Building a Brand on a Budget

Apple spends about $2 billion a year on marketing. Think about that for a second. That’s about five and a half million dollars per day, and no matter how successful your company is, or how big your plans are, I almost guarantee that you don’t have anything even close to that kind of budget. At the same time, your business depends on maximum visibility to drive awareness and sales.

How is it possible to compete against companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and InBev that can seemingly dip into an infinite well of money to support their marketing efforts?

Brand building on a budget

The short answer is that you can’t. Instead, you need to find creative ways to let the world know about your business on a much smaller budget. So even if you don’t have a few hundred million dollars to burn on television ads, or enough cash to buy naming rights to a football stadium, you still have plenty of options.

Here are a few ideas that you can pull off for a few thousand dollars…or even less!

Get in front of your target audiences

I once read that the average person sees more than 1,300 company brands every day, ranging from ads on the side of city buses to the logos on their mobile phones to pop-up ads when they surf the Internet. You’re so conditioned to this, that we don’t even think about it.

So how can creative companies stand out from the crowd and get noticed without spending a lot of money to attract eyeballs? What a great idea is to create items that people keep on their desks.

We all get a ton of swag all the time, but most of it ends up in a drawer, or even in the trash. By creating items that people will save and use, you can get the repetition that is the lifeblood of branding and marketing. Everyone already has a million travel mugs, but a really nice oversized ceramic coffee cup is the kind of item that will get used – and get attention.

Coffee cup promotional item

Go off the beaten path

Let’s face it: 99% of marketing activities are predictable. You know that when you go to a technology trade show that you are going to end up with a pocket full of USB drives. You know that when you go to a big-box store that you are going to get a large bag with a logo on it.


Instead, think about items that people aren’t expecting… and places that they aren’t expecting it. Someone want to told me about a camping equipment company that actually gave out cups of water at the end of popular hiking trails. Not only were people grateful for the water, but they got to keep the cups. It was a great way to build a brand among a highly targeted audience without making people feel that they were being advertised to.

linkedin temporary tattoo
photo credit: smi23le / Flickr

Don’t be afraid to go big

Most marketing materials are forgettable. Logos tend to look the same. Websites all blend together after a while. In the interest of being “corporate,” a lot of companies end up with generic brand identities that don’t drive visibility and awareness.

It’s time to get out of the box.

Pick a colour palette that stands out. Pick a font that no one else in your industry is using. Give out temporary tattoos that people will proudly wear. There are literally no limits to what you can do.

There isn’t a single marketing tool that will enable smaller companies to compete with large multinational companies. But the good news is that entrepreneurs don’t have to play that game. Instead, they can think creatively about new ways to reach the target audiences that will be effective without breaking the bank.