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Big brand behaviours

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

How does a small business get to be a big business? By behaving like one...

What are big brand behaviours?

The big brands make it look simple. And that's the whole secret!

Not only do they know themselves, they know their audience too. So they can keep all their messaging short. Sweet!

It all begins with a big brand book that not only outlines how they look, but also how they sound. I've written lots of Tone of Voice guidelines for lots of big businesses, giving everyone who writes for them a clear guide on the 'do's' and 'don'ts'. So, if you're an SME with big ambitions, it's really worth taking the time to put something like this together.

It doesn't have to be - and in fact it shouldn't be - a long document. Keep it simple to start with and allow it to evolve over time. What it does have to be is true for you.

Big brand behaviours are the consistent actions and strategies that large and well-established companies exhibit in their business operations and interactions with customers, competitors, and the market. These behaviours are often a result of the brand's values, goals, and the image they want to portray. While not all big brands exhibit the same behaviours, there are some common characteristics and actions associated with many of them:

But where do you begin? Big brand behaviour starts long before you string a sentence together - never mind a brand line or a blog post. Get your guidelines together, and they'll do more than help you shape your communications: they're your constant reminder of who you are, where you want to go, the impression you want to give and how you want people - your colleagues and your customers - to think about you.

If you can also nail down your mission, vision and values, even better! Again, keep these simple, doable and true to you. If you don't believe them one hundred wholehearted percent, how are you going to get other people to?

If that's all too overwhelming, check out these big brand behaviour tips, pick one that you can work with and start there. From little acorns grow mighty oaks.

Tip #1 - BE consistent

Maintaining a consistent image and messaging comes down to two things: what you say and when you say it.

Consistent language is key and big brands make this a priority.

What you say...

If you use a word or phrase that people wouldn't expect from you, you damage your brand. Use a tone that sounds arrogant or condescending, and you'll put people off. This is important every single day, but take extra care if you're communicating something that could be problematic. For example, think about how you can communicate a price increase and not alienate your audience.

When you say it...

Be consistent in when you put your messaging out there. If all your comms are social media based, use Facebook's Meta business suite to plan posts. You can always add more on the hoof if something exciting happens! But maintain a good baseline and the algorithm will reward you. For example, if you start a blog, think about how many you can comfortably produce per month. One is perfectly adequate. And it can help to create fodder for your social posts too!

If you then post the blog at the same time each month, you can think about creating anticipation around it and people will start to look out for it. Think of it like a mini-monthly campaign and you're halfway there.

Tip #2 - be Innovative

Research & Development is something all progressive big brands invest in. But here's the thing: as a new business or even an established SME, you're finding out new stuff out all the time. You're refining your product or service. You're changing to suit your changing marketplace. Or keep up with the competition. You're bringing on new people. Or you're diversifying. there is always something new to talk about.

And people like new. So if you're doing something new or different, shout about it.

And if you find yourself at the forefront of a trend, even better! This is where you find your tribe and discover the power of association: better known these days as a collab!

Tip #3 - be Quality

You have to give it to them: big brands live and breathe quality. It doesn't have to be super high quality but it's reliable quality nonetheless. It's tip #1 - be consistent!

Big brand products or services go through strict quality control. McDonald's is an incredible example of this: same burger and fries the world over, with the odd nod to local or regional flavours on the menu. The short of it is: wherever in the world you are, you know what you're getting.

So yes that all makes quality a consistency issue too. If you're hit or miss on the quality front, more people are likely to give you a miss, more of the time.

Quality also means different things to different people: some people will put up with a lesser quality for less cost, whereas others won't scrimp. Think high street versus haute couture.

The real test? Think value for money. If you know your target market, you know what they can and will spend: beat their expectations in terms of quality and you're on the money.

Tip #4 - be customer first

Sounds easy, right? But not everyone gets it right. Smaller businesses often fail in this department. Which is why, when you get it right, it can put you on the front foot.

Know your customers. Know where they are, what they're doing and what they want to do. Find out what they like, who they like and where they like to know. If you share their aspirations, even better - makes it easy to find common ground, create empathy, build trust and amplify likeability.

The general rule? Love your customers and they'll love you back. Think of those brands you wouldn't be without and the relationship you have with them: how they make you feel. You feel like they know you, right? They get you! That's true whether you wouldn't dream of going anywhere else than M&S to buy your knickers, or you've picked a side in the cola wars and that is the hill you're going to die on.

Depending on what kind of business you're in, a customer loyalty programme can reap dividends. The sixth free coffee is the most common example, but all the big supermarkets are at it too... every little helps!

Tip #5 - be out there

Yes those big brand behemoths have massive marketing departments and the aid of international agency networks working to their advantage.

What have you got? Local knowledge. Agile ambition. The artisan advantage. Character. Personality. Passion.

If you only take one leaf out of their book - make it less is more. Don't overwhelm your audience with TMI. A little intrigue can go a long way. Use your website or blog to house all the important information, then pull out core messages in a fun way for your socials.

Social media must be exactly that. People are socialising and you should too. And you can do that better than any big brand.

If you're not sure where to start with that, choose one of the following purposes and write a post or a blog about your business:

Educate Entertain Inspire

Tip #6 - be community-minded

All the big brands have a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policy if not a dedicated department or team. They sponsor initiatives, and give their people time off to use their skills in their communities. They pick an annual charity to fundraise for. And all have an interest in being sustainable and environmentally conscious. Or at least they should be.

Think about all the little ways your responsibility to your community can create goodwill. How you can help to minimise waste by being more thoughtful about your packaging. Is there a local charity you can give time to? Can you help out at a sports club or teach kids skills in schools? Could you champion people in the community?

Small businesses who are rooted in their communities are the lifeblood of every locality. big brands find it incredibly difficult to get that kind of penetration.

Tip #7 - be attractive

Big brands spend big bucks on logos. It was widely reported that, in the nineties, British Airways dropped a cool £60 million on a rebranding effort that went terribly wrong. Oops. Back in the present moment, the world's number soft drink brand spends an average of $4 billion every year on advertising, marketing, and promotions.

How do you compete with that? You don't. You do your thing. You take into consideration your ideal customer and you take a look at the competition and you be you.

There are lots of local designers - freelance and agency - who will design a brand and logo that actively helps your business to grow, giving you both recognition and standout at the same time. Costs vary widely so shop around, ask lots of questions and go with a designer that both listens to you and challenges you. If you're really on a budget, there's always Canva to get you started. And with a free basic version of the app, all that will cost you is time.

The real beauty of a logo that you love and can get engaged with is its firepower: think of the pride that it inspires in you and your team as an internal combustion engine. That's where big brand behaviours really begin.

If you're still not sure where to start, give me a shout! I work with all kinds of businesses to help them build their brand from the inside out.


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