A guide to branding for startups

Branding is the process of creating a unique identity and personality for a startup or product, which can evoke specific emotions and associations in the minds of customers. It’s important for you to invest in branding because it can help your startup stand out from the competitors, and allow you to make emotional connections with your customers.

Research done by Harvard professor Gerald Zaltsman has shown that 95% of customer purchasing decisions are driven by subconscious factors that are largely influenced by branding. Startups with a strong brand identity and a clear mission and message are more likely to succeed in customer acquisition, even if they have fewer resources than their competitors.

Branding should be considered as a long-term investment for a startup, rather than a short-term expense. Ultimately, investing in branding early on can pay off in the form of increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, and revenue growth.

Recommended reading: The Long and the Short of it: Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies by Les Binet and Peter Field

What to consider when crafting your brand

Craft your story

One of the most important aspects of building a brand for your startup is crafting your personal story as a founder. Your story is the driving force behind your business and helps you connect with your audience. It's essential to go back to your story, dig deeper and understand why you do what you do. By doing so, you can create a unique brand that resonates with your target audience and sets you apart in the market.

Establish your brand voice

To build a strong brand, you need to establish your brand voice—the tone, style, and personality of your startup. Your brand voice should reflect your values, mission and your story. It's essential to brainstorm a list of keywords that come to mind when you think of your startup, then narrow it down to three words that represent your brand voice. And this voice should be kept consistent across all your branding materials.

Choose the right company name

Choosing the right name is critical for your brand. Your startup’s name should be easy to spell, to remember and have room for expansion. It should reflect your brand voice and values and be available and unique. Take the time to choose a name that is unique, fits your brand personality, and reflects the purpose of your business.

Craft your mission statement

Your mission statement is an important part of your branding and marketing materials. It should be clear, concise, and reflect your brand values, personality and voice. It should inspire your team and customers, and stay consistent across all your collateral as well.

Develop your visual identity

Your visual identity is the first thing people will see, so take time to get it right. It includes your logo, colour scheme, and overall design aesthetic. Your logo should be simple, memorable, and unique. Your colour scheme should complement your brand voice and personality, and your design aesthetic should be professional.

Recommended reading: Building distinctive brand assets by Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science

How to develop your brand identity

There are a few different ways you can develop your brand: 

  • Do it yourself: You may choose to create your own brand identity, especially if you have in-house design and marketing expertise.
  • Hire a branding agency: You can hire a branding agency to help you create a strong brand identity. This can be a good option if you don’t have in-house expertise and want a professional touch.
  • Work with a freelance designer: Another option is to work with a freelancer who can help with specific aspects of branding, such as designing a logo or a brand guideline.
  • Use online tools: There are many online tools available that can help you create a brand identity, such as Canva or Tailor Brands. These tools can be a good option if you have a limited budget, but note that if you use third-party graphics and typefaces for your branding, your ownership will be subject to those third-party rights.

Building a brand for a startup isn’t a one-time thing but rather a journey that requires constant adaptation and growth. Your brand should reflect your personal story and values, and should mature over time to remain relevant to your customers but also stay agile enough to respond to the ever-changing market demand. Consistency is important, but so is allowing your brand to develop its own personality and experiences. If you focus on communicating the values developed by your customers and employees through beautiful and consistent design, your brand can last a lifetime.