4+ Brand Identity Tips For Startups
In the past year I came to realize the need of educating founders about the importance of branding and how it should be used, that is why I’ve condensed the most important notions into these 4+ brand identity tips for startups.
The world we live in today is much different than that of a decade ago. Technological advancement in general and the internet specifically have made starting a business much easier, or at least that’s what it might seem like at first glance. The reality is that although the barrier of entry is much lower now, the issues that most small businesses face at launch still persist, things like disappointing sales numbers or high churn rates have not vanished overnight.
Unfortunately a lot of young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs jump on the first opportunity they see – in most cases they recognize a trend they can take advantage of or spot a product they can easily sell – and because they can set up their business in a few clicks, they make the mistake of disregarding potential problems they might face.
One very important aspect of a successful business that most of these entrepreneurs overlook is Brand Identity, in this article we will dig into how a lack of Brand Identity can lead to serious business problems, we will also show you the advantages of having a strong and memorable Brand and why it should be on your priority list even if you are an early stage startup.
4+ Brand Identity Tips For Startups
What Is Brand Identity?
Let’s start first by defining what a Brand is because depending on who you ask, the term Brand seems to have many different definitions that don’t necessarily mean the same thing. I personally like this quote from Tesla’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk “Brand is just perception, and perception will match reality over time”. From all my years of being a Branding Strategist, this definition seems to be the most accurate and let me explain why. No one is able to experience reality as it is, we all have a filter that is our perception.
This means that your Brand is not what you claim it is but actually what people see it as. Let me simplify this further, the following analogy is what we use to water down this concept for all of our clients and it goes something like this: “A company is similar to a person in a lot of ways. The logo is its face and it has basic features which can communicate emotions, but not much else.
The visual identity system that consists of a Brand’s colors, typography, graphical elements, photography style etc. would be the equivalent of a fashion style that can tell you more about the personality of the company but it too is limited. Now comes strategy, an essential component that gives guidance and direction to everything that the Brand does not unlike a person’s brain.
All these elements are equally important for a Brand to be complete, because a face without the person behind it is just a mask, and if you glued a mask on an inanimate object that won’t magically make it come to life.” What Elon Musk understands is that you have to use everything you can to control people’s perception of your company because whether you like it or not, that perception will become reality, in a lot of cases failing at that leads a lot of companies to developing what we call the B.E.C syndrome which stands for Big Evil Corporation.
Problems Caused By Lack Of Brand Identity
The following are the three main issues that we see startups struggling with in their early stages. All of them can turn what seemed easy at first into an impossible task.
- Inconsistency: If you don’t have a precis plan that you can follow, your company might look different to different people from one touch point to another. This will make it extremely hard to build Brand recognition which we all know is a very valuable asset to have, not to mention that without it is pretty much impossible to benefit from organic growth because no one will remember your Brand enough to bring it up in a casual conversation.
- Weak Communication: It’s not a mystery that if you want to get a message across effectively, you must pay close attention to who you are talking to and adjust your language (verbal or visual) accordingly. What happens though when you don’t spend enough time working on your Brand, is that you end up with an unclear tone of voice that can cause confusion around your identity thus hurting your image and people’s perception of your company which as I pointed out earlier is very important.
- Failure To Differentiate: The fact that starting a business is much easier nowadays is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Competition is necessary but let’s be honest, we all want to be on top of it. Well I hate to break it to you but unless you have a unique Brand that sets you apart, anyone can deliver a better, cheaper, or easier solution. The only thing no one can beat you at is your identity and the most logical business advice in this case would be to double down on the one advantage that no else has.
Any one of these factors can lead to the common road bumps mentioned in the introduction, those frustrating failures that new businesses face at launch. Let’s take low sales as an example, of course there are many reasons why you could be facing this problem, but let’s assume that you have perfected every aspect of your business except that of Brand Identity, How could that lead to the disappointing sales numbers you are seeing?
The explanation is fairly simple, weak communication of your Brand’s vision and values prevents your audience from building a strong bond with your company, which means inferior life time value and a difficulty to grow organically. A similar outcome can be reached if you fail to differentiate your company from competitors, not having a strong Brand Identity means that it’s harder to convince people that they should buy from you instead of another company.
Advantages Of A Strong Brand Identity
Other than the fact that your business won’t have to deal with the issues that we just talked about, there are countless advantages to getting your Branding right early on. These are our top three.
- High ROI: Branding is an investment that pays big dividends in the long run. Whether it’s through the Auto-Repurchase phenomenon which is when people are so connected to your Brand that they buy whatever you want to sell them that without question, or in the form of passive revenue from licensing your brand to other businesses to put on their products or services, if you do it correctly you stand to make a lot of money from your Brand.
- Leaving A Legacy: It’s not all about the money, all successful businesses solve real problems and in a lot of cases make the world a better place. The thing is that people tend to forget and if you don’t have a strong and well established Brand Identity, no matter how proud you are of what you were able to achieve, history only remembers the big names. Just look at how Apple is praised for so many “revolutionary” technologies that it was the last to adopt.
- Purpose: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” this is a famous quote from author Simon Sinek that is essentially about selling, but there’s a different angle to it that not a lot of people explore. I’m talking about your team, you already know that an idea is not enough and that execution matters more, the way to ensure great execution is by having a great team. The only real way to attract exceptional talent is if they believe in what you do and “Why” you do it, good brand identity does just that it gives your company purpose.
Hopefully it’s clear to you by now that investing in your Branding efforts should be a priority even at an early stage, in fact the proof is in the numbers, Harvard Business Review highlights a study that shows that some people are willing to pay up to 50% more for a product or service if they believed your company would have a positive impact on the world, which is a huge number when you think of all the companies that would pour enormous amounts of time and money into advertising for a 5% increase, only for their campaigns to fail because they seem ingenuine and opportunistic due to the lack of a strong Brand Vision to back it up.
How To Do It Right?
Now the question that poses itself is “How to do it right?” If you haven’t already, you should start by setting a budget for your Branding efforts aside from what you intend to spend on marketing because there’s no reason to try to look for ways to reach an audience before you even have a message to convey.
Secondly you should keep in mind that a big part of what makes a strong Brand Identity is time, the reality is that you must have a precise plan that you can execute consistently and over a long period of time in order to build your Brand so look for an expert in Brand Strategy that can help you with this. Your logo and graphics should come after that, I also strongly advise you to avoid hiring a freelance graphic designer and just telling them exactly what to do, that always leads to logo redesigns down the line.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to make the same mistakes that other startups have made before you. Most of the clients that I’ve worked with through the years have been startups that have outgrown the ideas they had of their brand when they were in their parents garage or their university dorm room, my advice is to be proactive and solve this problem ahead of time and avoid the higher cost, loss of time and opportunity that come with a rebrand.
Tech Startups Magazine.
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Article’s Author (Guest Post): Abdessamad Qarmada
Abdessamad Qarmada: An entrepreneur bringing the expertise that he has accumulated from a background in business, marketing and sales to the Branding field, aiming to educate Startup founders and CEOs about the values and benefits of a Brand-centric approach and encourage them to use it to solve their business problems.