Why startups should invest in developing a great brand immediately
And yet, so many new companies see brand development as something to be addressed once the important stuff is out of the way.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you are founding a startup, or are part of one in its early stages, and are wondering how to develop a brand. You may be typing questions like ‘How much should I spend on a brand?’ or ‘Should I use 99Designs?’ into a search engine. It’s such a shame that so many startups feel like a logo from 99 Designs or Fiverr is enough and choose not to invest in a true branding project. They feel it’s not worth it. But if that’s actually true, then that search engine you’re using is just as likely to be Bing, Yahoo, AOL or Ask as it is to be Google. They all have logos and do the same thing. But, in reality, we both know you’re using Google. Why? Their well-cultivated brand.
BRAND DEVELOPMENT: WHAT MAKES YOU YOU?
So, what makes an effective brand? Well, it’s important that, as a company, you have answers to ‘What’s your USP?’ and ‘Why should I give my money to you and not a competitor?’ And it’s just as important to ask yourself ‘Are we communicating that as well as we could?’ Logos, alone, can’t answer these questions. But branding can.
It’s the difference between Coke and Pepsi, McDonald’s and Burger King, Star Wars and Star Trek. Three pairs of, in many ways, the same thing. But say that to a loyal consumer of one and it’s an act of war.
The aim of any brand, both the vocal and visual elements, is to successfully distinguish it from others and to communicate it’s values without you being there to deliver an elevator pitch. You want your competitors to conjure an image in their mind of what you stand for the way you had six different mental images conjured just now.
OVERTAKE THE COMPETITION
For startups, being first to market is the dream but, sadly, not always possible. Being one of the first to market, however, and having the most engaging, impactful or distinguished identity could help you grow quicker than the ones who got to market first. People often view the most ‘professional looking’ as the industry leader.
A solid brand puts you ahead of the game. Done right, it can bring impact and “unearned” credibility, making a startup immediately more attractive and appealing to consumers and investors. Of course, true brand value and credibility can only be earned over time, but having a quality visual identity and the vocal basis of a brand – the messaging, the value – will help kickstart that earning process.
It’s not just about putting on a show to the outside world either. Conducting brand discovery and research exercises can help to clarify your own thinking. It can clear up goals, values and beliefs so that, should you end up in a lift with Peter Jones, you can do that impromptu pitch perfectly. Yes, you have a new product, but what do you stand for? How do you want to be viewed? What are you working towards?
Having a solid, three-dimensional brand can prove invaluable when you need to be nimble. Startups often have to be reactive and implement their visual identity at short notice. Having a determined visual style and brand guidelines help ensure that these implementations are consistent – vital in building awareness and recognition. Consumers want reliability in their companies, whatever sector. They want to know what they’re going to get. Whatever industry you’re in, you’re in the business of making friends with your customers – and an unpredictable, unreliable friend is unlikely to become your best mate.
GET EVERYONE ON BOARD
Brand development projects also make sure everyone in your business – be it two or two thousand people – sing from the same hymn sheet. Presumably, you want your company to be able to compete with the big corporations. Anyone who’s spent time in the corporate world knows how much investment is put into creating and internally communicating the brand’s values, beliefs, and objectives. So, why wouldn’t you want to do the same?
Also, it’s fun. Really fun. Developing a great brand is an excellent morale and momentum booster. And, unlike team-bonding paintballing trips, it’s actually good for business. It gives startup teams something to be proud of and can make it easier to attract new talent.
INVESTMENT IS SPENDING WISELY
Importantly, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Brand development programmes are investments – they can directly and indirectly affect the success and revenues of a startup over a long period of time. True, they are undoubtedly more expensive than services like Fiverr and 99Designs. But they give you more than just a logo and some colours. You don’t fall in love with a photo, you fall in love with a person. Similarly, you don’t feel loyalty to a logo, you feel loyalty to a brand.
Spending some time and money on brand building is an investment worth making, and the earlier you start, the sooner you can begin reaping the benefits.