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How to establish your startup’s brand in four simple steps

Your brand is just a small part of establishing your startup, but a very important one, as it feeds into almost everything that you will do. 

It is the recognisable name and style that embodies your business, from your values to your designs to your tone of voice, and everything in between.

In this article, we share our steps to establishing a consistent brand that makes your business stand out. 

Understand your audience

We’ve previously discussed defining your business purpose, audience and marketplace in our startup marketing on a shoestring article, and this is valuable information to revisit while building your brand. Translating this into something that is recognisable as your brand, and not another, will ensure you stay authentic to your business aims and stand out from competitors.

Understanding your customers is of key importance, and revisiting your personas will ultimately help you to design a brand that resonates with them. Failing to do so will result in them turning to a competitor which more closely aligns to their style and values.

For example, if your core customer base are Gen Z students, having a sleek, environmentally-friendly brand focussed on web and social media, will resonate with them better than a brand that relies on ‘the good old days’ approach and advertises in traditional  newspapers. 

Decide on your focus 

Whether you have a very precise customer persona database or a more diverse one, accepting that you can’t be everything for everyone will not only help you maintain your sanity, it will also help you find the focus for your brand messaging. 

Consider your unique value proposition (UVP): are you bringing a brand new product to market? Have you decided that being eco-friendly will be a core value? If you need help defining your UVP, completing Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model will help you.

Some great ways to then help you decide on your focus, according to this Hubspot article, include:

  • Writing a positioning statement
  • Identifying 3-5 words that resonate with your business identity
  • Pinpoint a few metaphors that represent your business, for example what animal would it be and why?

Once you’ve decided on your focus, you may want to form a tagline from it. A tagline is a short, high-impact catchphrase or slogan to further support your message – think Nike’s Just Do It. It is not the same as your mission statement, but may relate to it; for example if your mission statement included outstanding customer service, your tagline may be something like “Expect the Extraordinary”.

Adopt an identity

Just like your own personal brand, your business needs an identity – a personality, story, style, tone, behavioural traits – which will guide both the way in which you communicate with your customers and the way you conduct your business. 

With the work you’ve already completed, your brand vision will be starting to take shape. You have the information you need to create an identity which combines the key parts of your product, customer base, company values and UVP – now what is the best way of portraying these points both visually and via written content?

There are some great examples of brand personalities in this article from Career Addict to inspire you, such as Dove’s simple and elegant brand that resonates with its diverse female customer base. You would be very surprised if Dove’s next rebrand lost its inner beauty theme and instead became very stiff-upper-lipped – as they have built their identity around making women feel good. 

Ask yourself what you want people to see and feel when they see your branding. Can you utilise stories or videos to get ‘behind-the-scenes’? Would a quirky brand voice suit your brand better than a formal one? Only you can answer questions like these, as you know your business inside out. 

Get visual

Now you have your brand concept, you’re ready to translate that into your visual style and design. According to this article from Fresh Sparks, your style includes your:

  • Logo, including size and placement
  • Colour palette
  • Fonts
  • Iconography
  • Web elements
  • Photography / imagery style

Your brand guidelines will apply to everything you do, so you don’t have design skills, we recommend you consider hiring a designer or an agency. 

However, even if you go down this route, you will still need to translate your vision into something they can work with. Your logo in particular needs to represent you as a brand – it should inspire trust in you and be recognisable – as it will be present on everything from your business cards to your website. Colour in particular can be emotive to your customer base, so consider using a colour which represents your values and customer base, and the associations they may make from that colour. This colour emotion guide by The Logo Company attempts to map out colours to particular traits. Whilst this isn’t a fine science, it is certainly something to consider.

You should follow a similar path when looking at your fonts. As an example of designing for your audience, consider Android’s redesign – a quick but impactful example of how they changed their logo font design to suit their changing audience, from their original techy design aimed at developers, to clean and simple as they became more consumer-facing, as you can see in this article in Hubspot.

If you’re really struggling to see how your business may align with a colour scheme or font style, look online for some inspiration (although never mimic). Pinterest is filled with examples, or visit the blogs of reputable design companies for a plethora of examples of great brand designs, such as this article by CanvaBuilding your brand is a big step for your budding business, and will evolve as it continues to grow. But with it comes great pressure to get it right. If you’d be more comfortable working on your brand within a supportive, incubator environment, apply now for our next cohort, or contact us to find out more about us.

The next application deadline is Friday 6th May 2022

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