Startup companies are often built on a great idea and the passion of an entrepreneur. The time and money for the company is spent getting the technology just right, which means branding is often an afterthought. But, branding is crucial for the success of any company, especially a technology start-up. Without strong, trustworthy and clear branding, it is hard to get people to even try the product. And, branding goes far past slapping on a logo or designing a good website.
Telling Your Story
Branding shows the world who you are as a company and helps them understand what benefit they can expect without needing to expressly say it. Startups have to tell their story. When the right story is told, the product or service becomes more powerful and the brand is viewed as more trustworthy. The story has to illustrate the problem and the problem-solver, making the reader understand why the brand is necessary and identify with those driving the ideas.
According to the 2015 United States Report GEM (Global Enterprise Monitor) by Babson, approximately 12% of the population (or approximately 20,695 adults) strive to be entrepreneurs in the US alone. Some researchers have estimated that approximately 100 million new companies will start up each year across the world. That is a lot of commotion to fight through, and it doesn’t even take into account the established companies that already have the trust or respect of the consumer.
You will need to create differentiation to become an explicit brand with a niche market. Branding can display the value proposition in a way that the customer can understand and appreciate. It may be your business plan, your employees or your product that makes you different, but you have to identify and highlight whatever set’s you apart.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Great branding is very clear and that clarity can make or break a startup. People aren’t familiar with you, so helping them identify with your message right off the bat is crucial to earning a conversion and improving brand recognition. You need to be very clear about what exactly you do or do not offer – especially if you are a technology or service company without a physical product that a customer can review.
A recognizable brand can be more valuable because it should lead to brand loyalty. Branding should inspire trust and give a perception of quality. What makes Uber better than Lyft? Why go with Home Away or Airbnb instead of one of many lesser known similar services? Many services or products will have little-to-no real differences, but are more desirable for a higher price point because of the brand they are attached to. In these cases, the message of the generic brand is money-saving value and the message of the name brand is quality at a slightly higher price.
Thinking Across the Board
Branding has to be more than a logo or a color selection – it needs to permeate every aspect of your company for a cohesive feel. What kind of voice will your blog have? This needs to match your email and social media approach. How will your branded images look and feel to increase viewer engagement? Even your team needs to have a similar approach in their selling, customer service and PR work. The brand has to act and operate as a separate entity and not be derailed by specific elements.
Sometimes, startups make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves to save time and money. But, branding is key. Someone who is good at software design or business plans may not be good at graphic design, copywriting or website architecture. The real strength of a leader is in knowing what tasks are best delegated. A branding and marketing team can help get a startup’s branding off in the right direction for the ideal target audience and market segment that will help ensure success.
Analyzing Your Impact
Branding shouldn’t be stagnant. Once you’ve gone to market and started working with your branding direction, you have to see how the audience is responding and adjust accordingly. JP Morgan and Interbrand studied the reasons that brand accounts struggle:
The brand is a special intangible that in many businesses is the most important asset. This is because of the economic impact that brands have. They influence the choices of customers, employees, investors and government authorities. In a world of abundant choices, such influence is crucial for commercial success.
Brands like Apple, Google and Coca-Cola are considered some of the most valuable brand names in the world. Their approach to their personality, style and feel has changed over the years to adapt to their market.