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What would Tom Hanks say?

In much of the business to business world, particularly ‘practical’ sectors such as engineering, the concept of branding is rarely given much thought below the major multinational players. That may be because the term is traditionally linked to fluffy things such as logo design and corporate colours, and, well, there are more important considerations for the company. I get that; nobody rolls their eyes harder than me when reading about a ‘major relaunch’ of a business that seems to extend no further than a new logo. That’s a sell sign, if ever there was one.

Branding extends to a lot more than that, however, and is worth thinking about, even for relatively small businesses. The smaller you are, the easier it is to get this stuff right.

If you think about nothing else, consider setting a ‘brand tone’ for your business. Most other things will cascade down from this (and yes, that includes how the logo should look). Think of it as the tone of voice in which you’d like to speak to your customers. Would you like to be described as a friendly company, an efficient one, an authoritative one, a quirky one, a passionate one? How are your competitors perceived in that respect, and how can you be different? One good exercise in brainstorming this is to consider someone well-known whose personality aligns with how you see the company. Who do you think represents the style you’d like for your business? Sir David Attenborough? Sherlock Holmes? HM The Queen? Moss from The IT Crowd? I once knew someone who said she only ever wrote anything after first asking herself: “What would Tom Hanks say?”

Once you’ve decided whether you want to be the kindly, wise uncle or the brash, workaholic go-getter, you can consider how your sales and marketing materials might reflect this better. The main outcome should be a tone of voice which runs throughout your marketing material, but it could also influence a lot of other things (yes, even including the logo design and corporate colours). For example, if you decide your company is going to be the Jason Statham of your market sector, it might be advisable to quietly drop the use of Comic Sans.