Branding means big business these days. Just head to your local mall and you’ll understand. There you’ll come face to face with teens decked out head to toe in Tommy Hilfiger or Abercrombie and Fitch - not to mention the accessories that help complete the total look.

But what exactly is branding? Lisa Starr, a business consultant with Preston Wynne Success Systems, defines it as “a trademark or distinctive name identifying a products or manufacturer.” In the case of salons, branding helps identify their product - in other words, the unique experience they are offering to clients. Long after clients have gotten their services and left, they’ll be more apt to remember a salon with a strong brand.

“When consumers spot a Starbucks sign or the ever-popular Golden Arches, they don’t even need to read it to know what to expect inside,” says Starr. “Branding is almost like shorthand. It allows customers to feel comfortable knowing what they will get from their interaction with that particular entity.”

Just as it’s important for a company to brand itself in order to appeal to clients, salons can benefit by doing the dame. Starr says salons need to worry about branding themselves if they:

  • want to build a loyal customer base that continues growing
  • want to spend less on marketing and advertising in the long run
  • want to attract and retain the best employees
  • are thinking of growing, expanding, or selling their business

If you’ve answered yes to all of the above, then it’s time to brand yourself. Start by knowing your mission, suggests Kate Grider-Troc, president of 20/20 Foresight, which helps salons and salon owners develop better business-building and customer service skills. Your mission should be the definition of your brand. Then take a look around your brand. Then, take a look around your salon. What is your key contribution to your clients? If you don’t know, ask them something along the line of, “Why do you choose our salon over another in the area?” Find your strengths and build on them.

Also, don’t forget that being consistent matters. “Consistency is huge,” says Melinda Minton, a spa consultant and owner of Minton Business Solutions. “People are busy and they aren’t necessarily looking for your ad or your business. It may take a few times before they see your logo and begin to acknowledge it.”

There are plenty of ways to build a strong brand. For example, have an identifiable and easy-to-read logo that is visible on all of your collateral materials (e.g. website, brochures, menu, newsletters).

And don’t think branding stops there. Think about your staff’s appearance. Do they have a consistent and specific look? Also, it’s a good idea to have written service protocols so they are done in the same way by every nail tech. This ensures that a client receives the same experience during each visit. (Just like you know that no matter where you are, a McDonald’s cheeseburger will always taste the same.)

As with anything else, there can be a case of too much. Avoid becoming overzealous in your efforts and trying too hard, says Grider-Troc. “Be careful not to become too busy and implement too many slogans or catch phrases,” she says. “This usually results in confusion for the guest.”

Always remember that branding isn’t just about marketing - you also earn points for behavior. And if you treat your clients well, they’ll thank you by coming back again and again.

Take a cue from the following salons and see how they’ve built their own successful brands.

Logo Mania

A great way to develop strong brand is to staff with a good logo. Here are some tips to keep in mind a salon logo should.

  • Bolster the salon image
  • Be considered a business asset
  • Be memorable to the customer
  • Update your salon’s image
  • Be unique
  • Be instantly recognizable
  • Identify your business
  • Help increase sales


The Salon: The Brass Rose Spa & Salon, Blairstown, N.J.


The brand: At this salon, luxury is everything Owner Rosemary Weiner wanted her salon to be associated with a beautiful ambiance and quite elegance and make the experience truly unforgettable for clients.


How it’s carried through: the salon’s logo, featuring a brass-colored rose, is simple and elegant and was meant to appeal to both men and women. “That’s why it’s crisp, with just a touch of softness,” says Weiner


Weiner is consistent with her materials. The logo is visible on a variety of materials, including her website, T-shirt, glass mugs, pens, and labels on her private label products.


The salon: Awesome Nails, Grayslake, Ill.


The Brand: A warm, inviting salon where clients come first and nails are awesomely done.


How it’s carried through: The salon’s logo is emblazoned on just about everything, including apparel, which owner Mary Metscaviz retails at cost. She stocks long-sleeve denim shirts, and crop tops “I am happy to get my money back and have someone wear my logo around town,” she says.


Staff members also wear the clothing, which gives them a uniform look and says they are a team, says Metscaviz.


The salon: M&M Nails & Wellness Center, Silver Spring, Md.


The brand: A healing sanctuary that clients can escape to the pampering array of services make them feel good about themselves.


How it’s carried through: It took owner Maisie Dunbar and a consultant about 10 months to come up with the salon’s logo, which has a botanical theme to go along with the salon’s wellness concept.


Dunbar places her logo on everything, including all promotional items, on her website and on T-shirts “Your brand represents you,” she says. That’s why it took me as long as it did to develop something I like. Change is good but when it comes to branding, you must be consistent.


The salon: Salon Kokopelli, Brielle, N.J.


The brand: Owners Mary Ciavatta and Lisa Cobb named the salon after Kokopelli, an American Indian folkloric figure who was regarded as a joy-bringer and left people feeling rejuvenate and free-spirited. Their salon follows along those lines, acting as a peaceful refuge for clients.


How it’s carried through: The salon’s logo, which happens to feature an image of the mystical merrymaker himself, is visible on all correspondence and other materials, as well as all salon wear. In addition, many of the salon’s services focus on the well-being and relaxation of the client.


The salon: Paint Shop, Beverly Hills, Calif.


The brand: Owner Julie Serquinia wanted to convey an image of a salon that’s not your mother’s manicure and pedicure place. “We worked with a designer for several months to come up with an image that would convey the type of work we do without appearing too girly,” she says


Serquinia chose the image of a hand in a box, in an upward position as if reaching outside the box.


How it’s carried though: With its upbeat music, innovative treatments, and funky atmosphere, Paint shop has manage to avoid a stuffy salon image. The salon’s logo appears on salon menus, postcards, T-shirts, and its website, among other places


The salon: Nailz Hand & Foot Spa, Cashiers, N.C.


The brand: A cozy mountain getaway that beckons clients through its inviting entrance


How it’s carried through: Owner Deborah Reeves uses her salon’s entrance on much of her materials


“We designed the entrance to be inviting and to help define who and what we are inside,” she says. “And it is often the first impression of our business,”


Reeves uses a black-and-white line drawing of the salon’s entrance on several items, including her private label line, ads, service menu, and newsletter.


To keep with the mountain getaway theme, Reeves likes to use Kraft paper mountain apple bags since the salon is in apple country, she says).


The salon: Mani Pedi Beach House, San Francisco


The Brand: An airy, comfortable atmosphere that has the feel of a beach house - one that focus on nails.


How it’s carried through: Owner Kelly Hensley comes from a design background, so she knew her salon’s logo needed to stand out. “A salon’s logo is most important because it gives clients a feel of the place before they even arrive,” she says. “If the design is cool then more than likely the salon is too.”


The Mani Pedi logo is in an oval shape to resemble a stylized version of a fingernail and is imprinted on a variety of materials, including T-shirts, ads, and even an umbrella.


The salon: Dashing Diva, two locations in New York


The brand: the concept was to take a nail salon and mix it with a fashion boutique to create a nail boutique for the modern woman. And since today’s women are busier than ever, the salon keeps that in mind by offering quick services while still offering much-needed pampering - hence the name Dashing Diva.


How it’s carried through: Margaret Pak, creative director for Dashing Diva, says consistency is key. Salon furniture and merchandising units reflect the simple geometry of clients and squares, which are again reflected in retail containers and in packaging. “We believe nails are fun, fashionable, trendy and affordable and are a must-have accessory item,” says Pak. That attitude is reflected in the salons’ menu and other marketing materials, which are filled with lots of vibrant color.

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