This is a guest post by Joshua Van Raalte, CEO of Brazil, a strategy and communications agency. Joshua shares his advice for establishing a brand for your startup.
If only branding was as easy as creating a nice logo.
A brand used to be a symbol to identify a business and distinguish it from others. But now it is much, much more, and this is why there needs to be careful consideration when you establish your brand. Mistakes made at the beginning of your journey could end up being very costly. But, get it right, and your brand could add extra noughts to the overall value of your business.
Brand Name, Brand ID, Brand Vision – the Three Pillars to Success
There are several practical reasons for investing appropriate time and money in establishing your brand. While there’s no rule of thumb on how much you need to budget for brand development, there are three elements of a brand that you need to consider, each of which tends to be more complex than people initially think, and involve research, careful planning and creativity as well. These are:
- Brand Name – this is what you are going to call yourself.
- Brand ID – this is what your brand will look like.
- Brand Vision – this is what your brand stands for.
There are also considerations for the type of brand that you are trying to establish. These include: Your market and your competitors; consumer or B2B brand, or both; local, national or international customers; your offering – is it a product or service? Each of these will affect your approach, and also determine what type of outside support – e.g. agency, designer, strategist – you may require.
While many start with the name, in fact, it should be your vision. I spend enormous amounts of time talking to entrepreneurs about the vision of their business. I want to know what they are trying to achieve beyond making money and world domination. The vision sets the tone for the brand name, visual brand ID and is what I consider to be the most powerful and valuable part of any business. Without it, you are merely a product or service. With it, you are a compelling story which allures customers, investors, and staff and has the ability to resonate with people for decades. From a practical viewpoint, it can make you a lot of money.
Then there is the naming process. Of course, the brand name has to stand out. It has to be easily found in a Google search and has to have an available and affordable URL. But most importantly, it needs to communicate the company’s vision, and at the same time, resonate with the target audience. Entrepreneurs often overlook that last part, but after all, you are building a company for others, and your customers and prospects are the most important people in the process. A recent Forbes report found that 64% of consumers say that shared values are the main reason that they have a trusted relationship with a brand.
And lastly comes the visual identity, which people generally consider to be the brand. It incorporates all of the above and is the manifestation of a lot of thinking, research and exploration. It also has to be mailable for marketing, advertising, social media and events.
Looking at a popular example, the Apple logo does not represent the brand in its entirety. The highly-recognisable apple is the visual representation of the Apple brand; however, the apple was created to reflect the company’s values, vision, ambition and a whole lot more. Originally designed in 1977, the only thing that changed was its colour (from a rainbow to black/white), standing the test of time and showing they got it right. This approach also saved the company a lot of money in the long run, not requiring expensive rebrands throughout the lifetime.
While anyone can buy some software and design a logo, it is a skill to design a brand, and it takes people with different skills. Visual, strategy, communications and business acumen are all components to the final design manifestation.
Here are some practical steps to establishing your brand:
1. Brand Communications
Your brand is your strongest communication tool. It needs to be understood, highly recognisable, distinctive and relevant. Equally important is how your brand affects your target audience. For example, the use of a specific colour can attract or repel specific people; your name in English may mean something entirely different in another language.
Your brand should communicate a range of things – from a personal story to your values. Consider what is most important to your company. Many businesses these days focus as much on their values as they do on their products and services. Sustainable, environmentally-friendly, charitable; these are all important components of brands and how they communicate with their customers and prospects. For example, If trust is an important element of your brand, as it is for many businesses, in particular, operating in financial services or healthcare, how can this be incorporated into your brand name, ID and vision? This is why your brand vision should be your starting point.
A typical start-up mistake is not doing the research beforehand. Just because your new company name sounds great and the logo looks good to you, that doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on others. Don’t ask friends or family, as they typically will be too polite to give you critical feedback. While deploying a research company may sound daunting, in fact, it may be the best money you spend. Typically this could cost from £3,000 to £100,000 – depending on how complex your market target audience is. There are also ways in which to do some of this preliminary research yourself – for instance, holding focus groups of target customers or simply asking people on the street – to test your business proposition. These measures could prevent you from continuously changing or tinkering with your brand ID in the future, and as your business grows, it becomes an increasingly expensive exercise. Changing your brand also has the risk of alienating existing customers.
3. Think Long-Term
It may be that you want to get your business off the ground and start selling as soon as possible. But, in the longer term, where is your market? Is it just the UK, or could it be international? You may have just one product or service at launch, but how can this expand? Will your brand expand with you? Will your target audience change over time? All of these considerations are vital to the development of your business and brand.
Remember, your brand needs to be relevant for a long time, and withhold changes to the market, consumer behaviour, trends and a whole lot more.
Your brand needs to tell your story, and this means marketing. Businesses these days have a wide choice of marketing channels – from social media through to TV advertising. Marketing budgets should not limit your brand’s ability to get to the right people, but you do need to consider the mediums that you could use and how your newly formed brand can be used across all of them. Looking good is a major consideration (e.g. Instagram), but so is how your products, services and people can be used to engage with your target audience. Think about how your brand story could be told across websites, TV, radio or social media.
When businesses present themselves on Seedrs, they have a window of opportunity to impress potential investors. They have to look the part as well as have a compelling and detailed business plan. This means that your brand needs to communicate a number of key factors to help any investor make their decision. Most investors are very savvy, and they invest in the markets they know best. Therefore it is important to consider how your brand will stand out amongst your competitors. If you are operating a congested, mature market, how can you reassure pragmatic and often conservative investors that your business will succeed? How can your story and vision excite them, while at the same time engage your target customer groups?
In summary, a lot of thought, consideration, research and love needs to be put into a brand. Cutting corners will never gain the long-term desired effect. After all, your brand is the most powerful and valuable tool to communicate with your future customers, investors, staff and the world.