How to create a brand as a startup

A guide for startups to successfully build a brand from scratch

A wise person once said that “a brand is a story that is always being told”. Creating a strong brand takes time. Actually — the work is never over.

Now, I’m not a wise person, but I do have a thing or nine to say about the topic. So if you’re looking to create your first brand; look no further.
To help you get started, I threw together a list of nine points, summarizing my own experience working with Frontify’s over 100k brand guideline users.

At this stage of your process, I assume that you’ve already figured out:
✓ Your brand idea.
✓ The problem your brand is solving. 
✓ What needs you’re filling.

From here, I’ll give you some pointers on how to create value from that idea. Now, let’s get started!

1. Who is going to use your service/product?
Discover your brand’s target audience.

Step 1 — Know your target group.

First of all — since you understand the basics of your product/service — start to define it in greater detail. Who is it really for? Who will benefit from it, and who do you aim to help? By understanding your targeted client base, you’ll be more likely to create a brand that looks, sounds, and feels relatable for your future clients.

Recommended approach and tools:
✓ Make user research by interviewing five potential users. 
✓ Start building personas that goes along with your brands target groups.
✓ For persona creation, try Xtensio.

2. What makes your brand better than your neighbors’?
Research your competition thoroughly.

Step 2 — Be your best self.

What industry are you in? As you define your business space, create material that works in that particular area; know what everyone else are doing. What has been working for others, and what hasn’t? Most importantly; what can you do differently to explode in the market?

Recommended approach:
✓ Research competitors’ slogans, tone of voice, marketing approach, visual language, etc — providing you with a competitor overview — move from there.
✓ Structure your research results in a spreadsheet.
✓ Learn how to, in the best way possible, impact your field.

3. What makes your brand unique?
Outline the characteristics and advantages of using your brand.

Step 3 — Don’t be a wurst. Be the best.

I can’t stress this enough. So I’ll make a whole new point from it. You need to find, and highlight your USP’s. What defines your brand, and why should people choose you over the others? What‘s your forte?

Recommended approach:
✓ Make a couple of short interviews with key users.
✓ Figure out what they would expect from your service.
✓ How should it feel to use it? Try to find out the “soft”-elements. 
 — What do they expect to experience when using it? 
✓ Complement it with internal ideas from your team, friends, or a random cat.

4. What does your visual language look like?
Create an awesome logo, and a strong visual identity.

Step 4 — Get creative! Build your surroundings.

There are millions of brands around the world. Some are well-worked, and some are just comic sans on a door leading into a garage. You need to create something that sticks out, but communicates your message. Colors have key messages; we relate green to environmental stuff, for example. This goes with fonts and shapes as well. So be sure to create graphics that depicts you as a company.

Also, don’t forget about the rest of your guidelines. We have tone of voice, vision, mission, how to act on social media, and all the other communicational parts that are vital for you to stay consistent and on point with every customer touchpoint. Get some inspiration from our Style Guide.

Recommended approach and tools:
✓ Get help from professional freelancers or design agencies (depending on your budget) to get your first design system live.
✓ The design tool you use doesn’t make the difference, you could try the Adobe Suite or Sketch, or just a pen and paper.

5. In which way are you writing?
Build a great voice for your brand.

Step 5 — Text is art.

No, to be visible isn’t everything. Every time that you connect with your clients, even if it’s through snail mail or comments on Facebook, it needs to be hammering the branding nail in. Create a voice of your brand. A voice that is consistent and speaks the same way — always.

Start by choosing the language style (if you write in English, there’s British, and American f.e.) — think about your clients — how would they like to be approached? If you’re communicating from a dental practice, you might not want to use emojis (or maybe you do?). You can also choose to write with different nuances — friendly, funny, smart, or just business casual. It all depends on your target audience, and obviously; who you are.

Recommended approach and tools:
✓ Talk with your team. Figure out what your language sounds like.
✓ Sit down with an experienced copywriter and write down your conclusion. Remember that it should align with your brand values and experiences. 
✓ Use Grammarly to stay forever and ever correct with your writing.

6. Where can you document your brand definitions?
Create guidelines — online.

Step 6 — Share your brand definitions with freelancers and new team members.

Use a great software for online guidelines, where you can document all of your brand definitions and grant all your different stakeholders access to its latest version at all times, through the cloud. There are a lot of different softwares to use, for example, try– who am I kidding, this is totally going to be a shameless plug for Frontify — try it for free, there are no other competitors.

With Frontify, you can use predefined templates, allowing you to quickly set up all of your brand definitions, such as color palettes, fonts, and even code snippets. You can duplicate a Style Guide, to create multiple versions around it — making it perfect for creating multiple Style Guides at a later stage.

Recommended approach and tools:
✓ Use a brand guideline software like Frontify,
✓ Profit from using other online branding tools such as InVision, Openbrand, or MarvelApp — mainly focusing on prototyping or DAM, if that’s your cup of tea.

7. How do you make sure that people will recognize your brand?
Fill all of your communications with it.

Step 7 — Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Everything you do, everywhere, should be filled with your brand. Your clients should always be seeing, and recognizing that voice, that logo, those colors, and that font. I bet you’d recognize a Coca-Cola logo without the text. You’ve most probably seen some green-red-yellow color variations and said something in the line of “that looks like Google”. This. This is the goal of brand recognition.

Recommended approach and tools:
✓ Work with Frontify templates; colors, fonts, images (the list is long), or even code snippet — store them in your online Style Guide and have constantly reusable brand material — staying forever consistent.

8. How do you enforce your brand — making it strong?
Stay consistent. No really, stay consistent.

Step 8 — Stay consistent — always.

Brand recognition is crucial: Always. Stay. Consistent. Don’t confuse your clients with different voices, colors, appearances, or approaches. Always be you. That’s all I have to say.

Recommended approach:
✓ Ensure that both internal and external (partners and agencies) people know how your brand works — provide examples; Have them read your Style Guide again and again (and again and again).

9. How do you further communicate your brand?
Become a brand advocate.

Step 9 — Scream it at the top of your lungs.

Hire people who lives your brand. Make sure they fit into the framework that is your company, and that they are constantly levelling with the brand definitions. Glue your brand guidelines to your employee’s bathroom mirror, create brand colored pens, and write “Times New Roman” on their face when they’re asleep. This way — you will always be in line with your brand (you don’t have to take it to that extreme if you don’t really want to).

Recommended approach:
✓ Hire the right people when you start to grow you business. 
✓ Make sure that everyone feels strongly about the visions and aims of your brand, and communicates it at all times.

If you’d like to try our software to create your brand guidelines, making them available to your entire team through the cloud — then try if for free!

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