The key to building the foundations of a great brand (it’s not visual identity).
Entrepreneurs confront huge problems — throwing themselves head-first into developing new and better solutions that add value to peoples’ lives. But a startup can only live up to its potential by communicating what it does to the outside world.
Brand is the right place to start, but is so often misunderstood — as a great name and logo, rather a way to creating meaningful relationships (that ultimately lead to sales).
When I built my first business, one of my first activities was to create my name and my logo. It made me feel comfortable. That I — and it — had an identity. But very quickly, I felt just as lost as I had done before. I had a great product that I’d worked really hard to build, a little team of people, and now a logo and a name to go with it — but still no direction.
I have learnt that doing it properly doesn’t have to be hard, slow or costly. And can quickly and effectively accelerate a startup’s growth.
What really is a brand?
In the years since that first business, I’ve learnt a good deal (the hard way) about what brand really means. Your brand is the way that people experience what you do and interact with your business. It’s how every activity your business carries out makes people feel. Your visual identity (logo, colours, typeface etc) is extremely important but is just one of the ways you communicate your brand, add to the overall experience and ensure it feels consistent.
A great brand gives you strong foundations on which to build your business. It lays down the fundamentals. A path to follow. And the confidence to grow.
At Think Plan Thrive we work with Founders and their teams to build brand foundations on which to grow their business. Before naming or thinking about visual identity, we ask all stakeholders to consider a set of key questions. We look for individual perspectives within a company, and from them, we bring everyone together to build a shared vision.
We believe that this shared vision is the key to a happy and successful brand. That aligning your leadership team allows you to consider how you connect with your customers to produce a consistent and coherent experience. Crucially, it allows you to move forward faster and more effectively as you create logos, websites, copy and advertising. Finding it is a simple but powerful process.
Here’s how we do it.
1. Define who you are solving a problem for.
Create customer ‘personas’ — these are imaginary people who represent a particular type of target customer. Perhaps create two or three (no more though). Think broadly, then narrow it down. Prioritise: which persona is the easiest to reach? Which holds the most value?
2. Find your competitors. Articulate why is your solution better.
Be confident that your USP is actually a USP. Challenge your team to think objectively. To unemotionally assess your product and express the most valuable points of differentiation.
3. Think long-term.
What does your business look like in 5, 10, 20 years time? Think big. Consider how things will change and grow over time. And whether what you’re creating now fits with that vision.
4. Understand your purpose.
Think hard about the specific problem you are solving for your customers. Think about why it matters so much to you, and define why it matters to them. Your purpose becomes a philosophy that guides you and your team. Two great examples: Southwest Airlines’ purpose is ‘ to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.’ Tesla’s is to ‘accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.’
5. Define your values.
We all interact with brands almost as people, so consider that you need to shape your brand to have a personality. How do you want it to make people feel? How do you want it to be perceived? We recently joined an inspiring discussion with Virgin Holidays’ Head of Customer Experience, Kate Burgess, who prioritises values about everything else. Virgin’s brand values are ‘providing heartfelt service, being delightfully surprising, red hot, and straight up while maintaining an insatiable curiosity and creating smart disruption.’
This is just the beginning of the journey, but will enable you to shape a brand that represents you, what you have built and the type of relationship you want to have with your customers. Don’t feel afraid to be bold — you will iterate on everything as you grow, but setting some things down right away empowers you to make confident decisions about your path forward.
Understanding what your brand is really about and baking this into everything you do, will allow you to communicate with consistency, lead people to believe in and begin to trust your brand. It is the key to building relationships that last and a brand that grows.
Want to talk about the brand challenges your startup is facing?
Drop me an email with your questions, or book a free advice session at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imo is a partner at Think Plan Thrive, a London based Strategy company. We help organisations to build from strong foundations, seize opportunities and get results, fast.
See more at www.thinkplanthrive.com