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Building a brand: Who are you? | The Early Stages Podcast S02E03

How do you find and show your identity in a brand? In the latest episode of The Early Stages Podcast by APX, host Søren is talking to his guests about this crucial foundation for your company and why it should always start with a look inwards instead of outwards.

In the third episode of the second season, Søren is hosting with Jörg Rheinboldt, managing director at APX. Their guests are Kristian Rix, co-founder of the impact fashion rental Pool, and Anna Lüders, Managing Partner at Sasserath+, a strategic consultancy based in Berlin.

“A manifestation of values and ideas that channels the consumer’s feelings towards the company into one concept — that’s the brand,” says Jörg Rheinboldt. For him, a consistent, well-managed brand is always helpful for a company or start-up — no matter if they are B2C or B2B. Pool is a start-up with just such a consistent, well-managed brand: It consists of fun colors and cool, approachable lifestyle images for young people. One design element especially catches the eye: Wobbly circles that resemble Venn diagrams.

Pool is a fashion rental that lets people change their clothes as often as they want for a monthly fee without ever having to own the clothes. This circular business idea increases the number of times a product is worn. “We are never just fashion or just sustainability, always both,” says Kristian Rix. That’s where the Venn idea comes from — to symbolize that it’s always both, but playful. “A playful design doesn’t mean that you can’t be serious, for example if you talk about sustainability and impact.” Being authentic is the key here.

Anna Lüders helps companies finding their brand. At Sasserath+, she brainstorms with companies like Porsche, DAZN and many young companies. “We work with start-ups on the one hand and over-100-year-old-companies on the other hand because it is important to continuously check in on your brand,” says Anna. “Start-ups should build their brand as early as possible — it helps to tell their company story at pitches, when they enter the market and while creating communication assets.”

According to Anna, there are four factors that are especially important to build a clear brand: Being useful, interesting, unique, and coherent. “You have to find out what your company is good at, what the values and personality are, how that manifests, and what the brand idea should do for you.” Kristian agrees that start-ups should differentiate themselves, but first have to start with those questions that have almost nothing to do with the outside world.

One common problem is clear: “The brand is often just an idea in the head of the founders that doesn’t get explicitly communicated,” Anna explains. It is important to stay focused while thinking of an identity. But finding a common design isn’t the all-purpose solution. In Kristian’s experience, re-using a template over and over on platforms like Instagram becomes boring — he advises conscious decisions. “People can see that there’s a living organism behind the account,” Kristian says. At the same time, the brand idea has to be so clear that the intern can post something without making any mistakes.

Of course, there are a lot of mistakes a start-up can make — like being incoherent, being too opportunistic, or by thinking that implicit understanding helps. Kristian thinks that most start-ups are too busy to focus on their brand. “Often, it is not enough to tell the graphic designer to just do some logo,” he says. “That’s not authentic.” Jörg agrees with both and emphasizes that the craftsmanship and execution should be good and truthful within a brand. “And this is not just coming from one person but at least the whole founder team,” he says.

Listen to the full episode for more insights and subscribe to our podcast series on your preferred podcast platform to receive a new episode every other week. If you have feedback or topic ideas, send an email to soren@apx.vc or comment on the episode via our social media channels. We hope you enjoy it!

Our podcast series “The Early Stages” discusses all the relevant questions for your “Startup-Journey” in 24 episodes. We touch on topics like hiring a team or brand building, fundraising, and leadership. In each episode, host Søren comes together with founders and an APX expert to discuss one stage the process of building a company, sharing their personal experiences, learnings, and advice for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

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Europe’s leading earliest stage VC. Based in Berlin and backed by Axel Springer and Porsche, we support the most ambitious pre-seed startups. APX.vc.

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