Where do you start when building a brand for your startup?
Jeff Bezos has been famously quoted saying...
“brand is what people say when you’re not in the room.”
So no matter how you define it, brand happens whether you manage yours or not. Your brand is also the overall experience that a customer has with your organisation. Your brand allows you to funnel as many people as possible into your product, to then let the product do the talking. Let’s look at what to focus on in the early stages of a startup to make your brand work extra hard for your venture.
So, brands matter — in a magical and logical way. Allow me to explain.
The Magic of Brands
The magic is what makes a consumer say ‘I am obsessed with…’ about some brands. I am obsessed with Tesla, Marvel, Apple, Oatly, Glossier…
The magic is the hard to value element that lives in people’s heads such as memories, associations, feelings, values and personality.
And wines have brands, too! When you remember that lovely evening over a bottle of Chateau Margaux with your date, friends or family — you have an emotional connection to this wine brand through this memory.
A brand exists so that consumers remember your product in a favourable way. Which makes them more likely to decide to buy it. Being distinctive and standing for something is key.
Damasio, a re-known neuroscientist, declares, “we are not thinking machines that feel. We are feeling machines that think.”
His research demonstrated that we make decisions with an interplay of the emotional governing centers in our brain. So making an emotional connection is essential to creating an effective brand!
And before I lose you CFOs, data analysts and other data-is-the-only-king-in-town profiles, let’s look at the logic of brands.
The Logic of Brands
The logic is in the hard numbers showcasing how brands drive value.
When it comes to business valuation, brands represent 20% of a company’s market capitalisation when you compare the annual brand value, as published by the likes of Interbrand, with a company’s total market cap. (Source BBH Labs)
Strong brands have also been proved to drive commercial impact according to a large study analyzing shopper habits by Kantar Millward Brown:
- They command a 13% average price premium compared to weak brands.
- They capture, on average, 3 times the sales volume of weak brands.
Where to start when building a brand?
I suggest 3 areas to focus on to start the journey towards building a brand:
- Brand Positioning
- Strategic Narrative
- Brand Heart
Before I say more on these 3 areas — a disclaimer.
It is important to realise that visual identity is not the starting point of building a brand.
Brand identity is here to elevate what you stand for, your values, and messages. It is a core element in bringing your brand to life.
As Dave Gerhardt, CMO at Privy, says: “design is a piece of the puzzle, but paint doesn’t make a brand.”
Brand positioning is where you define your audience, your category, the problem you solve, your benefit, and the reasons to believe. Crafting a positioning statement helps articulate what makes you different in a concise and compelling way.
Let’s look at an example of what Amazon’s brand positioning statement might have been in their early days.
Once you are clear on your positioning, I suggest you look at defining a strategic narrative.
A strategic narrative is a high-level story that powers success — in sales, marketing, fundraising, product development and recruiting — by getting everyone on the same page about strategy and differentiation. Andy Raskin developed this framework.
Rather than leading with the product itself, and how it solves for the perceived pain points of the buyer, a strategic narrative leads by naming a shift in the industry and allows you to show how you are the right partner to help the buyer in this new shift. Said differently as illustrated on this slide — instead of pushing the products towards the buyer, the product is pulled in by the buyer into their narrative driven context.
And as a result, it helps you create emotional connections that are more memorable.
Finally, as we said, connections matter in brand building. Defining your brand heart is the third area I suggest you consider.
In the early days, when the business is not fully formed yet, it is unlikely that you will develop a very in depth brand.
But by getting the basics right, you create a firm foundation to building more powerful & memorable connections with people. Consider:
- Your story & why you exist
- Your values & personality
- Core brand messages
And these will evolve and mature alongside your business. I personally anchor brand heart into 2 questions
- What future do we want to help create?
- How would you like to behave while doing it?
So what makes a good brand?
Here are elements you can use to assess yourself against as you build your brand:
- Have you written a compelling story?
- Do you have a clear focus, mission & purpose?
- Do you understand your target audience well?
- Do you know enough about your competition?
- Have you defined your values?
- Do you have a coherent brand identity to these elements?
- And most importantly are you bringing your brand to life consistently across touchpoints?
To wrap up:
- Be different
- Be remembered
- Make a connection
This is what good brands do.
Any questions or comments please get in touch! Would love to hear from you.
You can also find the content shared in this presentation and additional templates in this link on my website.
Maya Moufarek is an Advisor at Antler. She is defining and implementing business growth paths for founders & CEOs.
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