When asked about branding, many small business owners reply with some confusion about what a brand actually is. Most list well-known brands as examples. Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Visa generally top the list. Each brand has an easily recognizable logo, colours, and even the newest entrepreneurs can explain what these companies do. As a result, brands are often (wrongly) thought of in terms of what Karen LeLand refers to as the 3 “L’s”: Logo, Line (tagline), and Look (website and marketing materials).
What is a brand?
A brand does not depend on the size of your company or how long you have been in business. Your brand is a set of expectations. Your brand makes a promise to your customer. It explains to them what to expect from you, especially as it differentiates you from your competitors.
As a start-up, your brand begins with who you are. It is the essence of you and your organization. How you live out your values, follow your passion, and deliver on your promises is what creates the brand. Every time an individual encounters your brand a lasting impression is made, positively or negatively.
Formulating a deliberate and comprehensive brand strategy allows you to efficiently manage the distinct brand image you want to create in the minds of staff and current and potential customers.
A brand is far more than just an identifying name, logo, tag line, font, website, social media masthead, and jingle used to distinguish your company from the rest. Your brand is the sum total of these elements working together to create a cohesive brand identity.
Why branding is so important for start-ups
Branding a business well takes time. There are no short-cuts. Too often new businesses concentrate all their initial energies on sales and marketing tactics, rather than taking the time to design a robust brand strategy that craft those tactics for precision. The result is frequently wasted money, wasted time, and slow market penetration. Whether you’re a start-up or more established business, branding requires the same level of importance so you can:
Define a unique identity that sets you apart from the competition
Set yourself up for market longevity
Resolve customer issues
Escalate employee engagement
Branding is even more important for start-ups in order to overcome initial inertia, establish credibility among consumers, and gain sustainable traction in the market.
How to brand your start-up
The first step to branding your start-up is to see through the fog of website and graphic design offers claiming to do brand strategy, but in reality provide you with marketing strategies and tools. While these agencies are essential to your brand’s success, and they may deliver excellent brand tactics like logos, websites, social media mastheads, etc., you need to realize brand strategy is more than that.
As Seth Godin puts it, A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand.1
The next step is to go through a process where you can uncover and articulate the essential elements of your brand – your purpose for existing, the promise you make to customers, the position you will secure in the marketplace, the way your brand will look, feel and sound, the differentiators that make you stand apart from the competition, and the experience you will deliver, to name a few.
Once you have these brand pillars established, the final step is to ensure the brand is lived out authentically by every staff member and that you remain obsessively consistent with your messaging, visuals, and customer experience.
Every successful brand pays attention to their strategy. And with that being said, you need to ensure as a start-up you're putting in the effort today to create a strong brand that will result in sustained customer acquisition and business longevity. Investing in your brand strategy at the beginning is a wise move. Thankfully, Bradbury Brand Experts are here to help.
1. Seth Godin. Define Brand. https://seths.blog/2009/12/define-brand/