Why startups should invest in branding.
The power of a successful brand cannot be underestimated. You may think of your brand as being your logo or a marketing campaign but it’s so much more than just a ‘look’ for your company. It’s an expression of your unique, seductive offer.
Branding your startup business is a crucial step in the timeline of your company, but for most, making an informed decision to invest in anything at all in business can be hard.
Here we’ll explain what we mean by ‘branding’ and why investing in it should be important to you.
What do we mean by ‘branding’.
The essence of your company, product or service is not just what you are selling, it is your story too. Your people, what makes you tick, your passions all play just as much of a part when communicating your business as your product does. If people could understand your motivation — what sets you apart and makes you exciting and innovative — wouldn’t they be more inclined to say “I’m going to see what this is all about”? Not only that, wouldn’t they tell their friends and family?
The process of branding is to take that fundamental essence and eloquently communicate it to everyone using a relevant and consistent visual language. This visual language becomes seamlessly interwoven with your brand and can, in time, become recognised as a seal of approval. It’s not simply a case of slapping a logo on something. It’s much more in-depth. It has to be, because your brand defines you.
As if that’s not enough of a reason for you, here is a more detailed, practical breakdown of the why branding should be important to you.
How does having this in place help?
Having a consistent and coherent brand can make your company appear more professional. For a startup this is all the more important because people might not know you yet. It shows that all members of your team are on the same page and that you have unified goals and messages. This air of professionalism can be the difference in gaining the trust of the people that your business comes into contact with, such as potential funders, backers and even your customer base.
Your branding helps to differentiate you from others in the marketplace. The visual language of your brand uses design and supporting elements to set you apart. By definition it will be extremely personal to you, so whilst your competitors may offer a similar product or service they certainly won’t have the same story. Branding attempts to ensure that the design of all output is rooted in a visual language which accurately communicates your brand. Norio Ohga understood this perhaps better than most:
Our company assumes that competitors’ products have the same technology, price, performance and features. Design is the only thing that sets us apart.
Norio Ohga (1930–2011)
President and chairman of Sony Corporation (1982–2003)
The knock on effect of the two aforementioned points is that, ultimately, you are taken more seriously. With a solid brand you are not only talking the talk but you are walking the walk! This is crucial for generating traction and creating another level of excitement and buzz around your company. Ideas are exciting, but brands get people talking — or more specifically, tweeting! If your brand is interesting enough to people it will provoke conversation. In other words, your customers will naturally end up sharing your message across a variety of communication channels, inadvertently becoming part of your brand sales team.
Whatever way you look at it, investing is a risky business. Even if an investor has the ability to assess and critique your product, business plan and team they will inevitably still want to look for any extra guarantees that this is a smart investment, one that’s actually going to pay off! Showing that you have a coherent brand which is professional and with traction could be the difference between a closed and an open cheque book.
Whether your target market is specific or just a range of people with similar mindsets, branding will help you reach them. Just as your visual language is tailored to be an expression of your brand values, it is simultaneously focussed to the appropriate target audience. It is essentially one like minded group of people talking to another: “Hey, do you like ‘X’? Us too!”.
Your branding entices people to use your product/service. Once they use it — and love it — everything that comes along with that experience becomes an emotional attachment. Actually, brand loyalty is built on numerous factors aside from simply branding, (the product has to be good, the service has to be good and so on) but loyalty to a brand is arguably much stronger than simply loyalty to a product. The sooner you can start to build groups of committed, loyal advocates the better.
So when should startups invest in branding? As an estimate we’d say at the first round funding stage* of your startup you should be looking to spend around 5% on establishing your branding. That’s not a huge dent on your finances, but it should ensure the basics are in place. You can always scale up from here as and when needed.
This is just a quick overview of a few benefits to branding your startup. There are many more, but perhaps the most exciting of all we have yet to discuss and that is just how fun the process can be! That renewed excitement and buzz of seeing your business ‘grow up’. We’ve done it before for our own business’ & products and for other people’s and it can be exhilarating. Suddenly that initial promise has an identity, a personality. And that’s so exciting! This is where it all begins and the dream starts to become a tangible reality.
*Assuming a minimum first round investment of £75k