Branding, it has to be said, is not often the most pressing item in a founder’s mind when it comes to their company. When the day to day running of a business is considered – dealing with customers, sourcing new clients, refining products, paying bills, issuing invoices, handling staff issues and more, the ‘brand’ tends to fall behind the ‘business’. This is somewhat understandable as the day to day running of a business and the trials and tribulations that occur can clearly be more pressing than a distant idea of a brand.
However, when we consider some of the world’s most successful brands, the Coca Colas and Apples of the world, then we can begin to see that branding is actually an integral part of their business model. In fact, when we take brand equity into consideration, we can see that it is the international perception of a brand, its emotive and intangible assets, rather than tangible assets like its products that its value comes from.
Many startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses know that they need branding but rarely is it discussed what branding actually is. By considering all aspects of your brand from an early stage, however, and incorporating this into your business model you can increase your brand’s value and its recognition amongst consumers which in turn helps to boost profitability.
So what is branding?
Before we look into some top branding tips for start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses, we should clarify just what branding is.
“Your brand is your promise to your customer” (Entrepreneur)
This sentence sums it up pretty well. Your brand is your promise to your customer. It is not about your product, it is not about your colour scheme or your marketing budget — it is a clear definition of the relationship between business and consumer. It says who you are as a business, why you are different and why that is important to your customer.
This neatly brings us to those top branding tips for startups with the first and foremost tip being:
Before any aspect of brand identity is considered, brand positioning must be established. Brand positioning allows you to think about your business offering when compared directly to competitors’. By knowing your market and your customers, you will be able to better establish how your business is perceived in their mind. What makes your brand different? How do customers perceive you in comparison to your rivals?
This, in a nutshell, is what brand positioning is.
Without it, you may find yourself competing against bigger or more established players in the market. A brand that is positioned well, however, is able to conquer its own marketing niche and, therefore, be more successful in the eyes of customers.
Many startups get branding wrong and are forced to pivot or alter their business models completely and, while this may still happen in the future depending on market conditions, positioning your business well in the first place gives your brand the best chance of success.
We saw in the case of Coca Cola vs. Pepsi just how vital brand positioning is and how costly it can be to your brand so it pays to get this right early on.
Once you have established your particular business niche, it is time to create a name for your business. Naming is an essential part of the branding process that is often overlooked and while the right name alone cannot guarantee business success, the wrong name can certainly lead a business down the road to failure.
There are many potential facets to a name. Thankfully, however, by establishing your brand’s positioning before you begin, you can eliminate many of the wrong types of names for your business. By ensuring that your business name aligns with your brand strategy you can narrow down potential names that are right for the type of business you want to run.
Don’t get hung up on finding an available .com for your business. The internet is 20 years old now and a lot of the names you might want are taken. Concentrate on getting a great brand name first and apply a suitable signifier to the URL if necessary (Like ubercabs.com or thefacebook.com) because if you are able to grow your business to that kind of level, you will no longer have to worry about the premium fee for a URL!
And (shameless plug alert) if you are stuck, you can always utilise the services of a professional brand consultant to help you right here on PeoplePerHour.
Positioning statement and tagline
A brand’s tagline is often developed alongside the brand name and for good reason, because the tagline or slogan is often an extension of the name itself as it highlights, in a succinct manner, exactly what your business does. FedEx’s ‘We Deliver’ is a great example of this.
A positioning statement is usually a little longer and is used for internal purposes only. Like Google’s ‘Don’t be Evil’ to remind staffers and head honchos alike not to become a corporate behemoth (the jury is still out on that one but so far, so good (ish)). The positioning statement should not be confused with the tagline but it can be used to highlight your positioning or business model to staff or third party contractors so they easily get to grips with your business mentality and culture.
There are many different ways to craft a brand tagline or slogan but the most important thing to consider is to ensure that it fits in with the values and positioning that you have (hopefully) already set for your brand.
The positioning of your brand, as well as the type of business and industry, will help whether your tagline is short, long (but not too long), funny, clever, whether it rhymes etc. There are no set rules or guidelines with crafting the most appropriate tagline for your business but understanding that the tagline is a clear way to communicate your position to your customers will enable you to get the right one for your business.
Many business owners think that branding and brand identity are one and the same. Hopefully, we have seen that this is not the case as a brand is much more than just a name and a logo. However, how your brand looks, and its visual communication, clearly is an integral part in establishing how your brand is perceived as well as fostering positive relationships with your customers.
While a brand is much more than a logo, the logo is, nevertheless, the most important visual communication piece in your brand’s puzzle. Investing the time in getting a logo crafted and developed so that it is a unique signature for your brand is a must if you are to be taken seriously in your business marketplace.
The logo must also be supported with the right colour scheme, appropriate brand imagery, and brand style to ensure that the look of your brand is consistent across all communication channels from your website to your business card to your Social Media channels. Ensuring consistency in design will enable your customers to engage with your brand better, understand its message and appreciate its quality.
Your brand’s identity is the visual representation of your established values and positioning and so it cannot be taken lightly.
It is now time to put your brand assets into practice. Here, consistency is key, because it is one thing to ensure that your core brand assets are in sync, but it is another to implement that into the wider marketplace.
In terms of brand communication, it is worthwhile exploring commissioning a comprehensive brand guideline document. This can be shared internally and with third party contractors (such as graphic designers or copywriters) so that whoever is in charge of communicating your brand to the world will get it right.
Establishing a clear brand culture too will enable staff to get a ‘feel’ for your brand and incorporate your brand values in everything they do.
Your brand matters, take the time to ensure it shines
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it will hopefully serve to be a good point of references to startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs who are new to branding and are unsure of what it entails.
Even if you are working towards a strict budget, it definitely pays to take the necessary time and financial investment that your brand deserves. Investing in your brand at an early stage can pay great dividends later on. By ensuring that all aspects of your brand are working together will only benefit your business as a whole.
About the Author
Matthew is a Top Cert PPH Seller specialising in brand naming and brand consultancy for businesses of all sizes. Matthew has considerable operational experience having worked in publishing, media analysis and brand messaging for a number of international brands. He is available for a variety of brand strategy engagements. You can hire Matthew on PeoplePerHour.
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