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Branding for Startups: Build a Brand Before It’s Too Late

Branding for startups - Boosting Startup by Yogi D

In the initial stages of startup development, the majority of entrepreneurs are preoccupied not with the product itself, but rather with ways to find the audience, fulfill their needs, and make it fast. This is a justifiable strategy. If you’re a novice entrepreneur, chances are that you don’t have enough time and money to do everything at once. One of the biggest challenges of startups, especially the tech ones, is competition. It’s more important to find the product-market fit before the clock runs out. You’re fighting for the survival of the business. But the urgency is not enough.
At a certain point, you will have to create a brand identity to attract potential investors and clients. And because of the fierce competition, it should be done at a much earlier step than it used to be. Branding helps get the idea of your product. Don’t deprive yourself of a chance to properly present your product. No “we’ll do it later”. Nothing is more permanent than the temporary. For a startup, it’s important to find a branding company that will take care of everything, because branding for startups is not as easy as it seems. 
Leave it to the professionals. 

Branding strategy for startups

Logo Style Guide by Shakuro

Read on to know how branding can act as a support for a business, what’s unique about startup branding, when to do it, and what are some of the best startup branding advice.

What is branding and why it’s important for startups

Startups are different from traditional businesses in a way that they are more fluid. In the process of searching for a viable business model, the target audience and the product functionality may change several times. 
The startup characteristics are:

  • An idea is unique and new to the market.
  • Production, financial and human resources are limited.
  • The development and promotion processes are rapid.

You know how often startups lack proper planning and investments. That is why one out of three startups fails in the first two years of its existence. But there is a way to fix the situation and raise the chances for success. Branding is a process of multi-factor studying of the market, consumers, niches, product characteristics that can act as magnets. Paying attention only to a quick launch can lead to multiple reconsiderations during the development process resulting in a product not having a unified image. The chaotic nature of development raises the chances of failure. Such products usually vanish or get soaked in by big corporations and disappear from the market. End of story.
For some entrepreneurs, it’s a legitimate business strategy. Although, if you care about your creation, you want other people to care about it too. The aim is to develop a startup as a product with a full life-cycle. It’s a good idea to think about startup branding in advance to avoid unnecessary expenses on marketing. The following tips may help you with that. 
Don’t leave it to chance.

Startup branding example

Jabu Coffee Branding by Tessa Kleingeld

Basic advice on brand strategy for startups

The number of steps to be taken during the startup branding process depends on the specific characteristics of a given company and product, but like many other branding agencies, we at Shakuro employ the 3-phase branding process: Discovery, Logo Design, and Brand Applications.
During the Discovery we find out the specifics of a business, its goals, and limitations. These valuable insights then get translated into a Creative Brief, based on which we compose a set of Stylescapes. Then follows the stage of Logo Design and the formation of a comprehensive Brand Style Guide containing all the brand attributes like logo marks, wordmarks, typefaces, color palettes, app icons, etc. And finally comes the Brand application step that is the rollout of your brand on all of your marketing materials.
However many steps and iterations the final process can take, the main idea is to present your product the best way possible, just as you see it. The best way to achieve it is to find a suitable branding company and form a relationship using your knowledge about the product and company and their professional expertise and services. 
That is why you should be aware of the startup branding tips on how to build a brand to make the most of it.

Start with a mission and purpose

Your strategies and decisions should be supported by the brand’s mission. A well-defined identity means that investors know exactly what the company is and how it positions itself on the market. Not only the product has a meaning, but also the company’s culture and ideals. The best idea is to see how a product solves people’s problems and make it it’s core identity. What’s so special about your product? Put this into your purpose.
Apart from making use of branding agency services in general, you should conduct customer surveys by asking your customers questions like why they use your product and not your competitors’. Here’s where an MVP will be of use. In most cases, there’s no way you can figure out the real mission of your startup if you have no product or client’s feedback.

Select membership card old design

An old design of the Meet Select membership card. Image:

Select membership card new design by Shakuro

Shakuro’s redesign of the membership card better conveys the company’s air of luxury and a private club community.

Find a brand personality

Brand personality is a set of human qualities and characteristics attributed to a certain brand. In other words, every brand is like a person. A brand must have a personality, i.e. a set of distinctive features, for example, in communications, relations with consumers, etc. It makes a brand what it is and also gives a better way to introduce new properties or products.
The main difference is determined by the dominant trait, on which the rest is built. For example, when you say, “this guy is resolute”. It doesn’t mean that he cannot be caring at the same time. But it shapes his image and you get the picture.
It’s easier for a brand with an established personality to fight for the attention of the customer. Personality means giving your company a unique voice. Otherwise, a failure to connect ends in crash-landed startups. If you don’t make an effort, the company without a personality would be regarded as a faceless blob, and people would be only too quick to endow it with characteristics of their choice. 
Take control.

Create a powerful visual identity

Visual identity sells the product and the company. Many novice entrepreneurs mistakenly think that a brand and a logo are the same things. While visual identity is about creating a visual style that reflects your product, company, and story. It’s a system that forms an idea of a company or product. A logo is a part of this system acting as its symbol.
Logo as a unique graphic solution and the visual embodiment of your brand. It is the font, color, and graphic solution of the logo that will largely determine the entire visual image of your business, its corporate identity, interior design, packaging design, and much more.
Once the logo design is ready, you will have to create a matching stationery design, print materials, and social media branding. A brand book is created to help visualize it. Make sure that it clarifies how your logo and other visual elements are presented in different environments. Nothing looks more unprofessional than a chaotic visual identity.

Branding advice for startups - consistency

The Lonely Walls visual elements in different environments. Designed by Shakuro

Maximize your visibility: website and social media

Let’s imagine that you have a product and there have been 17 orders this month, but how to expand further? Whatever you have in mind, it’s rather difficult to promote a product without a website. Having a good website is a prerequisite for any kind of business nowadays, but it’s especially important for startups. It’s crucial to have a great web presence, otherwise, the prospective investors won’t regard your venture as a reliable one. 
The main idea is spreading the word. The website is the first people would look for when hearing about a new startup. Otherwise, how would they know in more detail who you are and what is it that you do? You need to drive potential customers to your website and get leads.
Social media
In addition to launching a website, it’s a good idea to invest in social media. 90% of Americans between 18 and 29 use social media. Therefore, social networks are an ideal place for brand and business development, building long-term relationships with customers and potential buyers.

  • Develop a clear plan and strategy. You need to understand and define the goals and objectives of your presence in social networks. 
  • Find the platforms with your target audience.
  • Explore your competitors. Gather all the information about how they position themselves and how they behave on social networks.
  • Make your account engaging: write useful content, provide links, add pictures, and videos.
  • Communicate. The meaning of social networks is in relationship-building. Communication in social networks is based on dialogue.

Choose a good startup name

The list of weird or inappropriate startup names is still growing, though in recent years founders started leaning towards less unusual-sounding choices. Think hard and come up with a catchy, simple, and easy to remember name that doesn’t consist of a large number of syllables. Your name should help you stand out from the crowd, tell the world what you’re made of, and make an impression.
If you are the founder of a startup, and you told me the name of your company, I should be able to remember it, know how to spell it, and this name should not sound, for example, like a “bike”. Because if I’ll google something like that, it’s obvious that the search engine will dump a thousand links on me, but not the one leading to your website.

Branding tips for startups name

Stable Logo Final Version by Aldo Hysenaj

Sell a story

One day, after a long day at the University of California Mixed Reality (MXR) Laboratory, Palmer Luckey went to the garage to try and build the future of virtual reality. At first, he…
See what’s happening? This is the beginning of the Oculus VR founder’s story. And at once it becomes interesting to know what exactly happened that day.
Start with a story as an example. A brand legend can arouse interest and emotions. People really like stories. At the same time, they do not like to be sold at all. 
Scientists have established: our brain needs stories. Various narratives not only excite our senses but also stimulate the brain. The customers attracted with the help of a story will be with you for a long time.

Don’t be afraid to change

Nailing your brand, your message, and your story is essential but you need to be ready to adapt. Start small, your story can be very simple. Be ready to adapt and change it as you get feedback from your customers. You’ll find over time that your identity gets its depth from exposure to customers and their feedback.
Be prepared to audit and make adjustments. As a company evolves and finds new niches, audiences, and opportunities, it evolves along with it. Rebranding is a natural process. The main idea is to have something to rebrand in the first place.

Be honest 

The difficulty in managing the brand lies in the fact that, as an entrepreneur, you really can’t control everything. A lot of things are in the hands of your customers. Any wrong step can lead to a media storm and cast a shadow on your brand.
In case something goes wrong, how can you handle it? Talk to your audience: “Yes, we have made a mistake. Here’s what we are doing to fix it.” But of correcting your own mistakes, be sure to consult with experts so that your actions do not become another blunder.
Most importantly, do not take criticism too much to heart. It’s understandable after putting so much effort into creating a product. But like with any other thing in life, criticism is not a bad thing, it’s a guiding light and the chance to learn something new.

When to start branding a startup

While it’s true that at the early stages of development branding for startup might not be a priority, after the formation stage and the first successful sales, it’s time to brand a startup.
It will secure the market segment, as well as improve the product/company awareness and help to protect it from competitor attacks.

Branding is not an unnecessary expense, it’s your asset

It’s a shame when a successful startup is failing and the marketing budget is going down the drain because of the poor brand image. Every successful product on the market is bound to be copied, so it’s not enough to be quick. The idea is to transform a startup into a mass-market product. Strong branding for startups can help you with that. Here’s where you can benefit from our branding services that will help you stand out from the crowd. This year, Shakuro has been named one of the Top Creative Agencies Of 2020 according to DesignRush.
Your branding is built on how you represent what you do to the market. How you communicate. How you look. Branding is not the result of what you do, it’s also the result of how others feel about what you do.

“Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.” 

— Jeff Bezos, Amazon

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Written by Kate Shokurova

May 05, 2020

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