Red sequin heart with the word Brand across it on a yellow wool-background.

What makes good brand advertising?

Brand & Purpose
By Team Holly & Co


Brand advertising can be an incredibly powerful player in your marketing toolkit — and believe it or not, it doesn’t always have to be paid for. But you do need a strong brand strategy to reap the rewards of your efforts. Find out more...

How brand advertising creates connection: top benefits of strong brand ads

Just do it. Three words that helped define a brand for decades and prompted millions of customers to choose Nike’s running shoes over others. Why? It solved a customer problem and connected with us emotionally. This brand advertising didn’t say anything about the trainers themselves or even what made them better. It positioned the brand as being one that helped you become a champion no matter who you were; to drive you beyond your limits. People liked this so they chose Nike over the competition — and kept coming back. Nike then told the same story consistently over and over again, and everything they did lived up to it.

Yes, people need to know what you’re selling. But these days, people are more aware of brands and brand identity than ever before. They want to know whether or not they should align themselves with you. Understandably, many small businesses use what little advertising budget we do have on promoting our products or services with regular advertising. However brand advertising can be extremely effective in making a deep, long-term connection with customers and crucially, encourage them to choose you over the competition. But before we get into how to make a good brand advert, let’s firstly look at brand itself.

Mutha.Hood is super clear on what she stands for with her Strong Girls Club, for example (and you can hear the incredible story behind this on her Conversations of Inspiration podcast episode). The message runs consistently through every touchpoint and resonates with a wide audience who don’t just like her products, but share her point of view and actively support it. They are walking adverts for her messaging. This has helped her grow her audience. What you’re selling, the price and quality of it, and the service you provide, will undoubtedly come into the equation. But your brand is what will keep people coming back over the long-term. It’s also likely to encourage more word-of-mouth referrals and boost engagement, too.

Gemma Metcalfe-Beckers, founder of Mutha.Hood, wearing a 'Strong Girls Club' hoody
Brand advertising can be extremely effective in making a deep, long-term connection with customers and crucially, encourage them to choose you over the competition.
Wooden decoration that says 'the magic is in you'

Brand advertising; how do you create it? Start with the basics

Firstly, make sure you have a good brand. Ask yourself, if your brand was a person, what type of person would it be? It’s much more than a logo or a strapline. It’s how people think of you, your whole personality and what you stand for — and importantly, what shopping with you says about them. It’s important to think about what customers are thinking about.

What’s at the heart of your business? Is it the story of how you got to where you are that people might connect with? Is it making them smile? Are you led by sustainability? Maybe you’re a social enterprise that champions community and inclusivity? It doesn’t have to be a higher purpose but it’s worth noting that these days, 80% of consumers want brands to solve society’s problems and be a positive force in shaping culture².

Good brand adverts are authentic — so be yourself to stand out

People need to trust and invest in your brand, not just your product or service, especially if you’re a small business. People are less likely to have heard of you so need to know who they’re buying from, to build a long-term relationship with you and keep connecting with you emotionally and intellectually over time. You’re at a great advantage in some ways because you’ll likely have a closer connection to your customers than a larger brand and you can maintain that authenticity as you grow. Let this authenticity shine through.

Customers also need to remember your brand in an era when we’re bombarded with adverts and information. It’s important to check you don’t look and sound like everyone else. Surprise them. If they could buy the same product for the same price from two different places, what would make them choose you?

What you’re selling, the price and quality of it, and the service you provide, undoubtedly come into the equation. But your brand is what will keep people coming back over the long-term.

David Hieatt (Co-founder of Howies, the DO Lectures, and Hiut Denim Co) said, “Every great brand is a story well told”. He also said that he tells the same story over and over so people know it well. It’s familiar and they trust it — and therefore you. ‘Brand’ is what helps you create a real connection with the customer. How can you make people feel something? If people feel something for you, they’ll want to shop with you. That’s what you want your brand advertising to do.

Bloom & Wild are a great example of a business that lives up to its word. Their brand is all about being thoughtful (as co-founder Aron Gelbard explains on Conversations of Inspiration). So they don’t just talk about it, they act thoughtfully too by being the first to ask if people want to opt out of Father’s Day emails in case they find them upsetting, for example. Or they avoid selling red roses on Valentine’s Day. Good brands put their money where their mouth is, and make sure customers know they’re true to their word. They do this through their marketing.

Getting the message out there: choosing your brand advertising channels

Generally as small businesses, we don’t have the budget for TV advertising or big press campaigns. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own brand ads. It could be as simple as making some social posts that are purely focused on the main message of your brand. Email’s a great way to share brand advertising, too. It’s a cost-effective method of reaching your whole database and reminding them not just about your products or services, but about you. Or with millions of people choosing video as their medium of choice these days, could you make a short film to share your values perhaps?

People buy from brands they trust — 70% of consumers say that trusting a brand today is more important than in the past, a belief that’s shared across age groups, gender and income¹.
Holly with a gold megaphone

Outside of the digital world, think about what items you drop into orders. If you have branded postcards, could you perhaps make them into beautiful mailings that people actually want to post to friends? If you have a shop rather than solely an online business, could you create cards that you can keep by the till to remind shoppers of your values? Printed mail-outs can be expensive but they can be charming and offer a return on investment when done well. You could send them to certain customer segments like new customers who have only purchased once or customers who haven’t been back after a year. Always return to what is unique about your brand and remind customers of what they get from you that they can’t get elsewhere.

Whatever medium you choose to use, brand advertising is a powerful tool to add into your marketing mix. If you want to build relationships with customers long term, brand advertising can really help.

Brand advertising: key takeaways…

Brand advertising can be just as important for your business as product or service ads, so take these key steps and watch your business blossom. Good luck!

1. Effectively communicate your brand values:

What is the story at the heart of your brand and how can you get this across? How can you make sure people see you in an authentic, consistent and trustworthy way?

2. Choose the best communication channels for your business:

From social posts or email, to video and postcards, there are many different ways. Think how you can use the same visual or tonal clues across them to build brand recall.

3.Engage with customers and keep the conversation going:

Keep reminding customers about who you are and what you do (or stand for) in new, fun and engaging ways.

Image sources: Emma Giacalone, ‘Strong Girls Club’ t-shirt — by Muthahood, 'The Magic Is In You' wooden decoration — by The DO Book Co, gold megaphone — commissioned by Team Holly & Co.

Sources: 1 & 2 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust? 2020

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