After recently walking through a branding session with one of our clients, we thought it would be helpful to provide a “branding” get started guide, particularly for those keen on the DIY method. We get that young companies often have to take a bootstrap approach, but that’s no excuse for a subpar identity. You want to start out on the right foot after all…
The complete guide will be released early next week, but in the meantime, we’ve summarized some of our favorite points below:
(1) Choose a name that’s easy to remember, unique, and available.
Finding the right balance between these three characteristics can certainly be tricky. To start, we recommend a brainstorming session in which you sit down with your team and create a master list of every word that comes to mind when you think about your company – the products you offer, the values you embody, the clients you attract, etc. From here it’s like scrabble. Piece together words and create new ones until you find a few forerunners that could be the right combination. Of course, you have to make sure that it’s not trademarked (unique), and that there’s a domain available. Yes, .io has gotten awfully popular, particularly within the tech space, but there’s nothing like a classic .com. Strive for that if at all possible (the exception is if you are a community-based organization… .org is a good alternative to quickly communicate this to users).
(2) Create an identity that’s conveys your company’s vision and vibe.
Once you have the name, it’s time to dive in deeper into all of the things you discussed in the initial brainstorming session. We recommend that our clients think long-term here, as though your company may pivot and shift, it’s best to have a consistent brand as time goes on. There’s nothing more confusing to consumers than a rebrand every 3 years. Brands can always shift and mold as the company grows, but try to keep your identity consistent (What’s a brand identity?). During this part of the process, we challenge you to think through the way competitors have positioned themselves and what colors and shapes they have used to convey their message aesthetically. Messaging and tone are also important to consider – do you speak in casual layman’s terms? or do you prefer to take an academic, industry expert approach? Pull all of this research together and design a logo that captures it all.
(3) Build a master messaging document for all important content.
The next piece is to use the previous discussions to draft a master messaging document in the desired tone for all important content. We recommend you start by addressing the following topics: the problem, external positioning, internal positioning, company persona, client personas, and solutions. Create a “lite”, “standard”, and “bonus” write-up for each of the aforementioned. This way you can quickly construct marketing materials that have consistent messaging. It will also help you scale your team as you grow and bring new people into the fold. It is important that this document is available to the entire company. It also has to be revisited frequently, at least quarterly for start-ups and annually for more established businesses. You don’t need to rewrite the whole thing every time you revisit, but you should make updates. As we mentioned earlier, brands (yes, this includes everything you write and say!) must shift and mold as the company does.
(4) Be consistent in how you present and talk about the company.
This piece is easy if you have done #3 properly. It is important to maintain consistency in the way that you present the company aesthetically and the way that the company is written and spoken about. When these pieces don’t add up, your consumer base starts to question your authenticity and reliability, which is never a good thing. The more consistent and loyal to your brand, the more your consumers will desire to be loyal to you. It is important to get your entire team’s buy-in on this piece. The way they talk about their jobs to their friends, family, and peers is just as important as the way your company’s VP of Sales pitches the company to a client. Both have equally important and long-lasting impacts on the perception of your company, and we believe perceptions are reality.
(5) Know what you don’t know – collaborate with the pros to get it done right the first time.
It takes a lot of confidence and a lot of humility to successfully thrive in business. You need to be okay accepting that you don’t know everything. If branding is overwhelming, daunting, and out of your wheelhouse, it might be a good idea to consider collaborating with the pros. This holds true for many areas of business like accounting, recruiting, etc. Many people love the idea of keeping things in house, but our team has found, as well as our clients’ teams, that collaboration maximizes the time that you are able to spend doing what you are good at. Don’t waste your time trying to design a logo when you should be out selling your product or coding your app. Whatever it is, remember that bootstrapping can often be more costly by missed opportunity. If you find yourself in this boat, we’d love to connect and chat more about what it would look like to collaborate on an upcoming brand identity, digital experience, or strategic marketing project.