Launching a startup can be one of the most challenging endeavors an entrepreneur can undertake. Creating the right value proposition, identifying and crystallizing the right business model, putting together the right team, securing funding, creating the visual manifestation of the brand and finally giving life to the product or service can be some of the challenges startups face.
Anyone of these challenges can be enough to bring down a startup and most often you find a combination of them plaguing most startups. Of all these challenges, the visual manifestation of the brand is one of the most critical factors that could make or break a startup. A visual manifestation starts with the brand identity for startups and continues with the messaging strategy and brand touchpoint experiences.
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Of course, the first thing startup founders need to clarify is the confusion of what a brand is. It is not just the logo design, although that is the single most visible and tangible element of the brand. It is not what YOU say the brand is but rather what THEY (your target audience) say it is. Having consistency in how your brand comes across at all the brand touch-points is the key to a successful startup image.
Here are 5 steps that will help you create the perfect brand identity for your startup:
Step #1: What are your core values?
The first step is to identify who you are. What do you stand for? What is the driving force behind your startup? What are your core values? How will your startup change the world or the lives of your customers? These core values will enable you to create a robust mission statement.
Step #2: What is your unique value proposition?
The terms USP has been bandied about so much that it has almost lost its true meaning. A USP not only identifies how you are different from your competitors (notice I did not say “better than your competitors”) but it also helps create a brand promise through which you can build a lasting brand.
You can find out how to create your USP by reading this article.
Step #3: What is your brand story?
Once you have your USP nailed down, you will have to communicate your core values, your mission/vision, and your USP by creating a brand story that gives clarity to what your brand is all about and helps connect with the target audience. Startups without a compelling brand story struggle to make that crucial impression that every startup needs to get the right kind of publicity and promotion.
You can find out how to create your brand story by reading this article.
Step #4: How effective is your brand name?
Once you have identified your brand vision, mission, and goals and set up the USP and have written your brand story, the next logical step is to create the right brand name. Having the right kind of brand name is half the battle in creating the right kind of brand recall, market exposure and build trust with your target audience. For startups, this is much more true and important. However, creating the right brand name is not just about a name that sounds great but rather depends on the answers to the following questions:
a) What does the word/name mean?
b) How does the word/name relate to and align with the brand vision?
c) How easy is it to pronounce, spell and recall?
d) Are there any trademarks on that word/name?
e) Is there a direct top-level domain address available for registration for the word/name?
f) Are there available social media handles for the word/name that do not conflict or confuse with another similar word/name?
Researching, brainstorming and coming up with great brand names that answer all the above questions is not an easy task. It is much more difficult now that almost all the word in the English language and in fact almost all combination of letters of the alphabet have been taken as domain names.
You can find out how to create a kick-ass brand name for your startup by reading this article.
Step #5: How impactful is your brand visual language?
Now we come to the brand identity for startups. Taking all the above assets of your brand, it is time to create a visual language that reflects the soul of your brand, your vision, and your story. The first step is creating a robust logo design that would become the face of your brand for most intents and purposes.
Once the logo design is nailed down, you will have to create a matching stationery design, print materials, and social media branding. Consistency is the key to effective brand visual language. Putting effort into making sure your brand looks professional and consistent at all the touch points is well worth the rewards.
A brand manual or brand book is also a vital asset. Ensure that your brand manual contains all the standards and guidelines of how your logo and other visual elements should be used or not used. Pass this to any vendor or third party you work with and who may be using your logo or visual elements so that your brand mark would be consistently used at all times.
There is nothing more unprofessional than having a chaotic visual identity with the logo being used in different colors or sizes or dimensions or layouts in different places and a random selection of fonts used in marketing materials or your website or social media channels.