Location plays a huge factor in the success of your salon. However, the best salons today are outperforming their competitors by standing out — and they do this through strategic branding and design. Below are five ways to turn your salon into a competitive brand, in order of importance:
1. Develop a Brand Positioning. A brand positioning is basically a well-defined and relevant idea that a customer relates specifically to your salon. It’s what your customers remember about you and your salon long after they’ve visited. When developing a positioning, you have think about the one thing distinguishing your salon from other salons; it could be your salon only uses vegan products or state-of-the-art nail care products and equipment. Maybe your technicians are versed in a specific manicure or pedicure style from Japan. Whatever it is that makes you different should be used to your advantage. Be strategic, be thoughtful and be deliberate in your effort to connect with people in a unique way.
2. Work on Salon and Service Naming. A name means everything and can literally make or break your salon. Take the core idea you’ve developed from your brand positioning to create a meaningful name and tagline that resonates. For example, if you are using only vegan products or providing a unique service, and that is your big idea, then your name or tagline should clearly reflect this. We suggest creating several dozen names reflecting your positioning and asking friends and family what they think these names represent. For example, if they cannot clearly understand whether or not your salon is vegan from the name, then you’ve probably missed the mark. Lastly, when customers come into a salon, they don’t want to feel like they are just purchasing a commodity service, such as a “standard manicure.” Further distinguish your brand by creating simple yet delightful names for your services or products. Don’t stray too far from your salon’s brand positioning — keep the names connected to one another to build cohesive brand architecture.
3. Create a Brand Identity. A brand identity is more than just a salon logo, it’s the look and feel of the salon, its products and services, and how all of these pieces are experienced together. The goal behind every brand identity is visual consistency. When developing a brand identity for your salon, focus on developing the following key elements: logo, color, typography, shapes, textures, and imagery. When designing your salon logo, try to avoid cliché symbolism such as plants and flowers, or anything purchasable on stock image websites. These types of icons are easily accessible, and if you can access them, so can other salons and designers. We suggest using a portion of your budget to hire an experienced graphic designer to help you develop these core assets; tell them you want to avoid any stock iconography and give them some examples ahead of time of salons you like and admire. Also, spend another portion of your budget hiring a photographer (or several) to take in-salon photos; nothing will improve your brand image more than custom photography, and nothing will water your brand image down like stock images.
4. Develop a Verbal Identity. Brand positioning relates to the content of what you say about your salon, whereas verbal identity is how you’re talking about it, including the tone of voice. It matters a great deal more than you might imagine. When creating service menu descriptions, talking to customers over the phone, or writing website copy, use language and voice to meet your target customer. If you are at the high-end of the salon business and using expensive products, you should be deeply knowledgeable about those products and be able to discuss them eloquently. However, if you are a mid-market salon using mid-range products and attracting the everyday customer, a more casual, down-to-earth type of voice or writing style might be a better fit. However you develop your voice, be sure to keep things short and sweet.
5. Create and Enforce Brand Guidelines. The last part of building a competitive salon brand is wrapping everything that you’ve created above into a fancy brand booklet. This booklet will serve as a guide that instructs designers and staff members how you expect them to use and implement the brand. The booklet should be split up into three major sections: the story and positioning, brand identity system (visual and verbal), and design application. The brand positioning section should cover the foundation of the name you choose and your core story, along with the vision you have for the brand. This is great to use when onboarding new technicians to give them an idea of where your salon is heading. The brand identity system should have rules about how to use the logo, colors, typography, imagery, etc. Rules should include everything from how much white space to use around the logo to how large to set typography on the banner of a web page, and more. We suggest finding a graphic designer with expertise in branding to help you lay this out. The design application section should have several example templates of web pages, in-store displays, posters, business cards, or brochures. This is to show designers exactly how you want them to create these assets for you, no matter what designer you use. This is just the beginning of building a great brand. If you work on these five areas, you’ll be miles ahead of most salons. The moral of the story is this: If you do not actively define what your brand stands for, your customers will — and that’s not always a good thing.
Joseph Orr is one of the founders of maniorpedi.com, a New York-based mobile nail salon.