The best Branding process for startups

Throughout this article, we’ll introduce you to a 5-step-framework that will enable you to create meaningful branding for your startup.

You are probably reading this because you’ve had a promising business idea and after working on your business plan or product, now you want to build a brand around your business. But you don’t know what it takes exactly to put everything together and to communicate your value. Probably you’ve visited already a freelance site or had a friend of a friend draft up a couple of concepts for you on Canvas. But branding is not only creating a beautiful logo, it’s so much more.

What exactly is startup branding and why is it so important?

Branding is a necessary part of setting up and positioning your business. It is aimed to make people quickly identify and experience your company and select you over your competitors.

Your brand has to be the true representation of who you are as a business, the core values you have, and how you want potential users (and also investors or talent) to think about you.

Many startups prefer not to spend their time and money (yes, we are well aware that money is super scarce at the beginning) on their branding and just go along with current internet trends, contract someone on Fiverr or simply copy their competitor’s brand identity. This can work perfectly for very early startup phases, but this doesn’t work in the mid- or long run.

You can only market your product/service successfully if you have a solid, consistent, and differentiated brand identity. I’d like to quote Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, who said, “ In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” In other words, it isn’t the size of the fish (e.g. big corporations with huge marketing budgets); it’s the motion of the ocean.

Firms that are quick to develop and execute an effective marketing & branding strategy, regardless of size, have the opportunity to stand out from competitors.

Startup-Branding: 5 easy steps to get started

Firms that are quick to drive that the branding strategy involves the practice of creating a name, a logo, and other design assets that are easily identifiable as belonging to your startup. Before we come to this fun part, we’ll have to analyze and understand the surroundings of your branding environment, such as your core brand elements, your audience, and your competition develop and execute an effective marketing & branding strategy, regardless of size, have the opportunity to stand out from competitors.

With these 5 steps, you should get an overall idea of your startup branding. Don’t fall into the trap of clichés, be authentic! Take some time, ask someone else for help if needed, and drink a couple of lassi to work on them

Step 1: The Brand Core

Identify your purpose, vision, mission, and values to build a brand with a strong foundation.

When you first thought about building a brand around your venture, your initial branding ideas were likely focused on what you offer as a product or service. This is good, but we need to dive a little deeper. Ask yourself the following questions and write them down briefly in 1–3 sentences:

- Why are you offering this product/service, what is the purpose of your venture at all?

- What future do you want to help create a.k.a what is your vision?

- Having your purpose and vision in place should make the process of coming up with the perfect mission statement a lot easier. You should work on your mission asking yourself how do you actually create that future. The mission statement helps you building internal culture and driving your future marketing efforts.

- Finally ask yourself, what are your most important brand values?

Step 2: Your target audience

Understand your audience and how your brand can speak to their unique needs. Create up to 3 user persona based upon your research in order to represent the different user types that might use your brand. If you already have Google analytics or user surveys: great! If not, just create fictional personas putting yourself in their shoes.

Creating personas will help you to understand your users’ needs, experiences, behaviors, and goals. Despite their demographic data, it is super important to understand what pain points they have and how your product/service can help solve their problems.

Step 3: Your competitive environment

Point out who you’re competing against so that you can better differentiate your brand.

Create a list of 3 - 5 competitor brands, what is their product offering, value proposition, their brand look & feel, and their brand voice. What is it that you like about them and what is it that you don’t like.

And most importantly: What are you offering that makes you different from them?

The other day I read an interesting quote, mentioning that if you don’t have differentiation points, low pricing is the ultimate variable to get clients. This is valid but you probably don’t want to be considered as the low-quality solution in your industry, therefore, find out what is your core strength and communicate it loud and clear!

Step 4: Your brand voice

Create your brand voice to humanize your brand and communicate consistently through all content. The easiest way to choose your brand voice is to pull out a piece of scrap paper and write down every adjective that comes to mind when thinking about your brand. Nothing is wrong here, but think about how those words are going to make your end consumers feel.

Once you have a solid list of words, go through them and pick three to five that best describe the vibe that you want your business to have. For example, a toy brand might describe itself as playful, silly, and adventurous.

Another question you could ask yourself: If our brand were a celebrity, who would you be? For example, a hip luxury suit brand might describe themselves as George Clooney’s younger brother :) Sometimes, we also try to personify the brand and ask the following questions: what happens if this brand were a person and goes to a party. Is the brand male/female, how is he/she dressed, how does he /she interact at the party and how is he described by the people who are at the party.


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Another way of figuring out the brand personality is with this questionnaire below with already pre-defined characteristics. You simply mark on the bar where you want your brand to fall on the spectrum.

Step 5: Visual Identity

The first 4 steps were about Strategic Branding. Now it is time to actually design an effective and comprehensive visual identity that communicates who you are. (Usually, this is the part we like most since we as a design studio come in and can be super creative)

Ideation & Concept - At this stage, it usually help to do a brainstorming session where you put together all the information about your goals, values, and brand’s personality and translate it into visual concepts. The tricky part is now how to communicate these sentiments through visuals? Start with associations and write them down. (Yes, they can be super abstract, like in our case below: Travel pills Your best travel mate, Sherpa, Helpful, Strong, Loyal etc.)

Visual Identity - A brand identity is an intricate design system where each element influences the other(naming, logo, colors, typefaces, illustrations, tone of voice, etc.). The logo design is usually the starting point.

Logo - We can differentiate basically 2 types of logos, image or icon-based logos and name-based logos, and well, a combination of both. See for yourself which type you are more drawn to:

- Wordmark: Stylized letters representing the brand’s name, e.g. Uber 

- Brand mark: An abstract representation or symbol of the brand, e.g. Starbucks

- Combination mark: A combination of both words and symbols, e.g. Puma

Bear in mind the following:

- A logo must be memorable: The most memorable logos (Ikea, Apple, Target) are made from the simplest forms.

- A logo must be functional: A logo has to be functional to work in different sizes and in different circumstances, for web, app, social media, and print.

- A logo must be contextual: The logo should be contextual to the company. It should feel appropriate and not visually awkward. We usually design the logo in black and white first and then work on the shapes and add colors.

Colors - Once you have defined your logo, you can work on your color palette. Try to put all the colors in context and see which color can represent which brand value. A good color palette is clean and flexible and should basically include:

1- 3 primary colors

4 - 6 secondary colors

Accent or support colors

Typography - Typography can be tricky in a visual language, especially when brands follow trends (at some point everybody started using Helvetica). Your typography should be timeless and original. To keep it simple, limit the number of font families to 2–3. This generally includes primary (headlines) and secondary brand typefaces (body copy).

Further visual elements - Depending on what sector your brand is in you need to create further visual elements that enhance your brand imagery, for example, illustrations, photography, iconography. The imagery needed also depends on whether your brand is applied mainly online or offline.

In general, use consistent, cohesive visual styles. Ensure imagery is high quality and high resolution. When using photography,be mindful of inclusive representation.

Step 6: Put everything together

Sorry, I said earlier it was only 5 steps, but this one is the last piece when building your brand. Now, it’s important that you take the time to put everything together that you’ve worked on. Some call this a style guide, some call it brand guidelines, and some call it your brand book.

Your brand guideline will be your Kundli in everything you do from here on out. You should look to it for advice on the best direction to go, not only design-wise but also for your actions in general out there (e.g. if “trust” is an important brand element, make sure that you make the necessary decisions and actions so that your employees, your trade partners, and your clients can actually trust your company). Your brand guideline will be your Kundli in everything you do from here on out. You should look to it for advice on the best direction to go, not only design-wise but also for your actions in general out there (e.g. if “trust” is an important brand element, make sure that you make the necessary decisions and actions so that your employees, your trade partners, and your clients can actually trust your company).