Branding is arguably one of the most important things to think about when you are taking your first steps to starting a business.

Often times, the first idea an entrepreneur may have is of his or her company name, logo, concept and overall feel of the startup they’re about to launch. Your brand is your calling card and is what sets your product or service apart.

How are you unique? How will people remember you? What keeps you at the top of people’s mind? Branding answers those questions.

PEN got the inside scoop on some branding pointers and strategy from Scott Clanin, owner of Clanin Marketing located in Champaign. Scott has been helping businesses all throughout Central Illinois for the past 2 years with their company image and customer experience.


Image via

When it comes to branding, what are the first things I should be thinking about when I’m just getting started?
Start with your story. What do you want people to think of you as? Think about your competition. Everyone has a competitor, so what sets you apart from them? If you can’t think of something then to be honest, you’re going to struggle down the road. Try your best to determine what sets you apart. Is it your culture, your service, your product?

If I’m not a creative person, where do I find good examples of what I should do?
Well, it’s as easy as just coming to me. But honestly,  you’re exposed to brands the minute you wake up. I ask people about their favorite brands or businesses and why they buy them. Finding out “why” is key. Is it that you like the look and why do you like the look? How does it make you feel? And to keep digging out that why question.

How many times do you hear from clients that they’re “not good at marketing” and how do you begin to help them?
First, we identify who your customer is and find out who your audience is. That is the very first step. Once we find out who your customers are, then we cater the messaging to those audiences. Messaging clearly identifies what you’re offering without being too general. We want to make everything relevant to the consumer and messaging is all about relevance. So basically, I’m here to highlight who they are and what they do.

What is the process we would go through together as business owner and branding expert?

  1. Find their story. Work on messaging and start thinking about their name.
  2. Identify customers and audience.
  3. Design elements. Begin the layout and look of everything. This gets built off of 1 & 2.
  4. Create the branding suite. Put together business cards, sales sheets, flyers and brochures. Send materials to print.
  5. Develop a web presence. Your website, social media accounts and anything online that can help sell your business.
  6. Implementing marketing strategies. Now that you have a foundation down, everything points back to website.
  7. Get the word out to a larger audience with advertising or public relations efforts. In some cases can be done at almost no cost. Review media buys for billboards, print, digital, search engine and social media ads.

After that’s over, then what happens?
We then start tracking progress with analytics and other insight tools to find out what’s working and what’s not working. Of course, you want to make sure it’s working and you’re getting the most bang for your buck. When it’s really working, you’re reaching the most people and getting your money’s worth.

With today’s technology we can track where consumers go on your website which is especially important for e-commerce sites. From a business perspective, you can learn a lot of things about demographics of your consumers and what time of day they are consuming.

From there we continue to tweak and adjust your strategy based on what we’re learning.

Do businesses need to consider a re-brand at some point in the future? And how do you decide when is a good time to do that?
If you’re seeing trends of low sales, low energy, and not reaching the people you’re intending to reach – you may want to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. If you’ do decide it’s appropriate and you’re going to do a re-brand, you might as well go all-in. Spend the necessary amount to fully get the outcomes you want to receive out of it. Remember, it’s not just a new logo, it’s the entire look and feel of the company experience. That would also provide a good opportunity to roll out a new campaign to highlight new product or service along with the other changes.

As someone who is always thinking about these things, where do you find inspiration or creative direction? Who is doing a really outstanding job locally or nationally?
I admire all of my competitors, and I think that they are putting out some fantastic things. In terms of re-branding, I like what Wal-Mart and American Airlines did. They did a phenomenal job with messaging and design work. I like to find out who did the branding work for different companies and then follow them to see more about their work and if I can learn something from them.

Here locally in Champaign, I love what a restaurant called Miga is doing. They’re not a client, but just a great example of a good brand, clean design, and a customer experience that is well-polished.

Lastly, if somebody who is reading this wants to connect, how do they reach to you discuss their own needs?
The best way is my website contact form at or to email me directly. To see more of my work you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.