Branding For Startups: Getting The Basics Right
Avoid a misfire in your brand launch with KHULA Design Studio’s quick-guide to branding basics. What is branding and why it matters?
You may have a great idea for a business, a minimum viable product, and the readiness to go to market. But without the right branding, you’ll find it hard to connect your business with your target audiences, differentiate what you do from your competitors, and clearly define your brand identity system — so that it has purpose and consistency.
With your budget ploughed into research and development, branding might have slipped to the near-bottom of your priority list. But investment now will help you to avoid picking up the pieces later as a result of ineffective short-term marketing strategies. Branding is a long-term investment. And it’s worth making it from day one if you value control and consistency over how your business is presented and perceived at every touchpoint with customers and clients.
What is branding, and why does it matter to your startup?
At its heart, branding is about shaping perceptions, whether that’s clients, customers, or employees. It combines advertising and design to distinguish your organization from its competitors. By translating your position into assets such as visual identity and a website, and actions, like user experience and customer support services, branding can alter perceptions. Assets and actions are a powerful combination that work together to influence stakeholders’ minds.
Branding is an iterative process and a work in progress that tries to ensure that the assets connected with a particular product or service are distinct and clearly distinguishable. It is the art of differentiating your organization from your competitors, through strategies that enable people to quickly identify who you are, and what you stand for.
Whilst branding is often seen as the aesthetics of your organization, it also includes the story of your startup, the promise of what your product or service can do, and the value behind it. All of these elements combine to influence how employees, suppliers, and clients (both potential and current) perceive and feel about your organization. Feeling is really important.
Effective branding has the power to convert first impressions to lifelong customer loyalty, with the potential to transform indifference into zealous advocacy for your organization.
How clients and customers feel about your product or service will largely determine how likely they are to opt for your offering over a competitor’s. It’s the key that unlocks the doors of perception. And branding matters to your business for four key reasons:
- It creates an identity for your business.
- It helps you present your product or service to the world.
- It makes your business more memorable.
- It provides focus for people who work for you.
Think of branding as the vehicle that drives your product or service to where it needs to go to reach your target audiences. Its primary purpose is to positively impact both short and long-term decision-making and create buy-in to your business. It’s like a blueprint for the way your brand is expressed at every touchpoint with stakeholders.
And that requires clear strategized thinking around who your audience is, what you can offer them, how you can align your brand with their needs, and where and when you can engage them. It’s about communicating with your target audience on their terms, in channels that they are most-likely or most-comfortable to use.
Understanding your audience requires strategical thinking around a number of key factors in order to present your product or service as the ideal solution for their perceived problem or need. By identifying who your audience is, their personality, their journey and emotional investment, you are then ready to engage and ultimately influence their decision to view your offering as the most suitable one.
The Branding Hierarchy Of Needs
At KHULA Design Studio, the way in which we help you with branding is through our ‘brand hierarchy of needs’, steps for progression which ensure you’re on course for a winning outcome.
It’s these branding fundamentals that give you the firm roots for your brand to grow.
What You Offer
The keystone to building out your brand is your proven offer, product or service. Whether you’re selling handmade textiles, sports therapy, or after school child care, it’s important to consider what you have and what makes it unique.
That means you’re going to need an oversight of the existing marketplace and where your offering fits in. Getting an informed idea about the shape of the landscape around your particular business and market means you can identify what’s already out there, and how yours is different. What are your potential customers’ current options?
It’s also critical to fully understand who it is your brand is connecting with. Only by understanding their pain points and personal preference can you ensure your branding strategy connects with your target audience.
Clarity on what you offer enables KHULA Design Studio to come alongside you to help design your organization’s image, engineering brand associations that resonate in the minds of your stakeholders and help to shape their perceptions. What makes your brand different?
By ensuring your branding cleanly delivers your key messages, you can successfully define who you are in the minds of all stakeholders. Getting it right, is crucial to your future success.
When it comes to messaging, your brand makes the difference. We can help you to strategize your brand messaging in ways that set you apart from competitors with a powerful verbal identity clarifying your key messaging, and helping current and potential users to understand your brand and buy-in to it.
From colours and shapes to typography and visual elements, all aspects of your visual communication are responsible for delivering your brand’s personality.
Reinforcing your overall brand strategy and helping you to distinguish your organization from competitors, we offer a variety of design solutions, from brand identity and visual systems, to UX/UI and web design, that embody your brand positioning, messaging, and brand personality.
Building your brand presence is an ongoing process, and it takes time and experience for it to evolve and transform. To help it grow, you need to ensure you’re offering an amazing customer experience at every touchpoint to create a memorable experience, every time.
Does your branding do justice to your stakeholders' engagement with your business? Conversely, is your customer’s experience aligned with your branding?
Who are you at your best?
There are lots of low-cost strategies you can use to set your branding on the right foot from the get-go. The first one? Make sure you know your brand’s personality. If you’re not able to describe the personality of your brand, then your customers and clients aren’t going to be able to either.
Set the tone for your organization by deciding on the characteristics of your brand, not to impose a set of behavioural rules on your employees, but to establish the traits that underpin your brand values.
This brand personality will be represented in all aspects of your branding, from visual elements like colours, to the copy on your social media channels.
Getting an objective perspective
The words you probably don’t want to hear: your brand is not for you. However devoted you are to your product and service, your branding needs to connect with potential customers and clients.
It can be difficult for startups to get objective feedback on their branding, especially if you’re a solopreneur, so surveys and client testimonials are a great way to measure the impact of your brand, so that you can check the message is getting out there, and being heard correctly.
It also enables you to highlight the benefits of what you do, ensure people know who you are, and mitigate any confusion surrounding your brand.
Your brand — in its own words
Which celebrity or public figure does your brand sound like? That’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Your brand voice needs emotional guidelines, and identifying an actual voice for your product or service is a free and simple way to align those people representing it, from sales representatives to copywriters.
Across all channels, consistency is key if you want to create an authentic brand persona that engages your target audience on a deeper level.
The value of visual consistency
Talking of consistency, effective branding also ensures that all of your touchpoints with customers and clients have a cohesive look and feel. Clear choices over logo, typography and colours will ensure you stay on brand no matter where you’re engaging with clients and customers. The value?
Consistency builds loyalty and trust in your promise to deliver.
Building a brand identity system
When a collection of visual design elements, such as your logo, typography, colours, packaging and messaging come together cohesively, you have a complete visual representation of your brand, or a brand identity system. For any startup, there are three fundamentals you need to consider as a minimum requirement of your branding needs:
- Brand strategy ensures you have the right product or service in your market. Do you have the right brand positioning? Competitor and brand audits will enable you to do a gap analysis to build the cornerstone of your brand promise. This research will inform your next two steps: your brand identity. This research sets the tone for every future touchpoint of your brand, from your website to marketing materials.
- Brand identity and your visual system help your brand to leave a recognizable and memorable mark. As one element of this, logos can help you make a powerful first impression and convey your brand message and personality. As they become increasingly recognized, logos become a sign of authenticity and help to build trust.
- A website showcases your product or service to the world. Whether your business is based online or offline, don’t underestimate the importance of a professional website. Not only will most customers instinctively check your website when dealing with you, it will be their go-to for finding your contact details, and add value-added information.
Affordable branding tailored to your needs
Many startups and solopreneurs have small budgets which get eaten up by research and development, leaving little left over for branding. Startup branding doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think.
At KHULA Design Studio, we’re in the business of helping solopreneurs and startups build their brand through a range of services including brand strategy and design, copywriting, Webflow development, and SEO.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can elevate your brand, get in touch with us today. We’re always happy to talk branding.