Effective branding involves so much more than coming up with a clever business name and logo (although those things are part of it).
Think about brands you know, like Starbucks or McDonald's. Good or bad, you likely have an immediate reaction that goes well beyond the mermaid logo or golden arches. (And even if your reaction is neutral, that still counts.)
Different brands might make you smile or cringe—or fall somewhere in between. The brand might transport you to a moment in time, making you feel nostalgic. It might make you sit up and take notice. It might make you want to buy right now. That's the power of branding. It gives you all the feels.
Obviously, you want those feelings—that brand experience—to be positive. But getting to that point doesn't just happen. Like everything else, you need to be strategic when developing your brand, which brings us to this article. Below, we discuss smart salon branding ideas, including advice from real salon owners.
1. Know your audience.
The "know your audience" chestnut might sound like beauty salon marketing 101. But ask yourself if you can easily define your target clientele. What is it about them that makes them ideal? Is it their aesthetic, their age range, their background, something else, a combination? What does this ideal clientele want from your salon? Affordability? Education? The latest trends? A welcoming atmosphere?
Melinda Bloodworth owns The Naked Truth Hair and Wax Spa, a Blue Aura Spa and Salon, in Cary, North Carolina. She says it's important to develop a brand that attracts the people you want to work with.
"Building your brand is a personal commitment to caring for the kind of clients that you want and not necessarily what others around you want you to do," she says. "If you evolve your business at the drop of a hat to fit every client, friend, or family member who gives you advice, you are constantly going to be rebranding yourself."
The name of Bloodworth's salon derives from her desire to work with clientele who want to be educated about hair care—to know the unvarnished "naked truth"—rather than simply be sold to. Bloodworth explains, "Educating clients about products, use of products, and services is more important than making the sell. It builds loyalty when you make sure your client is correctly informed before making decisions about their services."
Sandy Nelles owns Mod Society Facial + Maskbar in Flower Mound, Texas. She describes her salon as "affordable and effective skincare for all humans." (That phrase also serves as the company's tagline.) While "all humans" might sound too broad, in this case, that's the point. Nelles says, "We are unique in the fact that we are not like the traditional spas that cater mostly to women."
Bottom line: Knowing your audience will help you develop a strong brand identity. And taking the time to understand your audience will also make it easier for all the various brand elements—from taglines to logos—to naturally follow.
2. Develop an authentic voice.
Words matter. Too often, small businesses adopt a sales-y tone or marketing jargon in their branding. Don't. Think about how you chat with your customers when they're in your salon. Is it a high-energy vibe? More of a relaxed, chill vibe? Does it skew playful or more sophisticated? What sounds true to you?
That's the voice you want to capture in your branding, specifically your website, your social media platforms, your email marketing, even your after-hours voice mail message. (And let's address a big misconception once and for all: It is possible to sound conversational, playful, even edgy, yet still be professional. These aren't mutually exclusive terms.)
When it comes to branding, a big question many small businesses ask is this: Do you need a tagline or slogan? It's a personal decision—there's no rule saying that you must have one. But if you do, make sure the tagline reinforces the brand.
City Brown is a master barber and owner of Modern Cuts Barbershop in Hiram, Georgia. His shop's tagline is "If your barber did you wrong, show no pity. Pick up your phone and call Big City." The tagline is memorable and a fun play on City's name.
The Naked Truth's tagline is "Define the Beauty That Is You." As Melinda Bloodworth explains, "People desire to enhance their looks all throughout their lives, and it's important to me to help our clients in this lifelong journey."
As mentioned above, Mod Society's tagline is "Affordable and effective skincare for all humans." This tagline is effective since it suggests an important point in the brand identity—that the salon caters to everyone, not just women.
Need some help developing your brand voice or your tagline? Copyblogger has an excellent article on how to create a tagline that truly works.
3. Develop a visual identity that matches your authentic voice.
Voice and visuals make up your brand identity. Everything needs to complement one another and accurately reflect what people will experience in your salon.
Are you going after a luxe clientele? You'll want the voice (copy, tagline) and visuals (logo, fonts, colors, decor) to reflect that. Is your salon edgier or more playful? Again, the words you use in your salon's marketing materials and the look and feel of your logo and color scheme should reflect your brand.
Michael Kenyon owns MK Beauty & Barber Lounge in Albany, New York. He explains the reasoning behind the colors he chose for his salon's logo. "I formerly worked for a two-time world champion award-winning celebrity hair stylist in Saratoga Springs, New York, and was inspired by the name of his salon. I also wanted to encompass all facets, or as many as I could, as the beauty industry holds. The logo was my initials with the blue for male, pink for female."
Keep in mind that visuals go well beyond logos and colorways. Everything from your salon's physical layout to its furnishings should reflect your brand.
Melinda Bloodworth from The Naked Truth Hair and Wax Spa says, "Our interiors are eclectic like our team. We use new salon equipment and have chosen to recycle antiques throughout our spa/salon . . . Our team is pretty diverse representing North and South Asia, West Africa, Europe, the Dominican Republic, and the Continental US. We're pretty proud of our diversity and hope to continue to grow our mixture of cultures as our business continues to grow, just like our country."
PRO TIP: Who should you hire to develop the various elements that make up your brand identity, like your logo? Branding agencies aren't cheap. For salons just getting started, it probably makes sense to work with individual contractors, like freelance graphic designers. Crowdsourcing sites like Fiverr, 99 Designs, and Design Crowd are budget-friendly places to check out.
Sandy Nelles from Mod Society Facial + Maskbar says she used Design Crowd to develop her spa's logo. "It allows you to tell designers around the world what you are looking for and then you get hundreds of design submissions and select the best one . . . We try to use our brand colors and feel in all of our marketing and decor."
4. Make sure your voice and visuals are consistent across all media—and throughout your salon.
Consistency is usually the thing that trips up small salon owners. It's much easier for large brands that have departments devoted to branding to become a watchdog and make sure the brand's voice and visuals are consistent across all channels.
Oftentimes, we see indie salon owners come up with a cool name and logo that reflects who they are, but they don't consistently reinforce their brand across all media or in their physical salons. You need to reflect your brand everywhere: all social media profiles, your website, email marketing, print collateral (business cards, direct mailers, brochures), promotional items, retail products, and in-salon decor.
Don't overlook obvious places to get your logo "seen" by passersby and foot traffic. As City Brown from Modern Cuts Barbershop says, "I have logos on my door windows and business cards. Keep putting your logo out there as unique and creative as possible."
Melinda Bloodworth adds, "We use our brand and colors on all our gift cards and product bags and boxes. We chose reusable gift bags and takeout boxes in our brand’s color scheme."
5. Always deliver on your brand promise.
People shouldn't experience a disconnect from one piece of branded material to another (for example, between your website and Instagram feed). And they most definitely shouldn't experience a disconnect when they walk into your salon.
This is especially important for new clients. If a new client decided to book an appointment based on the brand they encountered on your website or social media, but the vibe they experience once they enter your salon is totally different, that will create some cognitive dissonance—and possibly make the client feel duped.
For example, if your brand promises a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, but in reality, your salon is all about motion and frenetic energy, think of how jarring it would be for a new client to walk into that environment. There's nothing wrong with relaxed. And there's nothing wrong with high energy. But they are two very different experiences. Make sure your salon delivers on its brand promise.
6. Don't be afraid to let your brand evolve.
When branding is done right, it will help attract your target audience, get people talking, and foster loyalty. As Amazon's Jeff Bezos famously said, "Branding is what people say about you when you're not in the room."
But over time, your brand will—and should—evolve. This is true for businesses large and small. You'll want to freshen your logo, tweak your color scheme, or completely reinvent your brand for any number of reasons. Sandy Nelles from Mod Society Facial + Maskbar reminds us: "Ideas, concepts, and directions may change as you evolve. Be flexible!"
The other thing to keep in mind is that branding is never done. It's an ongoing process, for as long as you own your salon. Kenyon from MK Beauty & Barber Lounge is living proof. "I am still working on my brand even 3-plus years later," he says. "I am still shifting and trying to find the best use of wording to attract more niche markets so as to capture the market as a whole in smaller segments and not overburden or tire myself and staff out."
Be willing to learn as you go along—and to adjust accordingly. To that end, City Brown from Modern Cuts Barbershop says, "Protect your brand. Pump it with energy and never give up on it, no matter what."
We couldn't agree more. Keep going. You got this!