Great branding is the foundation, heart, and soul of any good business, but many businesses take a very simplistic approach to branding. Driven by advice online they focus on the name and coming up with a clever logo.
Those are important but they’re only part of your overall startup branding as a whole, and they definitely shouldn’t be the first thing you knock off the to-do list.
Design plays a major part in attracting the attention of your audience, but only if the design is on point. Once you have their attention your branding should extend beyond, communicating a specific message and building trust. Your branding strategy should always be consistent at every customer touch point.
Canva lists three keys to good branding
- Good branding is trustworthy
- Good branding is memorable
- Good branding is flexible
When you picture some of the most well-known brands like Old Spice, Apple, or Coca-Cola it’s easy to recall their logo along with their actions, vision, and engagement.
To some degree or another, we imprint on the visual branding and apply a certain level of trust that we draw from when making purchases.
For a startup, that kind of trust and engagement is golden, and it’s attainable – but it takes time and a strategy to get there.
Certainly, more than just a logo.
Whether you’re gearing up for launch or a fresh startup, here are a few considerations for creating a brand with solid roots.
Start with your audience
No matter what you sell, or how popular it is, your audience doesn’t consist of everyone. A look at some of the top commodities is proof that – agriculture is driven by corn and plenty of people hate it (or are allergic to it).
There’s a global demand for oil as an energy and fuel source yet there were over 200,000 electric vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2017.
Your brand messaging, tone, personality, and visual elements should be unique to the specific audience you aim to serve.
Ideally, you’ll want to grow your reach to acquire more customers and win them from other verticals but as a startup you should start small. Focus your efforts to look to just a few segments of your audience. Dig to discover what they need and want, who they are, what’s important to them, how they act, and how they communicate (and how they like to be spoken to).
Look to the competitive landscape
It’s not always easy to pin down and get granular with your audience when you’re a fresh startup. A study a few years back found that 72% of marketers couldn’t identify their target audience online.
If you’re not sure where to start with defining your audience, or want to gather some more data, then look to your competitors. You can learn a ton about your audience as well as the industry by studying how the competition presents itself within the market. Pay close attention to how they engage customers, their copy, their social presence, imagery, etc.
A tool like Ahrefs is great for competitive research including examining content, backlinks, and social engagement.
Just be mindful not to mimic competitors. Instead, study the activity and try to understand their motivation as well as the customer sentiment in response to the competitor.
Identify what makes you unique
As a startup brand you have to quickly recognize that your customers don’t care about what you’re selling or your logo, brand name, building design, etc. They care about their problems and the solutions for those problems. They care about the experience you give them. They care about how you make them feel.
Your branding needs to represent those things your customer cares about and emphasize the value that you provide them. Specifically, the unique value and what sets you apart from competitors.
When your value proposition becomes part of your branding it becomes a memorable element your audience will recall when they recall your brand.
Don’t compete on price; that’s a race to the bottom along razor-thin margins. Instead look at how you can differentiate; if their brand is stiff and corporate then you could easily become a more personable brand. If your competition tends to be more conservative in a market with an edgier, younger audience then embrace that to create a more relatable and memorable brand.
Establish the personality of your brand
However, you choose to position your brand you need to play the part. Your brand is more than your logo, name, or written dialogue. If you want your brand to be trustworthy, memorable, and flexible then brand it as a person.
Ask yourself what kind of person your brand would/should be; how would your brand respond to your audience based on how they act and interact? What gender best represents your brand? What about the ‘age’ of your brand vs the age of your audience? You could even go so far as to give your brand a style and wardrobe.
Most of these elements may seem silly, and customers will likely never pick them out individually or even ask. Still, they help define the overall personality of your brand.
When the time comes for engaging your audience, your brand personality will matter, and it will be noticeable.
Define how your brand is applied
When all is said and done it’s time to decide how your branding is executed and applied. Your brand guidelines will define things like your colors and logo representation but also the personality and voice, the channels you’ll use for that voice, how to speak, how to write, and most importantly how to respond.
Now get your team on board to ensure consistency in your startup branding. Deliver a consistent and memorable experience and as you gain the customer’s trust you’ll reap the benefits including greater reach, authority and market share, and a lasting lift in customer retention.