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Branding for Startups: The Basics

Branding isn’t just getting a pretty logo and having a brand colour scheme. A well-thought out brand identity immediately conveys your company’s entire personality and ethos. Think of some of the world’s most beloved global brands; those that sell things like soft drinks, cars and fast food. They’ve become far more than just a logo,…

Branding for Startups: The BasicsBranding isn’t just getting a pretty logo and having a brand colour scheme. A well-thought out brand identity immediately conveys your company’s entire personality and ethos.

Think of some of the world’s most beloved global brands; those that sell things like soft drinks, cars and fast food. They’ve become far more than just a logo, and have a fervent loyal following. Using fast food outlets as an example, when you see that branding, you know what food you are going to get wherever you are in the world. If these companies didn’t have branding rules in place and every outlet just did their own thing, it would detract from the strength of the brand.

This consistency and strong sense of identity is key, and something that every business needs to some extent.

Before We Start

Before you start on your branding journey, we need to establish a few things:

  • What kind of qualities and values do you want your brand to stand for?
  • What kind of personality do you want your brand to portray? Do you want to come across as sleek and professional? Fun and funky? Timelessly classic?
  • What kind of client are you looking to attract, and how do they like to be marketed to? What kinds of language and design would appeal to them? This one may need a little market research – more on that shortly.

Don’t rush this step, it’s important to decide on these and have a clear idea of what values your brand is going to convey. If you’re going into business with someone else, come to a clear agreement with them about these key credentials.

Even if you’re considering using the services of a branding expert to completely outsource your branding. Make these decisions beforehand and provide the branding agency with these directions; it will help both of you come out with a fab result.

The Right Research

To get your overall message correct, you first need to do a bit of market research. The first port of call is of course to get on Google and type in what your company does to find other companies that do the same. Take a close look at these companies’ websites, social media feeds and whether they’re using paid advertising avenues like pay-per-click. Absorb how these fellow companies brand themselves. How do they use visuals and text to paint a picture of who they are and what they do? Do these brands have anything in common with each other? Have they all gone for a certain aesthetic or approach?

Consider how any such “common ground” between these other brands can apply to your own. Is it worth going with the crowd on these things or striking out and being different? Only you know your company and industry well enough to make this call.

It may also help you to look at relevant online forums, social media groups and hashtags to find places online where those who need your products or services hang out. Pay special attention to the concerns they have and the questions they’re asking. Knowing people’s genuine concerns and where these folks look for solutions should give you ideas as to where/how to advertise to reach this kind of audience.

Take the time to research the current landscape, both in terms of what competitors are doing as well as where your ideal customers hang out.

The Right Graphics

Visual content is incredibly powerful in business. The human brain processes visual information 60,000 times quicker than it does a piece of text. Any graphics that represent your brand need to immediately and appropriately convey what you’re all about, both on a basic level and relating to your brand personality. For example, old-fashioned graphics may not suit a modern company like an SEO agency. Matching your visuals to what you do, how you do it, and what your clientele expects from you is key.

One important aspect of graphical branding is to establish everything that goes into your brand visually. You may want to create something like a branding guidelines document – here’s some examples of great branding guidelines from Habitat, Asana and The IT Job Board. Define the exact fonts and colours that need to be used to create any graphical information pertaining to your brand and marketing. Formalising your design aspects in this way means that whenever you employ a designer, they can easily create consistent graphics that will match your other branded materials seamlessly. When visual branding carries through over time and between different platforms, it gives an air of professionalism, stability and establishment.

The Right Words

Great design grabs your attention, but persuasive text keeps that attention in place. Marketing text is generally called “copy,” and just like you can employ a designer to put together your graphics, You can employ a copywriter to construct your copy. It’s important to match your language and style of writing with your brand, what you do and who you’re marketing to.

Your market research helps here – what problems do others in your field advertise a solution to? The key to writing good copy is to empathise with the reader, show that you understand their position and frame yourself as a solution. Think what your ideal client would typically be challenged with to have to come to you. Define the tone you will use in your marketing communications – similar to defining a graphical style to use over different platforms and places, you need to keep a consistent tone and use of language throughout your marketing communications. Paint a cohesive picture between everything – if your website is written in a strictly professional tone and your blogs are very friendly and colloquial, it doesn’t scream consistency, and in turn doesn’t portray a joined up picture of your organisation.

Always remember to stick to your brand and the guidelines you create to give the best possible impression of your organisation. Consistency is key.

If formulating your own branding is troublesome for you, there are a number of branding experts out there who would be glad to help. Branding isn’t something you have to do alone, so if you’re struggling, always seek out the help of an expert. However you construct your brand, coming at it with the right attitude will help you form a strong presence that’s built to last.

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What brands do you look up to? What values do you want your brand to be associated with and why? Please share your thoughts down in the comments!

Image Credit: vixrealitum on Pixabay

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