I am really pleased to interview an old SEO buddy, Karl Ribas, and rack his brains about branding – so let’s have a look at how small businesses can think big with branding and make their businesses stand-out from the crowd.


Coming from a search background, what pulled you towards branding and marketing in general?

Branding is a topic that has always captivated me. It’s the simple idea of a company’s perceived value being, at times, greater than its actual value that interests me. Or, that reputation can have more influencing power than price. Or, that consumers can become so passionate about a brand that they’ll happily defend it at the drop of a hat.

With that, I am still very much a search marketer, but I do work hard to integrate branding and other marketing opportunities into my client’s overall portfolio. I believe this is a common transition that many search marketers are now making. I think we’re finding out quickly that search marketing isn’t just limited to showing up in Google.

Big companies spend a lot of time (and money) on branding but how important is it for the smaller guys?

Big or small, brand building is important. While it is true that bigger companies seem to have more time, budget, and resources at their disposal, being small is not an excuse for ignoring the branding of one’s products, services, or company. Branding isn’t limited to running 2.5 million dollar television commercials or taking out full-page ads in the New York Times. Small businesses will need to get creative with their approach.

In fact, search is one of those platforms that, for the most part, ignores budgets and allows businesses of all sizes to compete on even ground. Branding through search marketing should present itself to be a viable opportunity for small business owners.

Before brainstorming lots of business and domain names, is there anything important that you need to consider first?

I’m not sure there is, other than what is commonly known. For example, be careful of picking a name that might have an alternate meaning or even one that displays poorly. I believe the Mole Station Native Nursery Company in New South Wales was the perfect example of what I am referring to. For the longest time, their registered domain was www.molestationnursery.com. You can imagine how difficult branding might have been for this company.

Furthermore, when researching a name for your product or company, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to look at what others in your space are doing first. You can review their branding, determine what is or isn’t working, and then decide if it makes sense to mirror their approach or distance yourself from it.

So I guess there is more to branding than just a cool company name, logo and slogan?

Oh yeah, that’s for certain. While it is nice that a company is recognized by a name, logo or slogan, this recognition alone isn’t what drives consumers to buy a product or service. In fact, this is probably the single biggest misconception about the branding process.

A logo is just one part of a company’s brand identity. The brand, as a whole, represents much more – the mission of the company, its history, people’s perceptions of it, and so on. An effective logo plays an important part, but it won’t save a poor product or service, or a company with a weak mission.

Instead, branding is primarily about emotion and the overall impression that companies and products bestow on to us. For example, I love Under Armour running gear because it’s durable, stylish, and, to date, has exceeded every one of my expectations. When I see an Under Armour commercial or branded product, these are the values that immediately come to mind.

Amazon is another example of a solid brand, but it has nothing to do with its name or logo design. Personally I prefer to shop at Amazon because they take care of me. They have every product I’ve ever wished to purchase, ship products fast and often for free, maintain a hassle-free return policy, and fix their mistakes quickly and with sincerity.

Branding is everything and anything a company is and does.

So you’re suggesting that branding is an emotional connection between the customer and a business? How important is it to win hearts?

Yes. In my professional opinion, branding is any initiative that helps to bridge emotion to a company or product. If a company or product exceeds expectations and customers are happy, then I’d consider this to be a good branding experience. With that, the opposite would be true. Brand damage comes from those instances of when a consumer’s perceived value or expectation of a product, service, or company is higher than what is delivered.

Knowing this, winning the hearts of consumers should be at the top of every company’s branding campaign.

Where do small businesses often fail with branding?

Great question! Small businesses often get caught up in this idea that brand building is expensive or that it’s impossible to do without a deep wallet, and therefore they fail to even get started. For those small businesses that feel this way, I’d like to bring their attention to what might be one of the best branding examples our time, Google.

Google, to my knowledge, has yet to run a commercial or an advertisement of any kind for their core search service. Google was a small project (not fair to call them a business as their initial goal wasn’t to make money) where their focus was on solving a problem that others failed at… effectively searching the web. They focused on delivering a quality tool and experience, and through word-of-mouth they were able to build what is easily one of today’s most powerful brands. Google is a multi-billion dollar brand and they, in a sense, didn’t spend a dime to build it.

Are there any other cool branding tips you’d like to share? Are there any online tools or resources that you recommend?

Building a brand that is loved is about doing lots of small things right. With that, small businesses should focus on providing quality over quantity in terms of product and service offerings, and provide the absolute best in customer service.

Businesses need to understand that a time will come when their company will make a mistake or their product fails. This much is inevitable. How a company reacts and resolves these issues will play a huge part in how it is later branded.

Quality expeirences create customer satisfaction. Satisfaction drives repeat business, which in turn builds customer loyalty. Loyalty leads to word-of-mouth and brand advocacy. And thus, a powerful brand is born.

Interviewee: Karl Ribas

Karl is a website design and marketing consultant specializing in search and social media marketing strategies. Karl has been blogging since 2005, and covers a variety of website marketing and design topics on his blog and other industry related blogs.

If you have anything to add to the interview, or any questions at all, please comment below. Any real life branding tips are most welcome too.