Advice for start-ups – how to develop branding

There are a thousand and one jobs to tackle when you first start a business, but branding is among the most important. Unless you have a professional and distinctive brand image that represents you accurately, you can’t start marketing your new company properly. This means a very slow or non-existent growth in brand awareness and no new customers, which could halt your plans before you even get going.

Getting it right the first time

Developing a brand from scratch is a hugely challenging process. Each major party in the company will have different views on which direction to take with brand image, and it takes time to create a coherent vision that everyone is happy with. Due to how time-intensive the process is, you’ll ideally only do it once. This means getting it right, or at least the core look and feel of the branding right, first time.

Step 1: Define your key differentiators

What are the key values or attributes of your brand that makes it stand out from its competitors? Start by creating a list of these attributes as a group and narrow it down to the top three most important ones. Examples include ‘eco-friendly’, ‘cutting-edge’ or ‘exceptional value’. Think about what your competitors are lacking or what customers criticise them for, and how you do the opposite. These are all things that can make you stand out if you can communicate them in your branding.

Step 2: Define your target audience

It’s no use designing a brand image that appeals just to you. Your branding needs to be optimised to appeal specifically to your target market – the people or organisations who will be buying your products. Do plenty of research and come up with a list of questions to help you to shape your branding around your ideal customer, such as these from Entrepreneur.com:

  • What are their interests and likes?
  • How do they like to be spoken to?
  • What do they need, and what do they want?
  • What are their aspirations and goals in life?
  • What problems do they have or challenges they need to overcome?

Step 2: Imagine your brand as a person

This is an excellent tip from entrepreneur Leslie Ziegler, speaking to First Round Review. Ziegler explains:

“The exercise initially feels silly, but makes internal brand identity very easy to scale,”

“I ask, ‘What celebrity or historical figure would this brand be? Is it George Clooney? Is it George Washington?’ Other people on your team can say, ‘Okay, what would George Washington say about this? What would he do? Would he put that ad there? Would he work with this partner? Does this feel right?’”

Step 4: Imagine your brand in the future

Ask yourself – what will my brand be when it grows up? Every start-up has a dream of what they’d like their company to be, even if you aren’t there yet. Reflecting this in your branding gives it longevity, as it reflects the company now and in the future.

For advice from branding specialists, contact the experts at Ambos Digital.