There’s so much to do when building a company that startup branding may not seem like a priority. But it should be.
Branding can help you outshine the competition, develop stronger customer relationships and build a better team. But there are some misconceptions that can derail these opportunities. Let’s clear the air on the importance of branding for startups and what exactly a brand is.
What is Brand?
At the highest level, your brand represents what your company stands for and how people in the market perceive it. Your brand is not just your name, logo, or the colors on your website.
Take Nike, for example — a household name with an iconic logo. The name Nike came to the company’s first employee, Jeff Johnson, in a dream. And the swoosh logo cost just $35. The name and logo did not become iconic on their own. They did so because of what Nike did (made fashionable athletic sneakers) and said (through its extremely popular marketing and advertising campaigns).
When thinking about startup branding, focus on your values, voice and tone — not what your company is called.
What does your company believe in?
At York IE, our values stem from my experiences growing up with my family’s sports retailer business: We all work for what we get, and our customers and employees are like family. We have an aligned vision, open communication and strong commitment to one another.
These values are the foundation of our new approach to building and scaling successful companies. From our aligned incentives investment model to our advisory services practice, we’re not just writing checks to startups and hoping one in 10 becomes a unicorn. We’re all in this together trying to be successful, relatively.
Voice and Tone
Your voice and tone are how you express your values to the market. This is an exceptionally important component of branding for startups because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of how your market talks.
It doesn’t matter how well your values align with your customers; if you can’t articulate them appropriately, they won’t resonate. Speaking the same language as your customers is crucial to building connections with them.
The Importance of Startup Branding
Many startups are so obsessed with building and selling their product that they push branding off to the side. This is a mistake. Brand building may not move the needle much in the beginning — definitely not as much as those exciting first sales can — but its long-term benefits can be significant.
On the B2B Category Creators podcast, I spoke with Metadata CEO Gil Allouche and Recorded Future CMO Tom Wentworth about some of the benefits of branding for startups, including how it helps you:
- differentiate among competitors;
- improve customer perception and retention; and
- recruit and retain the best talent.
At York IE, we preach the importance of taking a market-in approach: researching your market and competitors as much as possible to identify opportunities for your company to disrupt, differentiate and grow. Startup branding goes hand in hand with this approach.
Once you’ve identified the type of product your customers need and how they want to consume it, it can still take a while to make that product and go-to-market motion a reality. But you can start laying the groundwork through your branding efforts immediately.
Invest in your brand now, and it will pay off later!
So You’ve Got a Brand. Now What?
The most successful brands are consistent. Your brand is a set of principles that should guide everything you do, from building and marketing a product to interacting with customers to hiring employees.
Whether a consumer visits your website, listens to an executive on a podcast or sees your ad on a billboard, the experience should be in line with their expectations for your brand. If your website has a serious, in-depth technical tone, but you send funny, high-level marketing emails, that would be off-brand — and it creates a disconnect with your audience.
When everything you do is on-brand, it results in a better customer experience. It also reduces internal friction, because everything you do is aligned with your core values and communicated through a common voice.
Want to develop your brand but don’t know where to start? York IE’s advisory services team can help with marketing, communications, and branding for startups. Learn more.