Launching a new company is one of the most demanding and challenging undertakings imaginable, requiring passion, focus, speed and enormous reservoirs of energy and courage. And more often than not, start-up teams are required to manage limited resources to develop their products and services, hire talent, build technology, and secure additional funding. Frequently, these realities leave little bandwidth for attending to the creation and nurturing of a brand. It’s understandable that under these circumstances, branding routinely takes a back seat, in part rationalized by the notion that a newly-launched business doesn’t even have a brand, and that it will naturally evolve.
For better or for worse, brand development takes intentionality and appetite, and doesn’t magically materialize out of thin air. And as long as entrepreneurs (and their investors) avoid embracing it as an exciting, engaging and integral part of enterprise building, they will create a culture where branding is a grudge purchase best made piecemeal and only under duress – and will miss the opportunity to imbue the fledgling business with the intangible value of a great-brand-in-the-making.
So what does branding early stage companies look like?
It begins with giving form and substance to your vision, positioning, value proposition, and messaging – and using these building blocks to develop inventive, appropriate and compelling brand experiences through the full range of naming, visual identity, digital platform development, social media strategy and implementation, advertising, collateral, email marketing, packaging design, point of purchase…and the list goes on.
And don’t get caught in the arrogance trap that says because you are the visionary behind your products and/or services you are also a branding expert…Probably not the case. Hire professionals to shepherd you through the branding process and if you actively participate, you’ll learn a great deal about branding over time so you can take on some of the work without external help. In an ideal world, the VCs backing a new venture will make branding professionals available as part of their investment, rather than you having to shoulder the financial burden or hire staff that you can ill afford…This notion of VCs’ expanded responsibility is a point of view that is only now starting to gain traction in the world of new venture incubation, but is quickly gaining broad based adoption.
And my last bit of advice for now…Don’t fall prey to the illusion that branding is something you undertake once and then it’s done. Branding is not the equivalent of a bug trapped in amber; rather, it is organic, dynamic and constantly evolving. Just like your business. Brand building never stops so adjust your attitude at the outset and learn to love the process. It just may make the difference between a good venture and a great one.
Illustration by Yuri Canales, Graphic Designer at Otherwise Incorporated