What is branding, and why does it matter?
As a startup founder, you've likely encountered the buzzword "Branding" countless times. It's become one of modern business's most prevalent and trendy concepts. This surge in popularity isn't merely a fad; branding is the cornerstone of success for companies across all industries.
In simple terms, branding is the art of transforming companies into brands. But what exactly defines a brand?
In one of his widely shared quotes, American multimillionaire and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos describes it in a unique light:
"Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room."
Branding is about discovering your company’s essence and sharing it with your audience so they can experience it just as you do. It's about fostering enduring positive reactions that go beyond fleeting impressions. It's a continuous, responsive, and dynamic process.
Some view branding as an art, while others perceive it as a science. We believe it's a blend of both. Branding entails keen observation, sensitivity, adaptability, trial and error, openness to feedback, disruption, creativity, and a constant study of social dynamics. Its process embodies a unique fusion, capable of eliciting emotional responses akin to art yet precisely formulated and tested, akin to science.
Branding isn't an abstract concept. If your brand were an organism, branding would be the environment nurturing its growth, enabling it to adapt to perpetual changes, and carving out its place and identity, regardless of the surrounding competition.
With a robust startup's brand strategy, your company is destined to survive and thrive.
The evolution of branding in the digital age
In our tech-driven 21st century, brands and branding have dynamically evolved, propelled by the seamless integration of new technologies, a rapid exchange of information, and the continual development of our cognitive landscapes. Branding has become fluid, closely intertwined with the intricacies of our perceptions, aspirations, and quest for knowledge and community.
Here, we present a comprehensive view of how branding has adapted to emerging forms and trends, reshaping consumer behaviour and transforming how businesses engage with customers. Below are key insights into the evolution of branding and marketing strategy in the digital era:
Shift to Digital Platforms:
Indeed, we’re more connected than ever before. Brands focus on establishing a solid online presence through websites, social media, and e-commerce platforms, wishing to meet customers in the same place where they spend a significant portion of their daily lives (yes, we do).
Focus on Engagement:
Gone are the days of brands simply broadcasting messages and waiting for responses. Now, brands actively engage with their audiences through social media interactions, personalised email campaigns, and other interactive tools, fostering a sense of community and cultivating enduring relationships.
With abundant data available in the digital landscape, brands can gather valuable insights into customer behaviour, preferences, and trends. This data-driven approach enables brands to tailor their marketing strategies and offerings to specific target segments, enhancing personalisation and relevance in their branding efforts.
The digital era has seen the rise of omnichannel branding, where brands strive to deliver a consistent and seamless customer experience across multiple touchpoints, including online and offline. This approach ensures customers enjoy a cohesive brand experience regardless of their platform or device, fostering brand loyalty and trust.
Influencer and User-Generated Content:
Influencers and user-generated content have become a cornerstone of digital branding. Partnering with influencers allows brands to tap into existing communities and build credibility, while user-generated content increases social recognition, creates new tendencies, and fosters trust.
Branding v Marketing: What are the key differences?
Highlighting the differences between these two active areas of a company is vital when developing your brand communication. They’re both essential and knowing how to use them properly is one of the keys to growth and success in your business industry.
Let’s start with the basics:
Branding creates a unique identity and personality for a product, service, or company that resonates with your audience.
Marketing, on the other hand, involves strategies and tactics to communicate such values. Market research, advertising, marketing materials and sales promotions are part of it.
2. Emotional Connection vs. Promotion:
Branding is focused on awakening emotional responses in your customers. It aims to establish a strong brand positioning and evoke positive feelings through shared values and perspectives.
Marketing instead focuses on promoting. Its primary aim is influencing consumer behaviour, driving sales, and increasing market share.
3. Customer Relationship vs. Product Benefits:
Branding prioritises building enduring customer relationships by consistently delivering on the brand promise and values. It aims to build loyalty and strong identification with your brand persona.
Marketing aims to highlight product or service features, benefits, and competitive advantages to persuade customers to take action.
4. Foundation vs. Execution:
Branding serves as the foundational strategy that guides all marketing efforts.
Marketing focuses on the execution of the branding strategy aiming to drive customer engagement and brand recognition.
Defining your startup’s brand identity
Now, you have a clear picture of branding for startups, its real value in your journey and its main differences compared to marketing. Let’s dive deeper into how to start applying branding principles to your company.
The Importance of Having a Killer Unique Value Proposition
In a world where constant information bombardment competes for everyone's attention, crafting a compelling statement that encapsulates your product, service, or company and sets you apart from competitors is crucial.
This is the essence of Unique Value Propositions. As Neil Patel, the New York Times best-selling author and expert digital marketer, aptly puts it:
“Think of it like this: Why should a customer pay attention to your brand in the first place? That’s where you should start when developing your value proposition.”
A Unique Value Proposition provides a concise and impactful explanation of what makes your company stand out. It shatters the "just another brand" label and elevates you to a trusted, authentic, and highly functional brand.
While many such propositions exist, few genuinely stick in people's minds. Let's explore some of these memorable ones:
“Be more productive at work with less effort. Slack brings all your communication together in one place. It’s real-time messaging, archiving, and search for modern teams.”
This straightforward statement highlights the distinctive benefits of their service and why people should choose them.
“Book unique homes and experiences all over the world. Discover amazing places to stay—or rent out your own!”
It focuses on the benefits and customer experiences they provide.
“Simplify your work with a secure cloud-based file storage solution. Access your files anytime, anywhere, on any device.”
Centred on the convenience of their service, it conveys a sense of addressing their users' real needs.
When crafting a UVP, it’s primordial to identify your target audience’s genuine needs and discover how your company can satisfy them. Unique Value propositions are relevant, dynamic and responsive.
- A value proposition is different from a slogan or positioning statement.
- A good value proposition can be read in under 5 seconds.
- It’s all about delivering value and solving problems in your customers' lives.
Creating a memorable brand name and logo
At the onset of the branding journey, startup founders often believe that a strong brand name, logo, and website are sufficient to conquer their markets. However, sooner rather than later, they realise these initial steps are just the tip of the iceberg in a complex and intricate journey.
While there are many other factors to consider, these foundational elements must be carefully planned and executed to ensure your brand captures your audience's attention and remains ingrained in their memory. A solid logo and a unique name hold immense significance, acting as your business's storefront. They can invite your target audience to explore further or repel them, directing them towards your competitors.
Creating a brand name or logo involves a multitude of considerations. Each aspect possesses its intricacies and characteristics that demand careful attention to leave a lasting impression on your audience and compel them to delve deeper into your brand.
Here are some key variables to consider:
Checklist of a great logo:
- It reflects your brand values.
- It aligns with your target audience's preferences.
- It is based on clarity and simplicity. Too much accomplishes too little.
- It uses forms and colours that create a psychological impact.
- It employs legible typography inspired by your company’s style and positioning.
- It is unique and original. No imitations are allowed here.
- It strikes a balance between modern aesthetics and timeless durability.
- It exudes a professional touch/
- It is scalable and adaptable to multiple platforms.
Please be aware that designing a logo yourself is no small feat. Several professionals excel in creating symbols that embody the characteristics mentioned above. It all boils down to understanding what you aim to communicate and what your audience desires to perceive.
Key Traits of an Exceptional Brand Name:
Crafting a brand name is an art; while some words effortlessly click, others may fall flat. Copywriters are well-versed in this enigmatic process, and there are several guidelines to contemplate before embarking on the journey of name creation.
The following is a roadmap that will help you define your brand name, among other relevant aspects:
- Start by understanding deeply and refining your brand identity, including your unique value proposition, mission, and vision.
- Conduct thorough research on your desired market’s likes and dislikes, the latest industry trends, and the overall competitive landscape.
- Reflect on your brand personality and define its attributes, whether laid-back, playful, serious, fun, bold, direct, etc.
- Seek out diverse sources of inspiration. Whether it's Greek mythology (Nike), fictional literature (Starbucks), or a personal acronym (Adidas), everything could have the potential to ignite your creative process.
- Aim for Simplicity and Memorability, avoiding complexity or overly lengthy names.
- Make it Unique and Distinctive.
- Test the name with potential customers to gather feedback and insights, and be open to revising it based on the results
Our top advice: Try, try, and try again until the “Eureka” moment happens.
Setting the tone with brand voice and messaging
In 2010, Axe had already carved a niche as a leader with its innovative, often humorous campaigns targeting the hearts of young men with the promise of irresistible, masculine allure. Meanwhile, Old Spice completely renewed its brand voice, adopting a confident, playful, and over-the-top approach, weaving engaging, humorous narratives within surreal settings. Both brands achieved notable success.
Their secret? A distinct tone of voice tailored to their respective target audiences.
Axe spoke the language of teenagers and those in their early twenties, tapping into the thrilling pursuit of sexy connections. On the other hand, Old Spice resonated with young adults to seasoned men, infusing a blend of sophistication and good-humoured masculinity.
This tells us one thing - a well-crafted tone of voice builds an emotional bridge with your audience. By speaking their language and addressing their qualities, your brand can carve out a distinct place in their hearts that no competitor can touch.
What’s the language your target group employs or values the most? How do they write on their social media accounts? What kind of tone do they use with friends vs work colleagues? If you could define your brand as a human being, what kind of person would it be? How would she or he speak? These questions will help you determine the right brand language for you.
Nevertheless, your tone of voice should reflect your brand guidelines and the style that strikes a chord with your customers. Achieving this requires consistency across all platforms and conducting thorough research to establish an emotional connection with your audience.
And this is just the beginning…
Startup branding and brand strategy are slow, beautiful and complex processes that every successful company has gone through to attain its current status.
Even though great results aren't achieved overnight, with love, patience, and steadfast determination, the eventual outcome will undoubtedly be rewarding.
Just think about the companies that inspired your journey; they, too, underwent the process you're currently navigating and emerged triumphant.
And we firmly believe you will, too.
Our upcoming blog posts will delve into the visual components behind successful branding strategies and their profound impact on your audience's psyche. Also, we will provide insights on accurately segmenting your target audience and offer some tips on positioning your startup brand effectively in the marketplace.
- Perfecting Your Startups Brand Strategy - Pt. 2: Understand Your Audience
- Perfecting Your Startups Brand Strategy - Pt. 3: The Power of Narrative