Examples of Small Business Branding
Small businesses face some branding challenges that larger businesses don’t need to deal with. How to build your brand on a small budget. Time. Having the in-house talent to put together stunning brand guidelines and logos.
Even though small businesses sometimes have marketing challenges related to lack of resources, there are also a few key advantages you have when branding a small business.
First, big brands have dozens of decision makers. If you do branding for big businesses, you can make it most of the way through to process only to get shot down at the very end. Having a lot of opinions in a room can also lead to branding ideas that are “polished” but not interesting.
Second, small brands have personalities. It’s hard for a large brand to have a personality—a multinational company has trouble sounding like a friend sitting across from you in a bar. It just doesn’t feel as believable.
With all of that in mind, how can small businesses create brands that stand out? Here are 14 of our favorite examples of small business branding.

1. Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish Coffee

Source: Death Wish Coffee

Head over to their website and you’ll see the Death Wish brand front and center.
Billed as “The World’s Strongest Coffee,” Death Wish plays up the “death” angle with their simple but evocative design.
Death Wish’s stellar branding and positioning comes from deep audience research. By studying their customers, Death Wish realized that there was an entire segment of the coffee market that doesn’t especially care about taste—they just want to feel awake.
Death Wish’s success has made them a classic marketing example, and even won them an ad in the Super Bowl.
Business branding tips:

  • Be bold. This isn’t “gives you some energy” coffee. It’s Death Wish. Choosing a bold, evocative name helped define the Death Wish brand positioning.
  • Be known for something specific. How do you define your brand? If you heard about the “world’s strongest coffee” and mostly drank coffee for the caffeine, wouldn’t you choose Death Wish?
  • Simple = memorable. One powerful message helps Death Wish stand out in people’s heads.

2. Surly Brewing Company

Surly Brewing Company

Source: Surly Brewing Company

Known for 16oz beers that come in four backs, Surly Brewing Co. manages to stand out in an industry that prides itself on creativity.
The craft beer market is flooded with good beer and good beer names (read: puns), but Surly manages to stand out by looking different.
When you browse the shelves at a grocery store, Surly catches your eye. It comes in cans—big cans. It comes in four packs. Its artistic style is drastically different from the products it shares a shelf with.
That’s the genius of the Surly brand—it stands out.
Business branding tips:

  • Stand out visually. The Surly design is creative, bold, and colorful. It stands out by avoiding overused themes (LaCroix is another good example of this).
  • Look for something different. Most craft beer comes in a bottle. By packaging its beer in cans Surly took the risk of being associated with lower quality lagers in a crowded market—but the risk paid off.

3. Wieners Circle

Wieners Circle Source: Flickr

Few small businesses are famous enough to have a fleshed-out Wikipedia article. The Wieners Circle is one of them.
A classic Chicago fixture, the Wieners Circle’s unique brand is only partially because of its yellow sign. It’s not uncommon to hear playful insults being tossed from employee to patron—and this is part of the appeal that lead to an appearance on This American Life and other media.
The Wieners Circle is an outstanding example of small business branding not because of stunning creative, but because of how personality can elevate a small business to the status of a cultural staple.
Business branding tips:

  • Have a personality. I once watched a customer at the Wieners Circle ask to be insulted. A strong personality helps you stand out.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks. The Wieners Circle sign often has political statements on it—and they can get a bit out there. But the risk of alienating a small segment of your core audience is outweighed by the loyalty built with others.

4. Imperfect Produce

Imperfect Produce

Source: Indiegogo

Imperfect Produce is a food startup that began after a successful Indiegogo campaign in 2015. The company takes food that’s too “ugly” for grocery stores and sells it at discount prices.
This is the description from their website’s about page: “Imperfect fights food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce. We source it directly from farms and deliver it to customers’ doors for 30-50% less than grocery store prices.”
Imperfect Produce has had a great deal of success through social media marketing, using Instagram to spread their strong brand identity. That brand strategy is simple: stick googly eyes on misshapen vegetables.
Imperfect produce Instagram
It’s a simple concept, but how could you say no to that little guy?
Business branding tips:

  • Make a flaw into a benefit. Why is branding important? Imperfect Produce products are a little ugly. That might have made them harder to sell—so the company decided to turn misshapen vegetables into lovable, googly-eyed rogues.
  • Connect to a broader message. Ultimately, Imperfect Produce fights food waste. That story is a powerful way to build brand loyalty, and makes signing up for Imperfect Produce almost a no brainer.

5. College Hunks Hauling Junk

College Hunks Hauling Junk

Source: College Hunks Hauling Junk

With College Hunks Hauling Junk, what you see is what you get.
What’s great about the branding behind College Hunks Hauling Junk is that it’s incredibly simple. The name is descriptive. The logo supports the message of the name.
And, crucially, it sticks in your head.
When you’re driving past a truck, you probably don’t normally give it much thought. But if you drive past a truck with this orange and green logo emblazoned into its side, you remember it. Who will you call the next time you move?
Business branding tips:

  • Stick in people’s heads. College Hunks Hauling Junk is easy to remember. Partially because it rhymes, partially because it’s so easy to picture.
  • Put your brand where people will see it. The trucks for CHHJ are brightly colored and have the logo on the side. Every pickup and junk haul is free advertising.

6. Platinum Skin Care

Platinum Skin Care logo
Source: Platinum Skin Care

Do you want skin care, or do you want platinum skin care.
Everything about the Platinum Skin Care name and creative communicates luxury. Elegance. From your first glance of the silver and black, you assume that this is a company with excellent products.
Platinum Skin Care is also an ActiveCampaign user—we featured their story in this video case study.
Business branding tips:

  • Go for emotional impact. What emotions does your brand associations evoke? Platinum evokes luxury because Platinum Skin Care is selling luxurious products.

7. Bony to Beastly

Bony to Beastly

Source: Bony to Beastly

If you were a skinny guy looking to build muscle, where would you turn? One place you could go is Bony to Beastly, an online business that helps people build muscle.
What makes Bony to Beastly such a compelling example of small business branding is that it instantly communicates a key benefit. Before Bony to Beastly hit the scene, there weren’t that many resources out there on this subject.
The creative of Bony to Beastly is simple, but it communicates a compelling message quickly.
Business branding tips:

  • Visuals can tell stories. A picture of a skinny guy next to a buff guy tells the entire story of Bony to Beastly. The viewer understands it in seconds, showing the importance of branding.
  • A simple message sticks. Bony to Beastly doesn’t also help people lose weight. It isn’t for hobbyists. It has one message that’s easy to remember.

8. Vinome

Vinome

Source: Vinome

If you’re not a wine enthusiast, or are just looking for new wines to try, check out Vinome. The company analyzes your DNA, to figure out what flavors you’re genetically predisposed to love. Then it sends you wine based on your unique tastes.