I have often had the privilege of handling small brands. Why? Because this forces me to think harder about how to spend my money. When I first handled a small brand, I was really peeved that my colleague at the next cubicle gets to spend a couple of times more than me on advertising, when we both had very good ads to air.
Yes, big brands are sexy, and trust me, they get more visibility. Small brands are good to test you on your tactical manoeuvres, and how you optimize your budget spendings. The first thing to note is that you have to be selective on your choice of media.
The mistake of big brands is to spend their money on a lot of channels, just because they can afford to. My advice is to focus your money on the media type that gives you the biggest return on ROI. E.g. TV, in store, outdoor, radio and print ads are often ranked in order of awareness creation. If you have just 2 million dollars, and you need 1.5 million for your TV ad to make an effective impact and 0.5 million on in store advertising, then do so.
The biggest mistake you can do as a small brand owner is to try to allocate 400 thousand dollars each to TV, print, outdoor, radio and in store advertising, as this creates little impact, and you just scratched the surface of each of the media type.