging.

The images are large and tend to span the entirety of the webpage. This means there are less elements on the web page to manage, leaving less clutter to confuse brand imaging or messaging.

I love that the images are super relevant to the brand and tell people exactly what to expect from the brand, as well as playing into wider brand aesthetics.

For some sectors, using images to define your brand can be tricky- a lot of industries aren’t as accommodating to the use of imagery, and require a lot of consideration around even the smallest image.

If this is the case in your industry, instead of thinking of images as pictures that would appear on your website, think about how you can use the graphic design and layout of your site to express your brand.

A well-designed, professional looking site- with or without ‘images’ in the strictest sense- is going to be streets ahead of a more thrown together site, using out of the box themes.

In an ever-increasing digital marketplace, your website is absolutely essential to nail down.

It is your storefront, your main spokesperson, your house.

Poor design is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to small business branding, and definitely something to consider.

emoji graffiti

Micro influencers to ambassadors

Social media influencers and other influential people such as celebrities or well-known public figures can be a powerful marketing tool.

If you’re searching for free, inexpensive or smaller budget branding strategies for small businesses, you’re unlikely to get a paid endorsement from an A-list celebrity (if you’re an A-lister reading this, our Twitter handle is @cannycreative and we’d love a shout out).

Major product endorsements happen at every level, from basketball branding and individual sportspersons, product placement in big budget movies, or sponsorship deals for YouTubers and streamers. Affiliate marketing and product sponsorship is a major growth market, but one that generally carries a hefty budget.

For free or inexpensive options, if you can find what social media platforms refer to as ‘micro influencers’, you might have more joy.

Depending on your niche, micro influencers can range from anyone with around 5000 followers to anyone with around 100,000 followers.

Toms of Maine leveraged the reach of micro influencers with astounding success.

The toothpaste and deodorant company based out of- you guessed it- Maine, saw a fantastic ROI with their influencer engagement campaign.

The influencers Toms of Maine worked with encouraged their followers to also share pictures and clips of them with Toms of Maine products, in adventurous or interesting places.

This led to over 4 million user generated images of Toms products.

No matter what business you’re in, if a potential 4 million sales doesn’t get you salivating, you’re nuts.

By selecting the influencer they used very carefully, Toms of Maine cemented their brand as ‘cool’ within their core demographic, promoting their relevance and appeal with their core demographic.

In an interview with the content marketing institute Bridget Burns, then the community manager for Tom’s of Maine, explained why their micro influencer campaign was such a resounding success.

Our micro influencer program seeks superfans of Tom’s of Maine. These are not people who charge money or make a career out of influencer marketing; they are real people who enjoy the opportunity to engage with our brands. We’ve created a community for them, and then we share content and tell them that if they like it, they can share it with their followers. Because it’s not transactional (i.e., they are not paid), it feels very genuine.- Bridget Burns

What more could you want from a marketing campaign?

Content Marketing

Here at Canny, we love content marketing.

It is the cornerstone of how we drive traffic to our site, and one of the best ways to consolidate all of the above tips.

Through blogging you can create an authentic voice, create a more suitable space for cool images and graphics that won’t occupy space on your homepage, give micro influencers something to link to and go off, and even spread your brand name.

Another major benefit of content marketing is the hugely positive effect that content marketing can have on your search engine results. The more relevant content you have out there, optimised for search, the more organic traffic will be generated for your business.

One brand that has really nailed the blogging aspect of content marketing is Nerd Fitness.

Nerd Fitness is an online personal training business and art office workers, people with niche interests and gamers.

By aiming for a potentially untapped audience, and engaging with that audience via content, nerd fitness position themselves really well for success.

Their blog gamifies the weight loss experience by encouraging their audience to create characters that ‘level up’ as they hit strength markers or lose weight.

Adopting this approach and tapping into well-established RPG tropes allows them to connect with an audience that stereotypically doesn’t engage in powerlifting or “jock” sports, whilst simultaneously not excluding those who would typically use the gym. It creates a catch-all market, and the power of this lies in their blog.

For starters, their blog is very easy to read and helpfully tailored to complete beginners, but- and this is key- never comes across as condescending, critical or glib.

The content on the blog itself is very well laid out and marketed and, because they are operating in such a competitive and oversaturated market, their unique approach to connecting with their audience makes Nerd Fitness really stand out from the crowd.

Their technique is consistent throughout the blog as well- nerd culture is referenced consistently, from Star Wars to Marvel comics, giving an authenticity of voice. The fact that they use lego figurines for their header images is just the icing on the cake.

Content marketing is one of the most important things for developing a strong brand.

It gives you space to grow your brand, it gives you space to really show your expertise, And it offers consumers something even if they aren’t quite ready to engage your commercial services.

This added value really builds brand trust, and blogs and content marketing should be considered an invaluable tool to businesses of any size.

email on screen

Build out your emailing list

Having a regular newsletter that goes out to your core audience, even if it just goes out once a month, keeps you in people’s minds.

It gives you a vehicle to deliver your brand message without being too pushy.

It gives you a space that doesn’t feel salesy- somewhere to develop your connection to your customers outside of the proverbial sales floor.

Building an email list is definitely not an early doors branding solution, as it can take a while before people will trust you with their email addresses!

Having a branded newsletter is a tool for you to use and promote your business with, just like everything else on this list, but it is also a massive value add to your customer.

It is completely in your control, and what you put in it is up to you.

If you want to use a mailer as a second product catalogue, then that is up to you… but it’s probably a mistake.

Giving a little bit more personality in your mailing list can increase brand loyalty- your already engaged audience becoming more connected with you and your brand.

Building ‘lead magnets’- this can be anything from whitepapers, ebooks, samples, checklists or even templates – are great tools that give your audience something useful and tangible in exchange for their engagement.

You can find some great examples of the sort of thing you can offer in our ‘downloads’ section.

It also gives a preview of what your customer can expect from your mailer!

Think about it, if your website and brand is geared towards raw utility, make sure your mailer is useful.

If your website is funny, make your mailer funny.

If your website is ultra professional… well, it might be worth flexing into funny just to add a different angle of attack.

Appropriateness is key- if you are using a mailer or newsletter, just make sure you don’t muddy any core brand messages or lose your customers because of conflicting or inflammatory messaging.
piggy bank

Don’t Skimp On The Essentials

This is probably the most valuable tip on the entire list.

Especially if you’re just starting out, don’t fear a little bit of investment in branding.

The fantasy fiction writer Terry Pratchett says this perfectly in Men at Arms.

A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars… But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.- Sam Vimes, Men at Arms

If you start out with a DIY attitude doing all of the branding yourself, you’re presenting false savings.

You’re putting yourself in the leaky boots.

If you want to enter a competitive marketplace and be taken seriously, presenting professionally and competently is vital.

Branding and first impressions can often be more valuable than your actual product offering.

Your products could be the best in the world, but your brand strength will get them out there.


Thanks to the internet, ALL marketplaces are competitive marketplaces

Creative agencies have been around for literally hundreds of years. The first recognised creative agency was founded in 1786, in London. There’s a reason they’ve stuck around, and that reason is that they work.

Choosing to invest in branding right from the outset, although it can be a little bit more expensive as an up front cost, will be a lifesaver long term.

Appearing professional will gain you greater ROI on all of your marketing efforts.

A professional design will allow for scalability, which might save on the cost of a rebrand once your business is up and running in earnest.

It’s all about buying the right boots straight off the bat.

Plan for success. Don’t skimp on the branding essentials.

If you think you’re ready to start the branding process, be sure to check out our guide to finding your brand voice, or get in touch with us directly for a chat about your project!