Branding Your Grocery Business

As an independent grocer or specialty food store, it is often challenging to compete with big-name businesses and brands. National (or international) chains and producers have large budgets for branding strategies and appropriate technology to attract and retain customers. Here are some important branding tips that can help you boost business, remain top of mind for your customers. This information can help create a lasting brand impression within your immediate community and beyond.

Branding vs. Marketing

Knowing the difference between the keywords ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ is important for growing your local business or startup food operation. They are often confused to mean the same thing, but they are distinct concepts. According to Entrepreneur, “An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.” But what exactly does “branding” mean? Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors.

Introduction to Branding

Branding, on a tangible level, involves elements such as creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates your offering from other similar businesses or concepts. Branding is a process which can evolve and pivot as your business or market grows and changes. Branding is more than just physical assets such as logos or slogans. It is the impression that exists of your business in the minds of your customers and stakeholders. It is the story, feeling, and the impression that exists of your business in the marketplace. You can’t always control this perception. However, taking active steps to consider and implement a brand identity goes some way to controlling the image that exists and builds in the market.

A brand identity is a collection of all the different elements that make up the reputation of your business.

Introduction to Marketing

Marketing is the action of promoting your business and its identity on several platforms and through different mechanisms. For example, placing advertising on channels such as social media, local newspapers, posters etc. If the brand is used to shape your business’ narrative or messaging, then marketing is the megaphone or delivery system used to amplify and communicate that message to potential customers or investors. Why does it matter? Because creating a brand can build loyalty and attachment. It can give you a point of difference in the marketplace.

Tips for Defining Your Brand

Just like humans, brands also have their own set of traits and characteristics that shape their “personality” or “identity”. First, decide on what personality you want your small business to embody. Then you can work on building a cohesive strategy for marketing efforts and campaigns to achieve the goals defined through the branding process. Here are some tips to get you started in finding your brand identity.

Mission Statements

First, it is highly useful to create a mission statement that reflects your values as a business and emphasizes the type of experience and service you want to provide to your customers. Ask yourself, “What do we want our customers to know, think and feel about our store?” Whether it is that your business is completely family oriented, has a focus on organic produce, is efficiency oriented or anything else –  your mission statement should emphasize the impression you want to create for your customers, and the values your staff and employees should embody. Some other points of consideration which may help form your mission statement and focus employee’s efforts:

  • Why are we running this business? What value are we providing? What are our goals?
  • What are our values?  
  • What level of services do we want to provide? What experience do we want our customers to have?
  • What is the nature and quality of our products?
  • How do we differentiate ourselves from our competitors? What is unique about us and the way we approach business/our customers/our produce?
  • What do we know about the community or environment in which we operate?
  • What are our areas of expertise?

You should be clear, concise and honest when coming up with the answers to these questions as your mission statement will ultimately form the basis of your brand, and tell your customers who you are and why they should care about you. This is an opportunity to think about and crystalize what you have to offer and what your principles and standards are.

Determine your goals

What do you want to offer to your customers? What is the ultimate goal you want to achieve with your business? What are some specific micro-goals you’d like to reach? Knowing the goals of your business whether it be offering a unique customer experience, improving cost efficiency, or providing an active online presence or delivery system. Once you determine exactly what you want to achieve, it’ll be easier to know what direction to go in and where to focus your attention, time and resources.

Consider your market and customer demographics

Who is your market audience? What groups are you appealing to? You should know who you’re trying to attract, because this will shape your brand messaging and allow you to send the right message, to the right target at the right time.  It manifests in what kind of rhetoric and theme you should use in ads.

Establish and communicate core values

What are the core values of the brand and how is this reflected in the quality of food and service you provide? This should be communicated to your team so that the brand becomes bigger than one or two people alone. It helps ensure continuity, so that if key personnel (managers, owners, founders, etc.) have to take some time off, or are unavailable for whatever reason – the rest of the team knows exactly what is expected of them, and consistency of standards and service is established.

Defining core values can sometimes feel like a personal exercise. This is especially the case if you are selling specialty or quality products, ones that you’ve spent time and love developing yourself or if you serve a special community where you have formed bonds and trust with your customers and clientele. Some examples might be that your products are non-GMO, free range, or organic. If this is the case – communicate those values to your audience (in the context of marketing) and customer base.

You can demonstrate that your brand cares about these core values by:

  1. Hiring employees based on these values: Your employees represent your brand and what it stands for, so when you hire new people with the same values the business upholds, they are more likely to demonstrate care and passion in their work. They should be able to understand and explain what your business represents and what the core values of the brand are with ease.
  2. Teaching and expressing your values by aligning yourselves with particular charities, foundations or initiatives. For example, allowing customers to donate their change to a charity that overlaps with your values and missions. Create collateral, e.g. pamphlets or signage that concisely state what your promises or standards are. For example, if your store is a vegan or health store, you could offer information (without being pushy) to potential non-vegan or particularly health-conscious customers about some of the features and benefits of what your store offers.  
  3. Seeking and paying attention to customer reviews: Customer reviews are insightful and can be constructive because they provide feedback on how your customers perceive gaps in service or quality. They can help you identify areas for improvement, growth and focus. what you can do better and how you can grow. Reviews can help you determine how customers are responding to your brand or if it is being properly communicated to them. A positive online presence is important, so learn from this blog how to obtain the best online reviews.

Rebranding your business

If you are at the early planning stages for branding, rebranding or launching a new store, choosing a name can be a fun and challenging aspect. The name of your business can go a long way to creating an impression and message and forming your brand, so being thoughtful and strategic is important. Here is some advice for creating a name that reflects the values of your business and who you are:

Keep it short and simple

You don’t want your name to be too hard to pronounce or to spell because you don’t want your customers getting confused when they’re trying to find you online. You want them to remember you right away.

Don’t restrict growth

You don’t know the future plans of your business nor do you know if your products or services may change, so don’t pick a name that’ll restrict you from expanding your business. Pick a name that’ll have free range for whatever potential products that you might want to sell later on.

Check the domain availability

Conduct some preliminary online research on the potential names you’re considering. You don’t want to end up stealing another business’s name or having a similar one since it’ll be hard for you to stand out in comparison to an already established business. You want to have that uniqueness and point of distinction.

Try get the “.com” domain

There are several suffixes available for online domains, e.g. “.com”, “.net”, “.info” etc. The easiest to remember (and suffix that people most often assume is “.com”, so if possible, check if that domain that matches your brand name is available. After retrieving your domain, make sure you get familiar with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Be catchy

Think of the future campaigns your business may be involved in since you’ll need a catchy name when you’re creating slogans. You’re trying to create a “sticky” name so that customers remember your business and what it stands for.

Starting a Business With a Strong Brand Identity

Establishing a strong brand identity early on can help catch the attention of the consumers. Here are some tools Marketing Insider Group suggests using in creating a strong brand identity:

Visual content

Use visuals, graphics, and logos to tell your business’s story. Often images can convey a message quicker, more cleanly and with more versatility than words and copy, so use designs elements that fit the theme of your business or illustrations that explain what your small business stands for.

Designing a logo

Logos can often be tricky since you only have limited “real estate” to relay the information about your business in a clear and logical way. Along with coming up with a slogan that’ll catch the consumer’s attention, it’s also important to pair it with a nice aesthetic like a consistent color scheme. Websites like Logo Maker and Wix help business owners create easy logos with their graphics and provide simple tutorials.

Social Media

In our technologically advanced society, in which there are 3.03 billion social media users according to Brandwatch statistics, knowing how to work social media is a fundamental principle in targeting your consumers online. These platforms provide staging areas to further build, enhance or communicate your brand messaging.

Remember – it’s never too late to rebrand, renew your focus in an existing brand or increase efforts to create or communicate a brand. Branding helps keep you memorable and top of mind. It is also a way to concisely portray the values and qualities you stand for.