Entrepreneurs embarking on a new venture have enough to worry about. Between building a great product, wrangling investors, managing cash flow, and the million other things on their to-do lists, building out their brand usually gets pushed to the bottom of the pile…if it’s in the pile at all.
But that’s a mistake. A strong brand can bring a jolt of energy and life to even the best business plan or idea. A great brand can excite investors, inspire employees, attract great talent, and help focus your company – even before your consumers ever see it. It’s also much easier and cheaper than having to rebrand later.
And don’t think you need to hire a fancy agency to get started. Building a strong brand foundation only requires getting some clear thinking setup properly from the start. And thinking, it turns out, is free.
1) Your business is your brand.
Your brand is way more than a logo. I think of brands as a collection of associations in consumers’ minds. These are both
conscious (what your product or service is, your ads, your people, etc.) and unconscious (the underlying feelings connected to your product or service). This means every interaction and touchpoint that people have with your company adds another association and shapes how they feel about your brand. So make sure every detail of your business – and I mean everything – communicates what you want it to and strengthens your brand in the right way. (For more on how brands really live in the brains of consumers, see the book Brand Seduction).
2) Find your quarter-inch hole.
The Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously said “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Entrepreneurs often get so caught up in their love for the product or service that they forget the real reason people might buy it in the first place. Make sure your brand speaks to the job your consumers want done, not the product you have.
3) Don’t mix up your “what” with your “why”.
More so than just buying what you are selling, people will buy into why you are selling it. Be clear on what your ultimate goals are, why your company exists, and what change you hope to make in the world. It may sound fantastical and far out now, but it can imbue your team, customers, and brand with a sense of vision and direction.
4) What’s your blue footed booby?
When the eyeglasses company Warby Parker set out to build their company and brand, they had long debates on what the brand should look and feel like. So the founders created a moodboard of images that included a blue footed booby bird (for its humor), a fixed gear bicycle (for its elegant simplicity and eco-friendliness), and many more seemingly random images that helped mold the image, style, and feel of their now strong brand. Try to build out your own brand world by finding imagery, movies, celebrities, music, or anything else that can help you capture the mood and feeling you want to imbue your brand with.
5) Consumers are people, too.
Make sure you go beyond simple demographics and look for the real motivations behind why consumers would want your offering. Try to understand their broader lives – what their dreams and goals are, why they really buy what they buy, and what emotional need your product might satisfy. Paint a rich picture of your target as more than just consumers of your product but as a real person, and you’ll be better able to see how your brand fits into their lives.
Take the time to think each of these through, and really envision what you stand for and what your brand feels like. If you can bring all these pieces together into one coherent whole, you’ll be well on your way to creating a solid brand to stand on.
Daryl Weber is a branding consultant and author of the book Brand Seduction: How Neuroscience Can Help Marketers Build Stronger Brands. Follow him @BrandedCortex.