Branding Basics for Startups

Updated: Sep 18, 2018


As a business owner, one of the hardest decisions you will make is defining a brand identity for your company and products. It is not as simple as designing a logo, and then you are off and running.



Here at Ulster Studios, I sit down with clients and work with them through the process of defining their brand identity based on their company's #values, #mission, and #vision. I ensure brand perception aligns with reality by establishing guidelines and creating visual devices needed—like #logos, #websites, packaging, promotional materials, decor—so customers have a positive emotional connection to the company's services and products.


"Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail or B2B. An effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets."

Source: Entrepreneur Magazine (link below)


Branding has too many aspects to cover in one article. Here are just a few key elements that will help you #kickstart your branding conversations.


DEVELOP AN AUTHENTIC AND UNIQUE VOICE FOR YOUR BRAND


The most important aspect of branding is developing a unique #voice that reflects your #brand.


The first step to finding your voice is to understand both your product and your customer. Maybe you are a small boutique, and your product is women's wear. Your main products are dresses that are simple, bright, and very modern, perfect for dating.


Well, we know your client is most likely a woman. If she's dating, then probably a young woman. Continue this process of developing your customer profile and #branding to the point that you create a #personaan ideal customer.


Now, let's say you identify your ideal customer as a woman, aged 25-35, making 50k plus per year, who lives within 20 miles of your boutique. She is young and likes modern fashion. With this information, all you have to do is speak her language and appeal to what she loves—modern dresses for young single women with disposable income.


Your #brandvoice will be fine-tuned to attract this #idealcustomer. Also, you will incorporate this voice into your #brandstrategy and apply it everywhere—logo, websites, store signage, decor, ads, business cards, letterhead, emails, social media—everywhere.


ALIGN YOUR BRAND WITH REAL EXPECTATIONS


One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is having a #mission or #vision of their company that is not in alignment with how their #brand is perceived.


For example, let's say you have a high-end restaurant. You've spent a ton of money on decor. The food is spectacular, as it should be as ingredients are the best money can buy. However, your logo looks like a typical corner diner and your marketing focuses on specials and senior discounts. You may be the best restaurant in town, but your #brandperception will be less than ideal. The #reviews will most likely be horrible. Clients will feel cheated.


The problem is not the restaurant, the decor, the product, or the service. The problem is your brand vision and reality are not in alignment.


In this case, two things are probably happening. One, the clients that are coming are expecting #value and a quick dinner. When they arrive, they are met with an expensive menu that they didn't budget for and may be underdressed. Moreover, if they invited some friends along, they are probably embarrassed and angry, forced to either stay or worse—find a new place to eat. Next thing you know, you've got a bunch of #badreviews on Yelp and Google. It can take a long time to get rid of those #reviews.


Two, the clients that your #business needs are nowhere in sight. They saw your #ad on #Facebook or #Instagram and didn't think you were a high caliber restaurant. If you don't have high-end clients for your high-end restaurant, then you won't have a restaurant for much longer. You will need to correct course quickly and get your branding back on track.


"Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors'. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be."

Source: Entrepreneur Magazine (link below)



STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT—LEARN TO TEST AND ITERATE


Everyone wants to have the perfect logo, a clever tagline, super buzzy #socialmedia posts—a game-changing brand. It's not that easy.


There's a saying that goes something like this: "You may not be able to be the best, but at the very least, don't be the worst." It may sound like a low bar but, there is some truth in that statement. Too many businesses—trying to become the next "it" brand—give up in frustration.


"Viral, buzz, memes, stickiness, and form factor became the lingua franca of branding. But despite all the hoopla, such efforts have had very little payoff."

Source: Harvard Business Review


Understand that #branding, like everything else, is a learning process. The logo you chose on day one may not be the logo you have a year from now. Don't get locked into anything. Put your best effort out there, it may not be perfect but know it is not forever. Remember your goal: don't be the worst among your #competitors. Then keep #testing and #iterating your branding efforts.


Most importantly, don't let emotional attachment drive your branding. You have to be willing to go where your customers take you. As I always say—follow the #data.


BUILD BRAND EQUITY


Like investing in a home, your investment in branding builds brand equity over time. The more your clients associate your #brand with quality, value, a particular lifestyle, or whatever attributes are essential to your brand, the more #equity you gain.


So what does #brandequity do for your business? Brand equity can do many things. It allows you to charge more money. Look at Apple. Their brand is so #trusted they charge more for their iPhones than any other phone brand. Brand equity gets you word-of-mouth—that's #freeadvertising. Look at the Mazda Miata. The Miata brand is so popular that Mazda doesn't even run paid advertisements.


That's how important it is to develop your company's brand equity—perceived quality and emotional attachment—through good branding.


"When your consumers are fans of your brand and identify with it, they may become vocal in spreading your brand’s message. Word of mouth marketing has always been important, but it can be even more crucial in this age of social media."

Source: American Express Small Business (link below)


I hope you enjoyed this article. Please share with a friend.


Always forward,

Kevin


Managing Director

Ulster Studios LLC

If you would like to read more on this subject, here are some great resources:


The Basics of Branding

by Entrepreneur Magazine

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/77408d


Branding 101: Tips for Building a Killer Identity

by American Express Small Business

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/branding-101-essential-guide-developing-brand-identity/


Branding in the Age of Social Media

by Harvard Business Review

https://hbr.org/2016/03/branding-in-the-age-of-social-media

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