6 Key Steps To Brand Your Startup For Success
With millions of businesses worldwide trying to make a name for themselves, creating strong, impactful and consistent branding for any startup business is more important than ever. It can be one of the key attributes of success or failure, but what is branding? Your brand is what exists in the mind of your customer when they think of you. Therefore, a strong brand should reflect your key values, practices and ultimately reflect the reason why you embarked on this journey in the first place!
One thing all startups have in common is competition. In order to combat this they need to set themselves apart using a variety of methods such as pricing, quality and customer service. However, much of this will serve for little if their branding is poor or even non-existent. Distinctive and creative branding can differentiate a startup and allow them to standout among their peers. Many startups can be reluctant to invest in their branding – in fact it is usually their last priority when it comes to their initial investments. Try to avoid falling into this trap of focusing on quick wins and instead focus on building solid long-term foundations on which your brand can thrive. In the words of graphic designer Paul Rand, “Design is the silent ambassador of your brand”.
Your brand is not just your product, logo, website or your name. In fact your brand is much more than that, it’s that hard to define feeling that separates the big players from the rest of the competition. So in order to help you unravel how these brands are created, we’ve broken branding into 6 key stages. Follow these steps when establishing your branding to ensure that you’re building a strong platform that will allow your business to flourish. If this all sounds like too much feel free to contact us for a chat, no matter where you are in your journey, we would love to help! Don’t worry a phone call or email is free, we do not charge for consultations. In the meantime here’s what you need to know…
Before you begin to create your branding you must create a strategy that clearly outlines your goals and exactly how you are going to achieve them. Its important to first understand what a brand is and what it takes to create one. To do this you need to evaluate your brands core values, voice and brand messaging architecture, as your visual design will be a result of these elements. Another important element that is often overlooked is domain name registration. Addressing this at the beginning of your endeavor can save you from a nightmare situation down the line. The earlier you can register the better. Along with domain registration comes trademarking and patenting. This can seem intimidating for startups but addressing these and educating yourself early on could save you endless time and money in the future.
Once you have decided on these, you should look for a graphic designer that will take your values and creatively interrupt them to create your unique branding. As the world is becoming increasingly visual it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd but enlisting the help of a visual communicator (aka graphic designer) to create compelling and impressive branding is the way to do just that. However, creating a logo and colour palette alone do not make a brand identity, instead you need to create a visual language that can be applied to everything from your website and social media all the way through to your branded packaging. Elements of a brand identity include logo, colours, typography, templates, photography, illustration, video and motion, web design and iconography.Selecting the right graphic designer may be one of the most important steps to ensure your brand is conveyed in the best possible way. Choosing a designer who understands what you’re about and who takes the time to understand your brand is paramount. When they understand you, they will be able to convey your brand powerfully and in a way that evokes interest and leaves an impact on your customers.
Below is an example of a new logo that our team created for Navy Oak, a digital marketing agency specialising in helping companies in the agribusiness sector grow. We created a distinctive brand identity that really illustrated this brands’ core values, you can have a look here.
The navy background contrast the white and orange logo so it can immediately catch the viewer’s attention. Traditionally business cards tend to be landscape, however we wanted something a little different for Navy Oak so we opted for a portrait style to add a unique element, thus standing out from their competitors. The tagline offers a brief explanation of the business, making it more memorable for the customer. The cards were given a unique “soft touch” finish, which adds some tactility.
Once you have completed the first stage of the brand creation process, you should have received several options from your graphic designer. How can you be sure any of these brand identity options are effective? A strong brand identity needs to communicate effectively with your team internally and to all of the customers who your brand will interact with. You should assess these options that you have received based on several factors. Below are some good indicators to assess these options against:
- Distinct – Does it stand out among your competitors and catch your attention? Does your customer immediately understand what you do and what you are about? It is imperative that your customer instantly recognises what you are providing for them and how it will benefit them.
- Memorable – Does it have a visual impact? Will your customer remember your brand once they leave your site? Compelling branding should be memorable to your target audience.
- Scalable & Flexible – Can this branding grow and develop with you? Can this carry through from packaging to online to social media? This is something that many startups may overlook in the beginning of their journey as they may fail to anticipate the potential for growth in the future, it is always important to keep this in mind as you design your brand, always allow room to grow!
- Cohesive – Do all elements tie together and compliment the overall brand identity? You want to guide your customer seamlessly through all elements of your branding wherever they encounter it.
- Easy to apply – Is it easy to apply to all elements of the business? Your brand identity should be easy to apply to your social media, point of sale, packaging, website and anything you may think of expanding into in the future.
Challenge yourself and really think through these questions with your core brand values front of mind, if any of the above elements are missing it may be challenging for your brand to continue to grow to its true potential. Once you are satisfied that at least one of these options meets all of the above criteria then you can progress to the next stage with your graphic designer.
Launching a new brand can be a time and cost intensive process. In order to ensure this time and money doesn’t go to waste, it is essential that your brand is received as you intend it to be before you go all in and launch to market. Brand launch failures can be due to a multitude of factors but predominantly as a result of branding or messaging not aligning with the customers, or messaging not landing as it was intended. With so much at stake, how can these vital mistakes be avoided? This can be avoided by using pre-launch testing to evaluate how your new brand will be perceived. Testing provides a crucial opportunity to make adjustments and incorporate the feedback received.
As mentioned in the introduction, limited budgets can be a major challenge for many startups, as a result testing can be a tempting step to skip. However, this may be one of the most vital stages of the branding process. There are numerous methods of testing ranging across all budgets. Testing can be as basic as gathering feedback from family and friends all the way to deploying a marketing team to gain face-to-face feedback. Examples of the range of testing methods available include:
- Attitude and usage survey – The vast majority of market research begins with discussing your idea with people that surround you in your daily life. This can range from an informal conversation in a café all the way through to brainstorming sessions or online surveys. Either way the main goal remains the same – to gather the best ideas to enhance your product/service and to get a feel for whether or not your idea has real world potential.
- Focus groups – After gathering feedback from family and friends, you should aim to move outside of these circles. You should begin to gather opinions of people who you do not have a relationship with to ensure your feedback is as honest and transparent as possible. A focus group is the perfect next step for this. Preferably, the focus group would be comprised of a combination of members of the general public ranging across all demographics. Social media can be a great platform to recruit focus group volunteers. The idea behind this is to begin to refine your creation so that it is suitable to be unveiled to the general public at large.
- Message testing – The goal of message testing is to find out which messages resonate with your target market, what is perceived as credible and what messaging aligns with your core brand values. A/B testing can be a great method to use for this. For example, participants can be given a background to your brands core values and identity. They will then be presented with message A and message B and asked which one resonates the most with your brand. Other examples of messages that can be asked during this testing could be:
Which message is best aligned with our customer needs?
Which message is most suitable to be aligned with our overall branding and core values?
Which message will differentiate us from our competitors?
- Package Testing – If you’re creating a physical product you should create a prototype and branded packaging to allow your potential customers to test it out and give you feedback on both design and functionality. This works the same way for a service, if you are creating an online business or mobile app create and design a simple version so that people can provide thoughts on the interface, ease of use, design and overall look and feel.
- Online Testing – You have an unlimited pool of resources online whereby you can test your concept. These include online forums, Google insights, Google trends and Google keyword planner to name a few. These will give you an insight into how often people are searching for specific terms related to your new product or service which can be extremely useful to help map out how to brand and market your concept.
The key is to use all of this feedback to your advantage, don’t dismiss or be discouraged by criticism without strongly considering it. If multiple testers are providing the same feedback, it’s highly likely the overall market will agree.
4. Deciding Your New Brand Identity
Upon completion of these above steps you should now be ready to decide on all the elements of your new brand identity. When communicated with your graphic designer, they should provide you with your ‘brand bible’ which will clearly outline the below elements of your new branding:
- Brand values – how your brand story and values will be presented including what you stand for and how you deliver on these values.
- Logo – the different variations of how your logo can be used including colour variations and sizing. Equally important is how your logo should not be used!
- Tagline – how your tagline will be presented in combination with your logo.
- Colour palettes – this should include your parent brand colour palette as well as sub brand colour palettes to ensure that you stay consistent with all colours used across branding.
- Typography – your designer should supply you with the fonts that you should use for all branded communications and how to use them.
- Photography style – you should be provided with a photography style and all photos associated with your branded should remain within this style.
- Iconography – you should be given a library of icons that you can use when creating any branded communications.
- Tone of voice – your designer should clearly outline your new tone of voice, which should be consistent on all branded communications across all platforms.
- Universal grid system – This will serve as a way of creating consistency when new designs are created for brochure, flyers, adverts and all new materials.
You will now be able to apply your new brand identity to any element of the business using your new ‘brand bible’ as your guideline.
5. Implementing Your Brand Identity
Now that you are equipped with all of your detailed brand guidelines, you are ready to apply it to tangible materials. You can begin to decide what specific marketing material that you require such as packaging, point of sale, social media content and websites. Promotional clothing can be a very cost effective way for a startup to build reputation, motivate employees, self promote and overall give a professional and established look and feel. These materials should be guided by your business goals but like everything, these are budget dependent.
Allowing sufficient time and money for this stage is vital. Planning and preempting what you require and setting realistic expectations will ensure that your brand launch goes to plan. Think in terms of logistics and don’t underestimate the time that seemingly ‘small’ decisions and changes can take. That said, you shouldn’t try to rush these, it is really worth taking the time to revise these details thoroughly and being certain that they align with your branding. If this process is rushed, you run the risk of ultimately redoing them further down the line. You want to be sure everything compliments your new branding and showcases your new product or service in the way it deserves.
Now you have uncovered your new brand strategy, assessed your options, successfully created distinctive branding and developed your materials, it is now time to launch! Your new audience needs to hear about what you have to offer repeatedly so that they clearly understand what your brand stands for and how it can help them. Here are some factors that we think are critical to a successful brand launch:
- Develop a launch communications plan – how and where will you launch.
- Define your messages and tailor them to each audience – ensure your message resonates with your target market and be confident that your creative delivers the correct message.
- Be everywhere your audience is – advertise through multiple touch points to ensure your message is reinforced.
- Leverage key industry events – if there are any industry events on in your area be sure to have an active presence there and get your brand known.
- Sustain communication over time – consistency and repetition is key.
- Measure your success – test brand perceptions post launch to ensure you’re delivering on your promise.
- Secure adequate budget – make sure you have enough budget to gain exposure and presence that you need.
- Enlist a public relations company – budget dependent, enlisting a PR company can help to get your business off the ground and in the hands of your target market very quickly and effectively.
If your budget is restricted, digital marketing can be the perfect platform to launch a new brand for startups. It can be extremely budget friendly in comparison to traditional forms of advertising. You can reach a wider audience for a smaller cost and generally speaking the audience you are reaching are more engaged as you can specifically target them based on demographics.
It can be hard to gage what you’re doing right (and not so right) without using tracking performance tools such as Google Analytics, surveys, comments and social media engagement. These tools allow you to monitor your brand presence and get a sense of how people are interacting with your new presence. This gives you a golden opportunity to implement these key changes to continue to improve and strengthen your brand identity.
Do You Feel Ready To Brand Your Startup?
Do you feel better informed about how to begin your journey to building beautiful branding? Lets recap on the key steps to creating effective branding;
- Deciding your new brand identity
- Implementing your brand identity
Upon completion of all the above steps you may be disheartened to learn that there are similar products and services available on the market. Don’t be alarmed, there will always be competition in one form or another! In fact, it should be exciting to discover that your idea has competition, it means that there is a real life need and desire for what you are planning to provide. Completing the above 6 steps will be more important than ever to ensure that you have strong compelling branding that will stand up to these competitors. This will give your new and exciting endeavor the chance it deserves to succeed.
Creating a memorable brand requires consistent use of font, colour, imagery and language. It can sound like a lot but the results are beyond rewarding. When a customer instantly recognises who you are and what you stand for when they see your branding, you know you’ve created something great! So, keep in mind creating a strong, creative and impactful brand can be one of the most significant things you can do for your new or existing business. It can transform your business from a small player to a highly successful competitor.
If you don’t know where to begin, have hit a branding roadblock or anything in-between give us a call or drop us an email. Our local team would be more than happy to help you out! Don’t worry – contacting us by phone or email is free, we don’t charge for consultations. We have ample experience in brand identity creation, but don’t just take our word for it, have a look at some of our previous projects here.
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