Branding for startups is not solely built upon the result of what you do, but more so how you can communicate to the market to create the most distinction and differentiation for your brand based on driving appeal through common underlying values. Most successful products or services on the market are bound to be copied, which means that how you brand your startup will not only protect your startup, but also give you a head start.
An idea becomes a startup when it starts to transform into a product. But what does this transformation involve? It is not only about how the product looks, but about who you are as a brand: your mission, values, and assets.
Startup branding is not about cramming your startup with logos and branding elements. It is about having a solid communications strategy, brand consistency, and message alignment. These three aspects of branding are essential for successfully branding a startup.
It’s also crucial to align your startup with its target audience, creating an image that attracts customers and their interest in the brand itself. It’s not enough to be different or unique just for the sake of it. Branding alone will not get you anywhere without a goal-oriented strategy. Your brand strategy should have a very clear purpose in the process that ties in directly to your mission statement.
“It’s not enough to be different or unique just for the sake of it. Branding alone will not get you anywhere without a goal-oriented strategy.”
The Role of Branding Strategies In Startups
Creating a brand and crafting brand attributes is the foundation of every great business. Designing the perfect branding strategy for your startup takes time and effort.
It is your brand strategy that creates the stickiness or appeal that will make your startup stand out amongst the rest and you will be able to use your brand to become a highly recognizable company that is known for giving a great first impression and corresponding experience.
What Is Branding?
Branding is a tool for visual communication that quickly establishes an organization’s authority in an industry with its products or services. A brand represents your business and the mission it follows. It is how you want potential customers to view and think of you as an organization.
This, along with sales messaging, is the most important part of a startup’s marketing efforts because it affects all stakeholders of the business.
Consumers need to love the brand and its products. Employees must identify with the company’s values and mission as well. Stakeholders should be attracted to what those in charge are doing.
A brand can help distinguish products and services that different businesses offer. It can help the market favor one product or service and select them over a competitor’s.
A Strong Startup Brand Will Empower You To Scale Attractive, Consistent Marketing Campaigns.
Building a strong brand is the foundation of all of your marketing materials, which are applied in your marketing activities. Your brand exists to help influence your audience, so you need to ensure your branding strategy not only meets the needs of those you want to believe in your business but can also be communicated at scale.
It’s important to note that it’s easier to influence your audience early on than it is to change an existing perception that hasn’t yet been shaped by their experience with you.
Marketing is exciting but also has the ability to wreck your business if you’re not fully prepared to master it at scale. One of the most important elements for a new company’s success is consistency.
Whether it be in marketing strategies or branded goods and services, branding for startups needs to focus on embodying a brand identity and promoting it through as an integrated part of every piece of creative content that is made visible.
Companies often avoid developing a brand or visual identity system in their first stages. They only tackle developing a stronger brand when it’s a dire need, which can leave companies losing ground to competitors that have already invested in building a market-leading brand due to the time it takes to engage in this valuable process.
“You need to ensure your branding strategy not only meets the needs of those you want to believe in your business but can also be communicated at scale.”
Branding Is About Positioning. Marketing Is About How You Amplify That Positioning.
If branding is a weak point in your business, there’s a very good chance you’ll be relying on the latest viral ad campaign to keep your startup afloat. Marketing is a core component of your growth but you need to build trust with personality-rich branding from day one so that you and your customers know exactly what you stand for and why you exist.
This can help set up and define what gets shared, talked about, and reposted in an open platform such as Facebook, Instagram or any other form of social media.
Not only does branding increase awareness of your business but it also goes above and beyond in helping users of these online platforms choose your business over others that aren’t as well branded or established.
If you’re wondering how people will take notice of your business when they have choices among several other startups that are providing similar services or products, it is through their experience with your brand.
By focusing on this area of your business, you are engineering a growth mechanism for the long-term that helps build trust between you and the market. It ultimately shapes your customer’s perception of you as a brand.
Why Do Startups Need Branding?
Startups are not all smooth sailing. They often thrive on and need challenges. Many times startups will be fighting to get ahead no matter how big they are. This is why understanding how to communicate your value through your visuals and messaging is an important anchor to establish so that you have a point of reference to revert to in the ebbs and flows.
It’s also important to make sure that it is done properly the first time. Many startups fail to recognize this because they’re blinded by the short term gratification that marketing initiatives can create and forget that a negative response from the market to your branding could stick with you for more than just a few years.
Successful Startup Brands Can Be Similar To Small Business Brands.
Just like with a small business, the goal of a startup brand is to help build trust between you and the market, which ultimately shapes consumer’s perception of you as a business. This can apply in an offline capacity, as well as an online capacity such as on your website. With startups, however, it is commonly more applicable to the online world.
At all times, your target market should know exactly what you can do for them, but you should also provide an experience that gives them a feeling of trust. Your startup will only reach a fraction of its potential without focusing on its brand attributes and what’s driving its communications strategy.
Understanding Short Term vs Long Term Growth Strategies.
The startup branding process is not a short-term growth strategy. Its basis is around long term business development that becomes a permanent asset for marketing and helps direct your growth strategies.
Building a brand for a startup should not be rushed, regardless of what anyone tells you. A new company should not dive into branding without knowing what their brand stands for, who their audience is, or setting up any basic guidelines for producing future marketing materials at all.
Doing things like collecting user data from various available sources can not only help you understand your target audience, but it can also help improve your product market fit, help you refine your mission statement and better understand each customer’s problem so that you can strengthen the motivating factors behind why your company exists. These aren’t exactly short term strategies, which is why they can bring considerable long term benefits to your growth.
A Startup Must Understand Its Target Market.
Understanding your target audience is highly important for many of the most successful startups. This might seem obvious, but it is not always as simple as it may seem.
Understanding customer demographics is also important for a successful startup, and your branding should be inclusive. The goal should be to create satisfied customers who will share their experience with others people who could potentially become customers as well.
‘Ideal Buyer Alignment’ Creates Consistent And Congruent Perception Around Your Brand
Your startup’s ideal customers should become part of the process of crafting your identity as you go about establishing your brand by highlighting the consumers you want to appeal to. After all, you can’t succeed without them. A startup will fail if it doesn’t connect with its customers.
Refining The Language And Image In Startup Branding
Branding can be challenging for a startup, but a visual language and communications style that clearly communicates the identity of your company is essential.
It should be clearly recognizable in areas like your business website and should convey the right impression to get your message across, regardless of where it is applied.
In other words, be consistent, because it will be applied across social media platforms and be reflected in visible, graphic design assets such as marketing collateral (business cards), digital creatives and print applications.
If you can’t describe your brand in one sentence, you have a branding problem, so your brand should be absolutely clear at all times about what it is and who needs it.
Remember, the better you do here and the clearer the target market research or segmentation you establish, the easier it will be to stand out in your industry and through your communications on your website.
“It should be clearly recognizable in areas like your business website and should convey the right impression to get your message across, regardless of where it is applied.”
Your Startup Branding = Person + Personality + Values
As we’ve already established, your startup branding is more than your logo. It is ultimately a reflection of the people and values that founded the company. This is passed down from the founding team, which also ties into the way that the product or service will be delivered.
The visual language of your startup’s brand should communicate these values that already exist internally. This will be what makes your product or service stand out in the market and be more appealing to potential customers.
Yes, your logo is a part of this appeal, but a logo cannot communicate a personality or values to the full extent. They are attributed to the logo afterwards.
Creating A Visual Identity That Is Easily Recognizable
Your brand identity, logo and overall visual language should be instantly recognizable throughout all branded materials. For example, you tell if it’s Apple marketing their products based on their ads.
This is because internally, each form of communication from the company will have an example of how their brand and visual identity should be applied. Each internal example is studied extensively to ensure that all communications are recognizable and similar in nature.
Assigning Meaning To Your Startup Through Experience
As human beings, we are all individuals who have our own specific views on things. We decide what things mean for us by assigning meaning to them through our experience. This explains why people react so differently when exposed to brand messaging.
Some respond more favourably than others to certain types of messaging. While some might even have a negative reaction to some approaches to branding, it’s important to recognize that branding and logo design is not an exact science, which is why your startup needs a strong vision and it has to be aligned with the core business and corporate image of the company.
Important Questions To Ask Before Branding Your Startup
1. How Do You See Your Startup?
What you see your startup to be is important. It’s the vision of how you want it to look and feel.
2. If Branding Was Never An Option, How Would You Effectively Market Your Startup Without Branding?
This will help uncover any hidden biases that may be keeping you from seeing just how important branding is for your startup since almost every aspect of a business is front-facing and accessible in our day and age.
3. What Impact Do You Want To Make In The World?
The values that drive this desire for impact should be reflected in your branding and set the tone for how you communicate to your market.
4. Is Your Company Fun Or Serious, Outdated or Stoic? Should It Be?
There is no right or wrong answer, but giving the wrong impression to your most valuable segments of the market will almost certainly be a drain on your revenue forecasts.
5 More Questions Ask:
1. Is there an opportunity for untapped growth in the future, and how will branding contribute to it?
2. What do you mean to people who work with you and those who use your service or product?
3. Why did you start this company in the first place?
4. What do you want to accomplish in the next 2-5 years?
5. Who do you want to be as a company?
Think Long Term – On-Point Branding For Startups Is The Foundation For A Successful Marketing Strategy.
Your brand can make or break you. But the right branding for startups can trigger exponential growth if done correctly. This may not be that obvious if all you’re used to do is handing out your business cards, but the world is becoming more and more digitally focused. It’s important to put the right foot forward.
Companies need to understand their audience to ensure that they’re aligned with their values, expectations and tastes. Otherwise, you risk negative perceptions in your marketing efforts, which can negatively affect consumer perception of your startup for more than just a few years.
Do research on the people that you sell to. You need to know who they are and why they buy what they buy. By making sure you log user data i.e how you can improve the value proposition of your startup’s products or services, you’re solidifying the potential of your future growth strategies.
You will also find insightful information on what is going to influence people to choose your product over others and at the same time highlight what draws them in.
This is the same strategy that many businesses will use to create new ideas for products or services. It is also a great example of how to establish a strong foundation for building long term relationships with customers.
“Otherwise, you risk negative perceptions in your marketing efforts, which can negatively affect consumer perception of your startup for more than just a few years.”
Create A Brand Voice and Tone.
Once you know who your startup value proposition is for, how you speak and the tone you use will make a big difference in how the market perceives your brand. It will largely influence whether they choose to use your product or service.
To appeal to customers they need to relate to your startup. You have to deliver information in a way that is relevant and attractive to their perspective about a particular subject or topic.
Voice and tone of voice set your brand apart from other brands which will influence consumers’ perception as well as promote consistency within branding messaging moving forward.
It’s important that your brand personality conveys relatability because people like interacting with real humans rather than just a brand entity.
The Branding Of Your Startup Is About Consistency, But It Must Be Done Well.
It’s clear that branding for startups will be more successful when all branding messages are consistently applied throughout marketing channels and across all communication mediums that you’re going to use, whether this means a digital ad, a video on YouTube or your business cards.
Having a professional brand strategy is no guarantee for success but it helps with consistency which is imperative in startup branding.
This applies to all online/offline advertising, email marketing, as well as selling strategies such as calls to action used at events such as trade shows. They should all align with the brand message.
This prevents branding disasters such as inconsistent messaging which is so widespread in the startup community.
Adapting Your Brand Message.
You may need to adapt brand message based upon how the startup is progressing. Branding for startups needs constant re-evaluation & updates as a startup grows and evolves over time, so branding requirements change in response to such changes.
Maybe the audience that you need to market your startup to may change, which means branding needs to adapt accordingly. It may just be the logo or the visual style may require minor updating. This means you need to be ready to seek feedback that’s insightful and dynamic thinking when applying that feedback.
Remember, branding can be so much better than what most businesses do offhand. Unfortunately, some don’t seem to understand how powerful branding for startups or established businesses really is when done correctly, so they miss the opportunity to reap the huge short term and long term benefits.
What Kind Of Branding Strategy Is Required For Startups?
A good brand strategy can help to position value and reduce marketing campaign risks such as missing the mark with your audience. A brand strategy is a plan to grow awareness/credibility, build brand credibility & gain momentum for branding efforts.
It’s also a detailed roadmap that will help you stay on track with your expansion efforts and make decisions.
Branding strategy is not just one page or full of fluff – it should reflect the brand philosophy, outline how planning will happen, include goals that should be achieved.
Your brand strategy cannot be developed without understanding your startup’s unique value proposition. If all aspects of your startup are not considered in your branding plans then you haven’t done enough planning. Limiting your focus to what makes your startup different from the competition is a surface level assessment that will lead to your brand strategy becoming a waste of time.
That being said, a great branding strategy will contain an outline of your startup’s brand positioning so that as your company evolves, you still understand how your startup differs from competitors & what consumers will respond to. It should focus on what type of message it’s seeking to communicate.
“Limiting your focus to what makes your startup different from the competition is a surface level assessment that will lead to your brand strategy becoming a waste of time.”
Working With A Startup Branding Agency Can Fast Track Your Growth In Multiple Ways
Working with a branding agency for your startup isn’t for everyone. However, if you are considering doing so, also understand the following:
1. Having the correct knowledge
It’s important to have a professional branding agency with the correct knowledge when it comes down to developing your startup visual identity, brand story and brand guidelines or brand book.
2. Avoiding the cost of reworking weak execution
Startup branding agencies can make the entire process easier, by branding your startup in the correct way and providing you with a road map to follow. If it is handled correctly from the beginning then there will be little to no need to rework branding efforts at a later date. Redoing poorly executed branding is more often than not, far more costly for startup founders as attention is diverted from your operations to the branding services you’ve invested in for your startup.
3. Leveraging strategic outsider insights
A professional branding agency will provide a fresh pair of eyes that will help you process your positioning effectively and see ideas you didn’t think of yourself, whether it be for branding, copywriting or marketing.
4. Building scalable systems for application
A professional branding agency will help you develop your logo and any other type of assets for use in a way that is scalable and streamlines operational applications.
5. Cohesive messaging in your communications
A good branding agency will help refine your understanding of your target audience and ensure that everything from customer communication to website design has cohesive messaging.
6. Uncovering layers of depth to your value proposition
Startups needs to be acutely aware of their value proposition so they can successfully compete in today’s marketplace. A professional branding consultant has the expertise to identify what distinguishes them from other businesses, which will translate to a memorable experience for customers.
Finally, consider the following:
1. Which product or service should really get the branding treatment before anything else and why?
2. Is brand consistency important within my startup across all activities/functions (i.e. website, investor decks etc.)?
Making The Most Of A Startup Brand Strategy
Building an identity, reputation, persona and establishing branding for startups can take time and focus. You need to make sure that all the immediate stakeholders of your business are on the same page.
For startup companies with little funding or capital and little experience, this can be difficult. The best way to get started is to create a branding strategy that will guide your startup branding process and help lead you along the path to success.
Having a brand strategy already outlined is going to help you get branding right the first time. It will also help you stay on track with your branding efforts and make branding decisions based upon established protocols, instead of fanciful whims.
Quality Experiences For Your Customers
Most branding strategies will provide information about when, where, how & why branding should be applied so that each customer encounters the same quality of experience with you.
This will ensure that it has a ripple effect through all aspects of your startup’s operational plan: from product development to quality assurance, advertising and customer support.
Your brand determines the whole image of your company, so developing a consistent message for consumers is critical for startup success. If not handled correctly by a professional then good intentions can turn into branding flops.
As complex as startup branding is, it’s worth the effort and consistency is key. A branding company can tackle the hard work of launching your startup so that you can concentrate on what you do best.
Work With A Startup Branding Agency
As a leading branding agency and branding consultant, our branding agency Receiliart helps purpose-driven companies attract and retain highly profitable customers at scale. We do this by focusing on results-driven branding strategy and digital experience within our 5 pillar framework – BrandAscent™. If you’re ready or thinking to work with a branding agency that focuses on building market-leading brands with strategic brand strategy and digital experience, let’s talk.