Creating a brand that matters (+ introducing Scout Lab)

If you’ve ever worked in a leadership role at a start-up, you know the joys that come with prioritizing workload, trying to hire awesome people and vetting agencies that promise you the moon (meanwhile you’re flying a twin engine, just trying to make it across the Atlantic). It’s a lot. And these tasks usually need to be fulfilled at the same time, and completed by yesterday. With that in mind, there are two distinct ways I’ve seen the leadership of small teams waste time and money as they attempt to breathe life into their company (spoiler: it always ties back to misfiring their brand strategy).

Misfire 1: Cognitive Dissonance

Many times I’ve seen start-ups acknowledge the value of marketing but forgo brand strategy. They opt to turn on paid marketing channels without a real sense of what they want to say, who they want to say it to and how it all pulls back to an overarching brand position. This is generally a huge waste of both time and money, and it’s confusing to their prospective consumers. First impressions are huge, and if you’ve wasted it on haphazard acquisition tactics, it’s hard to gain the attention of your customer again.

Misfire 2: Bait & Switch

For small teams that understand the value of brand strategy but are strapped for bandwidth, they’ll onboard an agency or boutique studio to expedite the brand development process. This is in hope that as their start-up starts up, they’re pointed in the right direction. However, too often brand is bastardized by those selling it. Visual identity and vague brand concepting is sold for small fortunes and leave in-house teams no better off than when they started. More of my thoughts on this here.

Identifying these trends, a few of the smartest brand marketers I know and I started Scout Lab.

Scout Lab’s hypothesis is that when you mix brand experts with company decision makers and offer them a time bound framework, you’re able to rapidly create a high-quality brand strategy that aligns product to its market. We’ve developed a process based off of agile product development that outpaces the quality and timelines of major branding agencies. Our formula is input agnostic (meaning it works for everything from SaaS platforms to retail companies), and forces teams to make decisions that will ultimately help them succeed faster.

So what’s a brand anyway?

The foundation of your brand is rooted in industry competitive, consumer research and identifying behavioral trends in your sandbox. Your brand strategy includes positioning within your market, what you say to your customers (and how you say it), and informs all other major marketing programs. Not only that, but brand informs hiring practices, customer service and the ethos of your company as it grows.

Most understand the importance of brand (because Nike, because Airbnb, because Coca Cola), but so few people know how to build a strategic brand. And because of that, many people get sold a Ford Pinto for the price of a Lamborghini. True brand strategy defines your place in the industry, the way you identify and engage your community, and yes, ultimately how you look and feel as well. And if you’re successful, your company’s brand is your legacy. Be sure to make it a good one.

With the boom in start-up culture, entrepreneurship and the glorification of raising venture capital, brand has become commoditized in a way that will never move the needle for a small company. Brand should be held to a higher standard, and it’s Scout Lab’s goal to be a part of raising the quality expectation for brand strategy.