How start-up companies should consider the impact of branding and invest in it from the start
Recently we’ve been working with a number of start-up businesses which inevitably leads to discussing logos and their branding. Design agencies love working with start-ups because they’re energised, innovative and bursting with enthusiasm. There’s everything to play for. And good design can make a huge difference to their businesses future, which is rewarding for everyone.
Entrepreneurs are passionate about their products and meeting start-ups at the beginning of their journey, it’s impossible not to admire these people’s skill, dedication and belief in their product.
For a lot of start-up businesses, a logo, or their packaging will be the key expression of the brand – but branding itself is far deeper than simply a nice pack or logo.
To create a successful brand, a great product or service is essential. But a brand is not based on product alone. A brand is bigger than that: it’s an attitude, a personality, particular energy, and an experience. In the early days, it’s what gives your product presence in a room and invites people to give it a try.
Perhaps think of the brand as a person and the packaging and communications as their clothes giving them a unique personality. So, while the essential personality traits stay the same, the brand can dress up or down for different occasions and keep up with trends. If you’re clear about who or what your brand is, dressing it becomes much easier.
Consider this: What’s your brand’s tagline or motto? What’s your advice for customers? How can you demonstrate that you understand them? How can you make them smile?
All brands need a distinctive logo and images or messages over and above the product or service. These are your assets, and for a good reason: they’re a hugely valuable part of your business. You’ll need digital communications and point of sale advertising that offer more than simply a repeat of the label. And you’ll need a design concept that can adapt with the seasons and across new variants while staying true to the brand. Retailers like Apple for example, constantly create fresh content around their products but in keeping with their brand persona.
Design consultants often liken the branding process to coaching. Whilst a startup or entrepreneur is close to its product or service, a consultant or designer can offer an outside view to help structure your thoughts. An entrepreneur will pitch their product to people from day one, starting with their partner, family and friends. However, a brand designer will listen and question but also challenge and develop that pitch.
More often than not, a brand’s ethos evolves directly from its owner. It’s important to look at where your brand sits in relation to the competition, and how you can draw on trends that might be happening. Bear in mind that it’s not just about the imagery. If you are launching a tangible product, you’re inevitably launching some sort of intangible service too. (And vice versa. Notice how brokers of intangible insurance services have created tangible products in the shape of meerkats and robot toys.) So, as a brand, you do need to think about experiences whether it's in-store, online, customer service, events and promotions. Savvy consumers don’t buy into brands purely on face value so experiences are hugely important ways to connect with customers and make an impression. Your brand narrative can shape these and with social media now influencing us on many levels, needless to say, social media become part of a brands strategy.