Branding your startup: why it’s kinda important now

Branding Iron

Branding Iron

Ever wondered why some companies get all the attention and others don’t? As society we have become obsessed with the flashy and the shiny. Developers want to build to that and companies innovate around it. This is not a bad thing.

In Africa, the startup scene is becoming highly contested. But while there are five million startups only about one million of them are interesting and only half them are good but only a quarter will get funding and 10% will gain traction and only five percent will make it.

It’s a tough world out there if you have a startup and its even tougher if you play in the startup up space. The idea of the “lean” startup is the most used buzzword in the space right now. One CEO, a developer and maybe a CTO and a company is born. That’s all you need: your two or three person team, a vision, a little bit of cash and your company is on its way to untold success.

For many, a very crucial element is to turn their startup into a successful company worth of playing in the same space as the world’s biggest tech companies. Startups more often than not don’t think about their brand early enough.

A good brand is an exceptional experience

A company’s brand is more than just a way for your audience to recognise your product or pick it out of a crowd of sameness. Your brand, especially when it is good, should be the experience your audience gets from your product. Think Apple; its brand is one of sophistication, cleanness and simplicity. Apple users feel connected and enhanced by the brand, creating an experience that is more than just usage but an extension of the user.

I recently read a very interesting article on Geekwire that summed up the relationship on branding to a company’s core. Explaining the sum total of a journey and experience with a product and company:

Brand strategy is an integral part of any company that has withstood the test of time and is equally valuable to early-stage startups. Products may change, teams will transition and audiences shift, however, what’s at the core of your brand can (and should) remain a constant force. Brand strategy makes the turbulent evolution of startups more manageable through consensus building amongst co-founders and by providing a rare far-sighted lens in an environment built on short-term actions.

Sometimes genius doesn’t make money

No matter how brilliant an idea or product is, sometimes it’s quite hard to turn brilliance into profit. Strategically thinking about branding and the story that your brand is trying to tell will inadvertently lead to profit.

The financial benefits around having a strong brand seems almost a given yet startups tend to not recognise it. Pitching to an investor is daunting, time-consuming and sometimes those investors are only taking meetings because they are doing someone a favour. So make it worth their time. If your brand cannot be marketed the chances of profit for an investor are slim and if that’s the case your chances of getting investment is probably zero.

If you are bootstrapping your business (yay you), branding is more important than anything. It’s quite simple: strong and good brand equals users, users equal revenue and if you are very lucky, revenue means profit.

Think it, build it, brand it

How do you actually build a brand that’s sustainable and will stand the test of time and give users an exceptional experience? Often, it’s a lot harder than it is actually build the product. Sometimes a product is so good, that its brand comes naturally but in most cases it doesn’t work that way. A good brand has the following things:

A story that connects to the users. Everything begins with a story and your brand needs to tell the story of your product well and succinctly.

Personality is king. If your brand has a likeable personality that appeals to users and the investors it make it much easier to market it to people.

Visual expression, a brand can be expressed in many ways but a well-designed visual expression of what your vision is, which captures the essence of your brand, makes it stick in people’s minds. Think Coca Cola and Nike.

Presence. A good brand gives you presence and you must think about the type of presence you want. Presence means market share and market share means money.

So, to steal from Nike, just get out there and do it.

Image: m.gifford (via Flickr).



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