Oscar Runeland is Director of Brand at Kubi Kalloo, a brand consultancy for the world’s biggest and smallest businesses.
Making time for your brand
Brand strategy is often overlooked by start-ups, and not for terrible reasons. You have lots to focus on when trying to establish yourself. The gravitational pull from the operational side of business-building is real and often all-consuming.
In this context, marked by successive urgencies that demand immediate attention, uncertainty around the value of brand strategy can mean it feels like a distraction at a time when efficient performance matters most. But ignoring brand strategy works against the growth start-ups so desperately need.
If you’ve asked yourself what brand strategy is, what it does, and how to get a good one, this article is for you.
What is brand strategy?
Brand strategy is what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. It is half business, half creative: each enabling the other. It comprises two key assets:
- your positioning (the strategic bit)
- your personality (the creative bit)
It consolidates these into a powerful engine of growth that informs and inspires. Armed with a strong brand strategy, you grow faster by helping yourself to focus better, work smarter, and acquire customers, employees and investment more easily. If you don’t have a brand strategy, your brand still exists, but it is likely underplaying the strengths of your proposition and undermining the speed and scale of your growth potential.
The narcissism of small differences
Many start-ups fixate on what they’re good at: a technical superiority or incrementally better service capability. And they naturally bias towards what they’re good at, believing this is what customers truly notice and care about.
In truth, customers aren’t rational. They may well want to buy your product, but they’d much rather buy into your brand. This is not to suggest start-ups should focus less on their product. This is to say that start-ups must identify and assert the maximised value of their product, which is all about defining what it does that’s good for people.
Why should someone believe in you?
The brand-building process
Building a brand strategy starts with building a brand positioning. It starts in your founding story and ends in your customers’ mind. It links the values driving the start-up with the values of the customer. It defines the core of the business proposition in terms that customers understand and desire.
This is about identifying and articulating the greater purpose the business exists in service of, the vision of the world it is seeking to contribute to, and the specific, measurable mission that the business is targetting. Many consultancies offer brand services, often as an add-on to a logo, a website, a growth strategy.
But brand is not an add-on, and creative agencies in particular struggle to see the proposition beyond how it presents itself physically. Brand is an idea that manifests in all that you do. It’s your typeface, your recruitment strategy, your pitch deck, your office, your tone of voice, your email signature, your product, your growth ambition. By building your brand strategy, every manifestation of what you do is powerfully aligned for greatest cumulative impact.
With your brand strategy in place, you can define your brand personality that signals how you do what you do in a way that’s attractive, distinctive, and true for you.
Brand-building is an external exercise
Start-ups, like any business, can struggle to see themselves objectively. The quickest and laziest response to wanting a brand is simply to develop a creative identity that makes you feel modern and attractive. But brand-literate customers demand more, and working with external consultants helps start-ups achieve a more credible, real, authentic brand that connects more deeply with the needs, desires and aspirations of your audience.
If you want to define your purpose, vision and mission, and if you want to understand what your audiences need you to be to add the most value in their lives, you need to find and choose a consultancy with diverse skillsets.
A commercially-minded dreamer.
A romantic realist.
An outspoken listener.
A creative strategist.
An anchored disruptor.
If you want to open the door to brand-driven growth, Kubi Kalloo is a Shoreditch-based brand consultancy that exists to help brands mean more and move faster.