Find out why you should develop your branding strategy – and not just your logo – right at the start of your business journey.
Welcome to the roller coaster world of the start-up, where intoxicating heights, a few ‘Auweia’ moments and many life-changing experiences are guaranteed.
But amid all of the turmoil of growth and development every startup goes through, there is one constant that can help your business stay focused and maintain its integrity and that is your brand.
What exactly is a brand?
According to marketing guru Seth Godin , a brand is:
“The fabric of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, explain consumers’ decision to choose a particular product or service.”
In other words, your brand exists in your customers’ minds and is a result of everything your company does that makes an impression on them.
A strong brand is by no means just a superficial question of colors and design; it runs through your entire company like DNA. It reflects and unites your values, your practices and your motivation, everything for which you embarked on this epic journey in the first place.
Here are 7 tips for first time companies thinking about their brand.
1. Prioritize your brand from day one
When you’re in the early stages of your start-up, a branding strategy can seem like a minor nice-to-have while you focus on selling products and generating income to prove your worth to investors.
But as this advice on branding for small businesses explains, the essence of your brand shouldn’t be overlooked, especially at the critical early stage.
Brands have a tendency to show up and develop unplanned unless you take the effort to define and consciously control them. It’s a lot easier when your company is just starting out and your team is small and open to new ideas.
The development of a coherent brand is not just about future security. It can also help you stand out from the crowd in a crowded market and make your business more memorable to potential customers from day one.
2. Define what influences your brand
Your brand is your business personality, and just like a human personality, it is expressed in a variety of ways. It is reflected in your logo, your brand colours, your graphic style and your tone of voice. Then there are your brand values - the traits that characterize how you run your business and how the people in your company think, feel, and act.
Of course, you are not a robot, which means your brand will be nuanced and changing as it reflects the people and personalities that make up your small business. It can help to think of your brand as a summary or description of who you are when you are at your best, rather than a set of rules for who you should be at all times.
3. Think about your target audience
Your brand has both an internal and an external role. On the internal side, it helps to unite your business goals and give employees a sense of connectedness and motivation. Externally, your brand determines how your company is perceived in the minds of your target group.
You probably already have an idea of what kind of people will be interested in your products, especially if you recently developed a business plan. These people will make up a large part of your target audience.
However, there are also some audiences that you may not have thought of. This could include people who might like to work for your company and are more interested in how you run your business and what kind of skills you use than on your products. Then there are the journalists, bloggers and influencers who might report about your company in an article or would like to create content with you.
There will also be prospects that you may not necessarily be able to predict when you get started. Customers may find ways to benefit from your products and services that you did not originally intend, so it is important to be open-minded and have an open ear to make sure you have an up-to-date picture of your brand’s various audiences to keep.
4. Assess your brand from an objective point of view
Objectivity is an important quality for startups, Hubspot points out. It’s easy to fall in love with the idea behind your business and ignore other reactions from people such as confusion (‘what is this?’), Failure to see the benefits (‘why do I need it?’), And distrust (‘who are these people at all? ‘).
It’s crucial to focus on the overall brand experience, including product concept, sales channel, and interactions with your marketing channels, to get it right.
5. Link branding strategy and marketing
Your marketing strategy and branding are naturally intertwined, so it’s a good idea to develop the two in parallel when you get started. As a small business, you have a natural advantage here because you have fewer staff and are more agile compared to a larger company – they all fit in a single meeting room to start with.
Together you need to think about the marketing channels you will be using, e.g. social media platforms, email, website, events, lectures or content management, and what role they will play in your plans. Each of these channels will express your brand and generate useful information about how your company is perceived by your audience.
Marketing can affect how your brand comes across in many ways. For example, through the design of your marketing materials, the frequency of different types of communications such as emails or tweets, the topics you cover in content marketing activities such as a blog or video channel, and the tone of voice you use.
Marketing channels can also take on a brand management role. Increasing brand awareness, the level of understanding consumers have of your brand and how they interpret it, is often a strategic tool for new businesses. That is something that you can gauge by listening to your target audience through conversational channels like social media.
6. Differentiate your brand from the competition
Your brand reflects you as a company, so it is unique. But it cannot be denied that certain industries are developing a common ‘brand language’ in which certain colors, fonts, illustration styles or even a tone of voice are typical for many different companies.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it is definitely something that you should be clear about and make a conscious decision. You have to decide whether you want to follow the trend of your industry or go out of the ordinary with something really unique.
If you are a design company, you will also work with customer brands and interpret them in your own style. To find the right balance between your own style and that of your clients.
7. Use audits to keep your brand in tip top shape
After you’ve developed your brand, and once your business has been up and running for a while, it’s a good idea to conduct a brand audit regularly every six months or once a year. A brand audit is an internal process that helps you keep track of how consistent your brand is, how well it aligns with your business style, and how it is perceived by your customers.
After all, your brand reflects how you do things and if all goes well your start-up will thrive and be bigger, stronger and brighter within a year.