The task of creating a recognizable brand can come across to small business owners like spreading peanut butter on a giant squid. The solution for many is to simply create some boring, cliché, and effortless logo that they slap on their store front and done. That is the wrong way to do things.
You are your brand, and your logo is your signature. You need both to look good for your business to do well. So talk to some people, think hard about how you want to present yourself, and build toward that.
Creating a Logo
When you are designing a logo for your company, your first and primary objective should be to create something distinctive. No amount of deeper meaning will matter if your logo blends in with the thousands of other logos everyone sees on TV, when they drive to work, and on the internet every day. Think of The IBM logo, McDonald’s, or Starbucks. They are utterly unmistakable.
Avoid using any references that are going to become outdated. Your logo is a long term thing. The Starbucks company name is a Herman Melville reference, and the logo is a nod to the sea trade that dominated the coffee industry throughout history, and still does. Unless you can manage an equally profound meta-reference, don’t try.
You will note that none of the mentioned logos use more than 2 colors. This is for two reasons. One, your logo needs to be truly simple in order to be recognizable. Two, your logo will be much cheaper to print, both when it comes time to deck your employees out in custom printed T-shirts, and just generally.
Your logo needs to be simple and instantly recognizable; because the point of it is to help you build associations, which are not done through your logo, but in the places where it shows up.
Building your Brand
Building a brand is essentially a matter of making people think of you whenever they think of your product, or the lifestyle associated with your product. This is less about what you do with your product, though a high quality product will certainly help your brand, and more about how you present your business in your local community as a small business.
You need your brand to show up in places that are associated with the culture of your customer base. What I mean here is, for a bagel bakery, every local organic grocery store, every local Cross Country or Track meet, and maybe a local culinary school. Give away free mugs and T-shirts to high school students and college athletes. Add a blog with helpful recipes on your company website. Write articles about the value of carbo-loading before your races and link to your local running store.
Your brand needs to show up in the places that your customer base associates with a good time. Not as a salesman ruining everything, but as a fellow enthusiast.
This will get people used to the idea that you are part of their community, and that you are a force for good in your market. More importantly, they will recognize your logo when they drive past it on the street, and they might actually think about coming inside.