What’s in a brand?
If you’ve read through the branding process we went through for Poppy Barley, then you can see the amount of preparation and iterations that can go into brand development. The truth is that a brand is bigger than just a logo. Brand strategy for startups is a considerable undertaking. This is your identity—how the world will see you and understand you. First impressions are big, and just as much as a bad idea can be made to look good, a great idea can be made to look bad. If you truly believe in your idea (like we did in made to measure boots), you need a brand and a logo to accurately communicate the quality and greatness of that idea. As the face of your company, it will be the first thing people will judge you on, and should give visual cues about what you do and, more importantly, WHY you do it.
A brand should be a consistent experience conveyed at every possible company touchpoint or interaction—be it a business card, an email, a pitch or a tweet. With a singular, cohesive voice, a brand is a living, moving thing that should have personality, knowing how to evoke an emotional response, interact with its audience and drive employee morale.
When executed well, a brand can be an extremely powerful force, producing a tribe-like mentality as its audience shifts from passive observers to active participants to rallying ambassadors. The key to achieving this shift is to create a brand that is inspiring and hopeful, yet accessible and human. It needs to reflect the lofty vision and core values of a company while communicating compelling, memorable and unique stories to create value.
Brand strategy for startups can and should be an incredibly eye opening and validating experience, as it digs deep into the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why everyone should care about it. As you can see, a brand needs to accomplish a tremendous amount. But there’s no reason to panic! Consider this a starting point that you can build upon as your company grows. Here are a four tips on how to take the first steps into a strong brand strategy for startups:
- Hire a designer. Afford to be picky. Find someone who is on board with your idea and your vision—quick $99 fixes online are not always the answer. A designer with a sketchbook and clear process will be your best friend. Make sure preliminary conversations are beyond a portfolio review, ideally meet your designer face to face and pitch them as you would any potential investor. If they understand the concept and have buy-in, your passion will translate into their work.
- Negotiate your brand package. There are multiple parts to a brand so make sure you are accounting for all the pieces you might need. Arrange a contract that will leave you completely set up to create consistency across all your materials moving forward. Packages can include, but are not limited to:
- Vector-based original files (if the designer is planning to build your logo in Photoshop, run for the hills!)
- Print- and web-ready versions of the logo in chosen colours, black and white and reversed variations.
- Font files and rights to the chosen typeface.
- Branding Guidelines – This will be invaluable in creating consistency. It will specify colour codes (CMYK, RGB, Pantones) and typefaces, as well as contain logo size and usage recommendations, ideally allowing you to take the reigns on simple projects without always having to run back to a designer for help.
- Additional supporting materials: business cards, letterhead, envelopes, templates, email signatures etc.
- Lay the foundation. At the beginning of any branding process, you are the greatest tool a designer can have to build your brand efficiently. Knowing your market, your goals, your expectations and limitations will greatly assist your designer in getting started.
- Be flexible and collaborative. This may be obvious, but the iterations and conversations you have with your designer are the most valuable part of hiring them. The more involved you can be in the process, the happier you’ll likely be with the results. Every designer and company is different, so working together to establish processes and expectations will allow for smooth development.