Starting up a business is hard work, real hard work. Every day, the founders have to juggle mundane tasks: pitching investors, sweet talking new clients and managing contractors. With all these daily commitments constantly eating up your precious time, it leaves little room for the important stuff, “the reason” you started the business. By building the right foundation for a brand you can get better results and most importantly better engagement, promotion and user retention. In this article, I will harp over 5 things – “What, Why, How, When and Where” that need to be understood for Branding your startup.
1. What is Branding?
A brand is the association that your product, service or company has with people. A successful brand creates a strong association with a certain idea, word or feeling in people’s minds. Product features and attributes are what helps consumers develop a brand image of a company and the product, but remember that it is the customer that develops the brand for the start-up, not the other way around.
The first thing that comes in the mind of a common man when asked about branding is “the visual identity and communications” (including logo, colours, name, website etc.). Although the visual identity is an important part of a brand, there is much more to it than just good design. The best way to describe the difference is that good design is what gets people “through the door” and good branding is what “keeps them coming”.
2. Why does it matter?
Business branding is important to every business regardless of the size, because it communicates information about your business and product to the market. It will influence the cost of the product, packaging, marketing and advertising strategies, distribution channels, and more. Branding is all about establishing an identity, and becoming recognized for it. It allows you to charge more for your product, knowing that consumers will remain loyal, and buy it at the higher cost. That is the result of consistent reinforcing of the brand, which enables positive responses from the consumer.
The best example I’ve seen about the importance of branding comes from a Coca-Cola Executive:
“If Coca-Cola were to lose all of its production-related assets in a disaster, the company would survive. By contrast, if all consumers were to have a sudden lapse of memory and forget everything related to Coca-Cola, the company would go out of business.”
When successfully implemented, branding can give you a strategic position in the market, and eventually lead to increased profit. This is achieved as a result of the influx of new customers, and the continuing support of existing ones. Branding builds brand loyalty and value, attracts new customers, and makes you stand out from the competition. These are all key components in ensuring the continued profitability of your business.
3. How to brand your startup ?
The branding process is not complex in itself, but it does bring up difficult and complex discussions about who you are and what you want to achieve and how to express that through language.
“A business can’t grow unless it’s been properly defined–and that’s the first step to creating a lasting brand.”
The key to successful brand communications is a trifecta of brevity, clarity, and consistency.
Every brand is constituted of two important elements: – one is its identity and the other is its Image. The brand identity is how we as the brand owner see our brand. This is basically the part we develop. The brand image is how people perceive our brand.
A strong identity has one very important element. Focus. When building your brand you need to focus on who you are, what you do and why it matters. The reality is that there are too many options and you will be competing against companies with similar characteristics, qualities and features. By being focused you will be able to engage with your customers and start creating a tribe. This tribe is comprised of people that love you for who you are and what you stand for. They will do all the hard work for you and talk to their networks about you. They will trust you and they will disseminate this trust to others. Your brand is not your product.
Another key thing to brand the starting is “Crafting a Visual Identity”. The great thing about design is that if applied correctly it can make your business instantly emit the values you want to communicate–trust, gravitas, innovation, quirkiness, and luxury, whatever your brand identity dictates. As Steve Jobs once said
“Design is not just what it looks like or feels like. Design is how it works”
4. When should you start branding?
The initiation of branding need not wait for the product to be ready. The brand is not your product. A brand connects on an emotional level. It’s what you stand for, it’s the purpose. It’s not the features. Since it is working on an emotional level, the brand can be built to reflect and reinforce that. Once they trust the brand, they will talk about it. The only way to build this trust is by delivering on the brand’s promises and continuously meeting and exceeding their expectations.
Branding about a simple way to communicate to the world what your product does and who it is for. Not to forget: Amazon, Google , Facebook and virtually every tech company you can think of became successful with no traditional marketing — just good PR, viral marketing, and word-of-mouth.
5. Where to start from?
Start-ups actually start positioning and branding themselves from the first time they ask a friend or family member to support their idea. A good entrepreneur spends as much time branding his business as he does developing his business plan, choosing a market and picking a location. Yet plan your marketing and branding strategies targeting the appropriate customers.
In the technology space, the most important thing is the product. If you have a great product that meets real user needs the product will sell itself, perfect example would be Instagram.
Branding is fundamental, basic and essential. Building brands builds incredible value for companies and corporations. Brands are more important today than in the past simple because the world has come online and there are many new markets and a growing middle class in places like India, China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia and in many more places where consumers buy brands.
I would conclude by saying “Creating a new vibrant brand is a challenge which requires a sophisticated strategy. It is not just about a product and a name. It’s about a lot more.”