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Everything you need to know about your startup’s brand identity

When people hear about your business, what do you want them to think? How do you want them to respond to your products? How do you want them to see your organisation?

That’s your brand identity – quite literally your business’ reputation. It’s one of the most important elements involved in starting a business. This article discusses how you can ensure your business is one of those that masters their identity instead of mishandling it.

On the surface, it all seems quite simple. Establishing a strong brand means your customers will appreciate your products and services; they’ll be loyal to you, and likelier to do business with you in the future. Consequently, a weak or broken brand means you’re basically going to end up handing off customers to the competition – they’re not going to have any loyalty to you whatsoever.

As you’ve probably guessed, it’s not really as simple as it sounds.

“Your brand is the experience you deliver customers,” explains Hubspot’s Kevin Barber. “The entire essence of branding is the connection between company and customer, learning to understand the customer and why they love your product.”

So, how can you establish a strong brand identity? How can you make yourself memorable to your customers?

Paradoxically, the best way isn’t actually to focus on the brand itself. Instead, says Trinity One CEO Lou Imbriano, it’s all about the customers – namely, about offering them the best experience possible. While it’s certainly important to place some emphasis on what your brand represents, it’s far more important to know the environment in which you operate – who your consumers are, the niche your business fills, and why your products and services resonate with the people who use them.

Market research is a must here. Without it, you’re not going to be able to formulate any real concept of what your consumers want. And without knowing that, you’re not going to be able to appeal to them in any real fashion.

Now, once you’ve established what your customers want – and how your brand can provide it for them – you’re also going to need to work out a few guidelines. Sujan Patel of Entrepreneur advises establishing a set of clearly-defined brand guidelines, and following them wherever possible. Entrepreneurs are advised to consider the following points:

• Logo
• Brand colors
• Taglines
• Fonts and typography
• The “voice” used in branded materials – it needs to remain consistent, whatever voice you choose.
• Brand imagery
• Mascots and spokespersons

Patel further advises against complicating things where your brand’s focus is concerned – both with the logo and in your overall identity. Introducing too many variables, he says, will cause your brand to become oversaturated, confusing, and ultimately off-putting. In that same vein, not having a clear enough focus will result in a watered-down, forgettable brand.

In developing this focus, it might help to think of your brand as a person. What would its beliefs and values be if it were a human being – and how would it come across to the people it met? If that theoretical person were in front of you in a job interview, would you hire them or send them on their way?

Last but certainly not least, consider how you communicate with your customers – especially over social media. This is one of the most important factors in setting up how you come across to people. If your brand representatives aren’t personable, transparent, and communicative, you’re going to end up dealing with a whole ton of dissatisfied customers – and possibly even a broken brand.

Before we wrap up, there’s one last thing worth mentioning – the development of your business’s identity isn’t a “one and done” deal. It’s an ongoing process in which every facet of your organisation has a role to play.

Whether you’re running a small startup or a massive enterprise, a strong brand identity is crucial to your success. You need to provide your customers with a positive brand experience – you need to turn them into advocates of your business. If you don’t offer high-quality products and services, pinpoint marketing, and consistent communication, you’re going to be edged out by the competitors that do.

About the author:

This article was written by Tim Mullahy, General Manager of Liberty Center One

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