Why? Because your brand should permeate every component of your business, from the very start.
Your brand is your reputation; it’s what you want people to think about when they come across your company’s name, its employees, its products or services. As you’re starting a new venture, here is your opportunity to position yourself and create your reputation.
A common startup error that you want to avoid is diving into product development first, and then turning your attention to the drawing board to figure out what your brand strategy is after you’ve launched your prototype. It is okay if you’re developing your brand in tandem with your product strategy—product research may give you ideas for brand refinement, and vice versa.
Your brand should not come after your product. This is like building out the living room of the house without establishing processes, standards, and requirements for the entire structure.
Many founders also commit another common mistake, which is thinking that their brand comprises their logo and their company name. As such, they assume it would be easy and quick to create a brand after they have a prototype. It is neither. If you don’t do your homework at the start, you’ll end up doing more work in mid-stream.
Brand development is a process that can take weeks if not months to establish, depending on a company’s vision, size and allocated resources.
For startups, at the minimum, founders need to reflect, research, and articulate the following in order to establish a framework for how you will be building your brand.
Your brand is a reflection and an influence of many factors, which include:
- company name
- core values
- personality traits
- emotional appeal
- standards you set for yourself and your employees
- structure and requirements you have in place for the entire organization: which include product development, engineering, marketing, finance, operations, business development, etc.
- business etiquette: how you and your employees interact with one another, with vendors, partners, customers, even competitors
- presentation: how you and your employees present yourselves, your products, your online presence, your marketing collaterals, your sales tools, etc.
- visibility: where and how often your company appears, gets mentioned
- performance: does your product deliver its promise, how does it stack against competition
- community: who’s in it and how will they influence your brand (internal team, customer targets, fans and supporters, critics and competitors, strategic partners–what are their reputations and how will that affect your brand).
Brand development is a continual process where you incorporate new insights—from product feedback, customer service input, consumer research, market research, competitive knowledge, industry trends, etc.—from time to time to refine your position.
At the minimum, as founders, you need to ensure you’re starting out aligned. Founders, company and product need to represent the brand consistently.
It sounds like common sense, but I’ve worked with founders who wanted the company’s brand to attract a high-end market, and yet created a product that they were willing to sell to at ‘K-mart blue light’ price point. The problem about starting out with a low price point is that it is very hard to raise it, once you’ve created consumer perception that it’s ‘cheap.’ In another venture, the startup promised seamless platform integration, but offered outdated instructions to the engineers on the client side. As a result, the startup’s brand was marred, and it could not go to this client and ask for an endorsement.
Reflect, research and think about all the components that will affect your brand. Take charge of your brand, plan carefully, and establish the position you desire.
© 2013-2015 My-Tien Vo