In my previous post, I explored some solid tips for building a marketing strategy for your startup business. One thing I didn’t touch on in that post but is absolutely critical to the long-term success of your startup is branding. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, branding is how you define your business and create its identity. It’s everything from your logo and your color scheme to the photos your use on your website and the tone of voice you write content in. Some of the most successful businesses have risen to success because branding was at the heart of their strategy. It’s more than just how your business looks from the outside, it’s about building a relationship with your customers. Here are some tips to get you started on branding your startup:
Define and Personalize Your Business
This is a fairly straightforward step that you can keep as simple or complicated as you like. It is essential for you to know your business inside and out. As entrepreneurs, this should come easier for us. Our business ideas are often born out of passions and dreams. Having this close emotional connection to our businesses will make it easier to accurately define and personalize the brand. Once your business has been defined in detail (you know your product, your customers, your market, etc.), begin developing its personality. Consider the values of the brand, the type of people that it would attract, how it might interact with someone if it was a physical human being. Relating to your business in this way will give you a clear focus moving forward.
Create the External Image
The logo, color scheme, font choice, etc. are all important elements that will give customers the first impression of your brand. Consider how some popular brands you know of use visual elements to convey their brand’s personality. For example, Coca-Cola’s use of the bright red color in their brand conveys the idea of energy and strength, compared to Pepsi’s use of blue which often is seen as a calming color, might be a contributing factor for why Coca-Cola is ranked as the #4 most valuable brand. The psychology of color as it relates to marketing and branding is actually quite fascinating, and there are plenty of resources out there on the web if you’re interested in learning more.
One thing you want to avoid when creating your logo is copying other successful brands. You’re not going to get any closer to the success of Apple just because your logo looks like Apple’s logo. Go back to your brand personality and sketch out some logo ideas (even if you think you can’t even draw a stick figure, try sketching some logo designs anyway. They will be immensely helpful if you hire a graphic designer). Figure out what differentiates your business from other businesses and work that into your logo design.
Develop Your Brand Guidelines
After you’ve thought through your brand’s personality, how it looks, feels, speaks, and sounds, you’re going to want to compile that into one master document called your brand guidelines. This is what you will refer to as you continue to build your brand in order to maintain consistency. A few things it should include are your fonts, specific colors (hex codes or RGB values), different versions of your logo for different backgrounds and uses, taglines, images, and tone of content. Hubspot has put together a great list of some stellar brand guidelines to reference as you’re creating your own. This may seem like a lot of work at the start, especially if your startup is just a team of three – obviously everyone is on the same page about the brand, so why bother with the document? I’m hoping your obvious response to that situation is to know that at some point, your business will expand, new employees will be hired, and you’re going to need some way of quickly communicating to them your exact expectations when it comes to maintaining your brand. Having a set brand guideline also helps prevent “cheating” on your brand – with everything spelled out, you’ll be held more accountable to maintaining consistency with your brand, and it’s the brand consistency that leads to success. Read More