How to build a strong brand for your startup
As a design agency, we constantly meet companies that are immensely helped by their brand and companies that are hindered by their brands. Having a strong visual language is important, but branding should extend beyond images and reflect your company values in any situation. To help you as a startup build a strong brand and grow your business more effectively, we have put together some tips to get you started.
Why bother with a brand?
The simple answer is — to be irreplaceable. To offer a good product or service is very important, but if this is all your customers know, they can easily change their preference when faced with multiple alternatives. The “Pepsi paradox” is a great way to wrap your head around this. When faced with labels and a brand, customers preferred Coca Cola, but when trying the drinks without labels, customers preferred the taste of Pepsi. This shows how our loyalty to a brand can outweigh the quality of the products. If you can get your customers to connect with your brand and “buy in to the lifestyle” you will have a much more loyal customer base. A fantastic example of this is the recent NutriBullet juice blender. The NutriBullet is not mechanically very different from other juice blenders but the branding appeals to lovers of healthy food and lifestyles. The strong emotional link between words like superfoods, healthy and NutriBullet means customers chose it over other juice blenders, regardless of functionality.
Start with your goals
The best way to think of your brand is as the personality of your company. This means everything from how you answer the phone to what your logo looks like. Because of this, the first step to a strong brand is to know your company goals. This should include the basics of your business plan such as your unique selling point, but also less official aspects such as company culture. Try to imagine the full journey of a customer. How will they find you and what impression will this give them? If you will have a storefront, will it feel soothing or make them excited? Answers to all these questions can help a designer and your team understand what the goal of all decisions are and help create a consistent impression.
Look around and find a new angle
Research is crucial for two reasons; appealing to your customers, and standing out from your competition. In most fields, you will have some form of direct or indirect competition. Direct competition are companies that sell a similar product or service to yours while indirect competition are companies that provide a different alternative all together. Consider a bag of crisps; all other brands will be the direct competition while candy might be an indirect competitor. It is important to be aware of who your competitors appeal to and why. Use this knowledge to find a gap in the market and create a brand that looks and feels different from what already exists.
There are no enemies in business
Asking advice from your competition might not be your first idea but it is one of the big untapped resources we always advise clients to look into. Most people remember what it feels like to start out and are happy to share some advice over coffee. Try to approach companies that appeal to similar customers to you but might occupy a different market, such as a different city.
Another great way to build your brand is to collaborate with companies that share your vision. This can help boost your exposure and people who like your collaborators mission might join yours.
Make it dynamic
With an endless number of platforms to display your brand, it is important to create visuals that can transform to fit the situation…while still looking like you. This can seem a bit abstract so lets imagine a social media company placing their logo in different scenarios:
We can see how having the right amount of flexibility in your brand can make you both credible and engaging depending on the situation. One of the early proponents of this is MTV that used their logo as a window to display different imagery for different shows. Other examples are IBM and the recent Hillary campaign logo.
After creating your brand, you should create brand guidelines for others to refer to. Think of this as the gate-keeper of your brand. This should be a document containing all the final visuals and a short explanation for why these are chosen.
Knowing the reason behind each decision means you can keep the core of the brand while changing details that no longer work. An example of this is the recent rebrand of Master Card. The colours and general shapes were maintained while, some of the details that no longer appeal to the aesthetic of their customers were removed.
This guide should not be static but change as your company grows and develops.
- Think about why you started the company and put this at the centre of your brand
- Learn from companies that are doing the right things
- Base your brand on solid research of the people who will buy your product or service
- Be excited about your brand! Nothing spreads the word like genuine enthusiasm!