Branding a new business starts with a blank canvas. Where do you go from there?
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The differences are many and varied when thinking about branding a start-up versus an established brand. An obvious challenge is that you’re often starting from scratch, with no history or ‘baggage’ of an established brand to work from.
Without that, it can feel like you’re free-falling without a parachute – what should you build your brand around? What’s the hook? How do I even start?
Creating a compelling new brand is so much more than just getting the logo right. Below are the key things we’ve learned while working with start-ups that can help those embarking on the same journey;
1. Who are you?
Finding both a distinctive brand name and an unused domain name is like finding a polar bear in a snowstorm. To avoid the disappointment of creating the perfect name, but finding it’s already used by a local kebab house, run naming work streams in parallel.
It’s also worth trusting your instincts. Lots of successful businesses quickly pick a name and worry about embedding meaning into it later.
2. Be prepared to learn on the job, and learn fast
Regardless of whether you’re the business owner, or the creative agency, everyone is learning on the job. Visionaries (as start-up founders often are) are not usually experts in marketing.
They may have bags of enthusiasm, but little experience in branding; so agencies often have to be much closer to the business than they would be with an established brand. Likewise, agencies need to get to grips with whatever new product or service is being launched, and sometimes even creating new categories, so don’t be afraid to be collaborative.
3. Be adaptive and fluid in your approach
The very nature of being a start-up means ideas are constantly changing and you’re working towards a fragile vision that can shift overnight. The brief is likely to change. You’ll need to be prepared for it and accepting of that change.
4. Digital start-ups are becoming more sophisticated
Logos created in student digs are becoming a thing of the past, with ‘digital natives’ becoming increasingly brand savvy. Digital brands launching into established markets need to have real meaning, depth and purpose to engage with this audience.
Their identities need to work across multiple touchpoints with a consistent tone of voice, and fresh content. We call this your ‘Brand World’.
5. Your ‘test market’ is friends and family
With usually smaller budgets and faster turnarounds, creative work is often tested with a client’s wife/ husband/ child/ mate in the pub. While it can be a cost effective way to get a response, it goes without saying that these people aren’t necessarily your ideal target audience.
Coming up with a cost effective way of testing creative work (with the right people) is something you will need to consider. Or if you’re brave enough, go with your gut – if you know your market well enough, what you feel is right, often is.
6. Creative ideas are fragile things – handle with care
It’s very easy to be cynical of new ideas (some thought the internet wouldn’t fly when it was launched) so it’s important to gather a team around you that are going to be champions of the idea and nurture it into greatness. Listen to your team and be open-minded - different opinions will add value but you all need to be pulling in the same direction.
Finally, give it your all, have your best people around you, be brave and be prepared to fail (but learn and get back up again).