the start-ups guide to building a winning brand

5 top tips for start-ups (and established businesses) on effectively building and implementing a brand.

By Tanvir Hassan

As a new business owner, you’re probably operating at a 100mph right now, fuelled by hopes and dreams and coffee. You’ve thought about what you’re selling, who you’re selling to and how you’re going to sell it and now its time to think about your brand. You don’t need me to tell you that your brand is more than just the pretty picture you’re using as a logo. But faced with the question most people would struggle to define exactly what is meant by the word “brand”. Marketing wizard, Seth Godin defines a brand as:

“The set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another”.

And we completely agree, but I’ll take it one step further. Your brand is also the set of expectations you set for your team and how you approach your work on a day to day basis. Perhaps it’s a little unrealistic to say that these are constant, daily expectations, but what they should set is an ideal for how your company operates when it is at its very best. Your brand is more than just your logo. It’s the very fabric of your company; uniting your values, your image, your relationship with your customers and the wider public, and each other, on a day-to-day basis.

1. Establish your brand from the word go.

When you’re just starting out, its natural for you to focus on your daily activities and generating revenue before you run out of cash, but it’s the most crucial time to ensure a strong brand identity is established, with values and a mission that your whole team can get behind. It’s very easy for your brand identity to be swept up by your teams’ individual personalities, or the tastes of the person you have hired to design your website, but your brand should be free from external (or internal) influences. Establishing your brand in a conscious and purposeful way is the best way to ensure that as you grow as a business, you are following the intended flight-path, and helps your audience to fall in love with everything you do from day one.

2. Identify your audience.

Your brand is all about how your business is perceived by your audience; something you have undoubtedly considered in the formation of your business, but as we have established, its not only your customers but also your workforce who must feel connected with your business goals. There may even be audiences you have never thought of; bloggers, influencers, journalists and prospective employees and investors are among the kind of people who may, at some point or another, form a keen interest in your brand. A successful brand considers all of audiences objectively, not just the tastes and preferences of its creator. Whether you’re tapping into the brand trends of your industry, or cooking up something completely original, make sure you’re on top of your audiences!

3. Connect your brand strategy with your marketing strategy.

Most companies usually launch their brand with a logo, a website design and social media accounts fairly high up on the hit-list of things to do. As a new business, you are in an advantageous position because you have a unique opportunity to ensure all of these elements of your business work together in harmony. Every time you’re communicating with your audience, you are playing into their perception of your brand; ranging from the style of your images and design features you implement to the tone-of-voice you use in your communications and the frequency with which you post on social media. Your marketing channels exist to raise your brand awareness, so make sure everything you put out there is focused and on-brand.

4. Focus on brand experience.

The most powerful awareness of your brand will come directly from the experience your brand offers to your customers. Focussing too much on how you look and not enough on how you operate is a common mistake made by many startups. No amount of flashy graphics can cover up a substandard customer experience; and until you have crafted an experience that is reflective of your brand ethos, or a product that your customers will fall in love with, your brand remains hollow and lacking in substance. Your brand can be infused in all elements of your customer journey; from labels and packaging to receipts and invoices; from loyalty schemes to complaints handling procedures. Focus first on nailing it before you start thinking about scaling it.

5. Constantly try to be better.

After identifying and establishing your brand, your business is up and running. Its very important to keep an eye on how your brand is behaving and being implemented on a day-to-day basis. It is best practise to conduct audits of your brand every now (every 6 months to a year) to ensure that your brand is coming across consistently and aligned with the way you want to be doing business. The final key factor is feedback. The best measure of your brand perception is obtained, not from your team or graphic designer, but only by speaking to real customers. Ask them about their experience with your brand; how would they feel if your brand ceased to exist? Who would they go to instead? Identify how passionately they feel about your brand and what they say to their friends and family about you, and use this feedback to make rapid, meaningful improvements to your business to build a brand that is always winning.

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