Launching a start-up company and the benefits of branding
HI folks, this is a revised blog that I originally wrote back in the salad days of 2019 PP (Pre Pandemic). Its relevance now though is stronger than ever as we pause for reflection, reassess our priorities and willingly embrace change. During this unforeseen break in the continuity of our lives you may have woken up and realised that you’re actually sick of your nine-to-five, fed up working under incompetent middle managers and want to give it up and strike out on your own. You may have been nursing a long held ambition or spotted a gap in the market, but whatever has prompted you to start up a company be in no doubt that the path to business success is not an easy one and requires a lot of hard work and soul searching to bring your vision into sustainable life.
Thankfully the changes in our work habits, with the ability to function well, working from home with minimal overheads and using technology for virtual meetings etc have opened up the doors of opportunity and make the prospect of a successful start-up launch open to all, unlike the current fad for Space Rockets manned by selfish billionaires on an intergalactic ego trip!
“Working’ 9 to 5
Oh, what a way to make a livin'
Barely gettin' by
It's all takin' and no givin'
9 to 5
Yeah, they got you where they want you
There's a better life
And you dream about it, don't you?”
You’ve made the decision, what now?
The first steps are to do your research, identify your target market; who is it I want to sell my goods/services to? The key word here is ‘target’ you can’t hope to sell to everyone and succeed. Who are your competitors, what are their strengths/weaknesses?
Often a successful company is built around solving an existing problem and if you have a unique, cost-effective solution then that’s great. However if you are stepping into an already crowded market place with many other companies providing a similar product or service how do you stand out. Why should your audience change their buying habits and switch to you? You need to Identify what makes you different and shout about it.
In this start-up phase you will need to define who you are: your personality, your values, your ethos, who you are selling to and how you’re going to reach them. Once this is clear, you are then a position to meet with a professional designer or agency to develop an original distinctive brand that pitches you right, separates you from the herd and gets you noticed.
The visual element of this - the logo - needs to be unique, distinctive and memorable. If it looks like all your competitors then I’m afraid you’re back in with the herd. A professional designer will have a portfolio of design examples, make sure you’re impressed! However before you start even thinking about the logo you need to get the name right. The name is the introduction of your business to the world, put yourself in your audience’s shoes, what will they think when they hear your name, can it be corrupted into something negative? Is it too long or complex to be memorable? Does it connect at all with the market you’re in? Does it require a long-winded explanation? Clearly the name requires great consideration, you must also check that the name is not trademarked and has domain availability. Test a short list and gain feedback from people who’s honest opinion you trust and also, more importantly, from people who are unfamiliar with what you do, what is their initial impression of the name?
Back to brand basics
Before going any further can I clear up something, the word brand is often misused and misunderstood. Its modern context and usage tends to tie us up in knots - we hear brand equity, brand engagement, brand expression, brand this and brand that and all said and done most people think it's just a logo! So to clarify, here are the definitions:
- The BRAND: How your audience perceives your corporate image as a whole
- The IDENTITY: The visual components that form part of your overall brand
- The LOGO: An icon or wordmark that identifies your business.
Put simply, your brand is an expression of everything you say and everything you do - the promises your business make. Not something you can buy I'm afraid, your brand value exists in the mind of your customer. It differentiates you from your competitors, it's how your customers remember, recognise and come to trust you.
“A brand is literally what people say about your business when you’re not in the room”.
What makes a successful brand isn’t just one thing, it’s a combination of many elements but all these elements need to be aligned (‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ to use that overused, irritating business phrase). Here’s a suggested list:
The name and tagline
The design style (eg. logo, typography, colour palette and packaging)
Website and social media presence
Shopfront and targeted advertising approach
Customer service experience
The company culture and ethos
Product quality and pricing.
So what are the benefits of branding to a start up?
- It reinforces your professional credibility. Helps you gain the trust and loyalty of your customers
- Keeps your marketing message consistent. A consistent brand is more memorable and therefore effective
- Increases customer recognition. Having a strong brand identity differentiates you from your competitors
- Evokes confidence and helps you win over investors as well as increasing the price point.
To sum up here’s some simple guidelines:
Put in the effort to clarify who you are and the business you want to be. Understand your customer - both current and prospective. Use a professional and develop a memorable, easily identifiable visual style and be consistent with how you deliver it. Most importantly be true to the brand and keep your promises.
Whatever your business, it's essential that you have a professional design to project the right message.
Lennon Design can offer an affordable design service that gives you the tools to get your company off the ground and into the marketplace. Quickly, efficiently and professionally. Affordable start-up packages are available.