Branding a startup can be a daunting task, and often falls by the wayside in favour of seemingly more urgent considerations. Brand identity is fairly intangible, and therefore it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it has few implications for the day to day running of a small business. The fact is that every business has a brand, whether it’s been deliberately cultivated or not, and everything you do from the moment you decide to start a business will help to shape it.
Therefore, the best time to start thinking about branding a startup is immediately – before you’ve even registered the business in fact. To register your business you need a name, and the name is one of your most obvious and recognisable brand assets. Naming a startup can be a complex process in itself, as the name has to suit the nature of your business, the tone of your industry and the expectations of your customers – that’s before we’ve even begun to consider whether it’s memorable and has positive connotations.
That said, not every aspect of developing brand identity for a new business need be as challenging and time consuming as coming up with the business name. As soon as the core elements of your brand identity are in place (name, logo, mission, vision, values, etc), the process of brand management can begin. Brand management may sound intimidating, but for a small business it’s fairly straightforward and can pay huge dividends.
Put simply, brand management is an ongoing process that ensures your brand identity is executed consistently and effectively wherever it’s used, be that on your shop signboard, your business cards or your website. Whenever you do anything that exposes your brand in any way, take a moment to consider whether it’s sending the right message. Does the copy have the right tone of voice? Is the quality of the execution sufficient? Is the design in line with the way my brand is presented elsewhere?
By asking yourself these questions and acting upon the answers, you can ensure that the impression your customers, affiliates and stakeholders have is a consistent and credible one. This alone will put you ahead of a significant proportion of small businesses, many of which simply melt into the background of ugly, generic and poorly executed branding that pervades our streets, not to mention the internet.
So, as a startup founder, when should you start thinking about branding a startup? You should be thinking about it already.