The First Steps to Take When Developing a Startup’s Brand Image

As a new company, your startup has a lot of positives going for it: bright ideas, a hardworking team, a future full of possibilities. However, there is a big downside in that your brand isn’t recognizable. People don’t know what your brand is or what it stands for, and that can be a problem when it comes to earning revenue.

During your first few months as a startup, one of your top priorities should be to establish your company’s image so that it can become memorable and trusted by consumers. Here are the first few steps that will lead you in the right direction.

Step #1: Determine Who You Are and What You Have to Offer

Hopefully, you’ve already started to determine who you are as a company, but this step shouldn’t just be a passing thought. Take time to come up with a firm definition of what your brand is and figure out what value you’re offering to the world.

Your “brand” is created through multiple factors, including your environment, packaging, advertising techniques, content marketing, sales strategies, and products. Determining what all of these things look like lays the groundwork for future customer loyalty and company growth.

First things first: ask yourself what problem you solve.

  • What are you offering customers that they can’t find anywhere else?
  • How are you different from your competitors?

The answers to these two questions will steer you in the development of your brand’s identity.

Step #2: Figure Out Who Will Benefit the Most from Your Services

Once you understand your startup’s identity, it’s time to identify your target audience. Create a persona for your “ideal customer.” Determine what demographic they’re in, what their personality is, and why they would like your startup. Once you know what your perfect consumer looks like, you’ll be better able to target real customers in a way that builds and strengthens your brand.

Generic advertising won’t take you far as a startup. Thousands of startups are created every year, and within four years of their birth, more than half will fail to succeed. The only way to thrive is to find the niche market that will keep your business afloat during those initial years.

PuraVida Jewelry Brand

For example, look at the jewelry company Pura Vida. At first glance, there’s very little that distinguishes them from other jewelry companies, and yet they went from a small startup formed in 2010 to an internationally recognized brand in less than a decade.

How did they do it?

They targeted a super specific demographic: laid-back surfers and beach bums in Southern California. Everything about their brand embodied their target audience’s personality, and because of that, the company thrived. They even dubbed their mentality as the “Pura Vida” spirit and shared it with their followers. Since their start date, they’ve sold more than two million bracelets!

Pura Vida is just one example of many successful small startups that took their target audience and molded their brand around it. Your image shouldn’t just reflect the morals and goals of your startup – it should reflect those who support it and benefit from it the most.

Step #3: Look to Others in Your Industry for Guidance

Regardless of what industry your startup is in, there are other companies that will compete with your products and services. Instead of trying to one-up them or imitate them, analyze what they are doing well and what they are doing poorly. You can learn a great deal about your own image by studying the images of others.

Consumers need to be able to recognize your brand amongst its competitors just by looking at your logo, color scheme, or homepage. Or, if you sell products/services on your website, the layout of the online store plays a big factor. Think about when you shop on Amazon, the colors, design, and overall feel of the shopping experience create instant recognition. These branding aspects flow over into all their targeted ads and marketing content.

According to Forbes, it takes just seven seconds for people to form an impression of your identity as a company, so make those seven seconds count for something. Pick signature colors, slogans, and other brand identifiers that stand out from the crowd.

Step #4: Establish Your Company’s “Personality”

You know what your startup is, what it offers, and who its target customers are, but what’s its personality? This is where things like morals, voice, and design come into play. Quite honestly, it’s the fun part of deciding what your brand will grow to be.

According to Fundera’s study, 43 percent of customers spend more money at brands they’re loyal to, and loyalty doesn’t just magically appear. It comes when consumers appreciate the core values and behaviors of a company.

Starbucks Brand Website

For instance, consider Starbucks. People don’t just stick with the chain coffee company because they like their drinks. They appreciate the company’s emphasis on quality, aesthetic, social impact, and frequent customer rewards. Loyal Starbucks drinkers love Starbucks as a brand, not just the company’s products.

A big part of developing your brand’s personality is making sure that it’s consistent across the board. Every part of your company should embody the look and feel of your personality. Monitor your website, social media pages, products, and customer service platforms to ensure that you’re presenting a cohesive company personality.

Your startup may be small, but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a strong personality. Even Starbucks started as a little company, and although it has grown and evolved, its core personality hasn’t changed. Keep that in mind during these initial stages of brand development.

Step #5: Come Up With a Company-Wide Brand Guide

Speaking of consistency, there’s no better way to make sure everyone at your company stays true to your brand than by developing a set brand guide. Every company, no matter how big or small, should have standards when it comes to:

  • Personality
  • Tone
  • Color palette
  • Fonts
  • Spacing
  • Imagery
  • Missions/values
  • Logos
  • Word choices

Take the time to craft your brand guide, then share it with all of your team members so that everyone at the startup understands what your image is. If you want some inspiration here, take a look at MailChimp’s style guide.

Developing a strong style guide will make your brand easily recognizable, no matter which part of your company is communicating with consumers.

Why You Need to Solidify Your Brand’s Image Now

Many startups think that their company’s personality and design will come with time. The problem with that mentality is that consumers simply don’t trust companies they don’t recognize or understand.

If your startup is going to be one of the few that succeeds, it needs to grab attention and trust from the beginning. The best way to do that is to give the world an image that embodies everything that’s important to your brand.

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