By: Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director of Manchester-based agency, Marketing Signals:
Do start-ups need branding?
Branding is essential for all start-ups. It doesn’t matter what niche they’re focussing on, who their target audience is, or how big they want to grow, branding is the glue that holds everything together. I understand that starting a business can be overwhelming, especially if it’s the founder’s first one. It can be tempting to focus only on logistics and profits, as these are the things that will allow you to continue selling and satisfying customers. But branding is something that goes hand in hand with any effective marketing strategy, which is what attracts customers to your business in the first place.
What is branding and why is it important? / Why do you need branding?
I like to think of branding as a business’ personality. It brings your brand to life and makes it stand out as unique from the competition. Your brand is made up of lots of factors like your company name, its logo, the way your website looks, and the tone of voice you use across platforms. If you currently see branding as something that adds to your workload, it’s time to change your mindset, because branding actually makes marketing easier. Once you know what your company stands for, you’ll be able to come up with ways to send this message out to your audience more quickly.
But branding is about more than just making your marketing strategy appear cohesive. It helps your customers to make a deeper, more emotional connection with your business. Your brand will help you to build trust with both new and existing customers, as they’ll come to see your services as more consistent over time.
How do start-ups do branding?
I don’t think that branding is always easy. While some start-ups will already have a distinctive brand in mind before launching their company, others won’t know where to start. It’s important to remember that your brand doesn’t have to match your own personality, but it does need to reflect the values and ideals you hold in high esteem. After all, your business is a reflection of you and you wouldn’t want to invest so much time and energy in something you don’t believe in.
So how should start-ups go about their branding? The first step is to really consider their story and what they’re offering to their customers. Why did they create their business in the first place? It’s then good to move onto explore how competitors are approaching branding and the ways that your target audience respond to this. You don’t want your brand to mimic a competitor’s too closely, but you can take away some overarching themes you might want to consider.
Once you have a feel for your brand, it’s time to translate that into more tactile aspects of your business. For example, the colour palette of your website and communications, the way you write your blogs and the kinds of photographs you share on social media.
Five elements of an effective brand
While there’s no one size fits all when it comes to branding, there are some key elements that make for a more effective, powerful brand. Here are five that all start-ups should consider:
Identity: This encapsulates what your brand is and where it comes from. Brand identity is often one of the first steps when trying to figure out what your business’ personality is. Your brand identity should always include what your business does, so make sure you’re clear on the products and services you’re offering your customers before delving any deeper. Next, consider your brand’s story and how your business came to be. This will help customers to better understand not only your brand but the person behind it as well.
Purpose: This isn’t the same as simply the services you’re offering. Your brand’s purpose is a commitment to your customers to deliver those services in a particular way. Whether you’re prioritising speed, quality, trustworthiness or sustainability, make sure your customers are aware of these promises.
Consistency: Once you’ve decided on your brand, make sure you stay consistent. Don’t waver in your choices or try to be more than one thing at the same time. While a brand can be multi-faceted, it should always be contained within the same overarching identity.
Emotional Connection: A brand that presents itself as human and connects on a more personal level with its audience is more likely to be remembered. Even professional or clinical brands can provide that emotional depth by showing they care about their clients and the outcome of their services.
Visual Presence: Your brand should always have a visual presence as well as a written one. While it’s important to lay the foundations for your brand in an ‘About Us’ section, your brand should really speak for itself through your design and tone of voice as well