By Lois Sapare
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982. It’s no secret that the competition is tough (and is only getting tougher) in the cutthroat business landscape. Owning a startup is especially hard. It is during this critical phase that any business owner who aspires to be successful in his chosen industry should put in a lot of his time and hard work in order to avoid becoming just another startup statistic.
Surviving in an increasingly competitive business world is not entirely impossible, but it does take more than putting out a good product. In order for your startup to succeed and to stand out from the competition, building a strong brand identity is important. Branding is an aspect often overlooked, but many businesses, especially startups, should consider investing in for it is crucial in building a memorable brand image and a loyal customer base for your business.
Branding is more than just designing a logo and choosing a color palette for your website. It involves research and a lot of understanding of how your business operates. As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, puts it: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It’s how your customers perceive your business and your products when they hear or think about it. Here are four things to remember in building an effective brand image for your startup.
Identify your target market
Before anything else, you’ll need to identify who your customers are going to be. It’s important that the message you deliver and the image you create is unique to a specific demographic segment. Otherwise, your efforts will be futile if you target just anyone. You need to gain a deep understanding of your target market in order to identify their needs and wants. This way, you can express your business in a way that your customers can identify with you.
Give customers a reason to choose you
Aside from identifying your target market, it’s also important to do a little research on your competitors. Knowing who you’re up against and what areas they excel or fall behind in will allow you to identify the different threats and opportunities you can leverage to further improve your brand. The internet offers an abundant source of information where you can find almost anything. You can look your competitors up on Google or analyze their profiles on social media.
Examine their visual design, their differences from one another, the way they talk to their followers, and their overall style. Are they known for selling products at a cheap or expensive price? Do they talk in a relaxed or formal tone? Is their style sophisticated or casual? Once you’ve evaluated your competitors’ brands, you can start creating your own unique brand identity. It should be something that will surely stand out and give customers a reason to choose you over the other brands.
Humanize your brand
The portrayal of brands as faceless, greedy, money-hungry, and self-serving entities uncaring for personal needs in news and pop culture, the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads everywhere we go, and many other factors have significantly decreased customers’ distrust in brands over the years. Traditional advertising has grown ineffective especially to millennials. The solution? Give your brand a personality. Treat your brand like it’s a human being or a fictional character. This way, you can better engage with your audience.
Rather than a faceless entity hiding behind a logo and a company name, your brand should be like a human being that people can easily relate to and identify with. In order to define a precise feel for your brand, you should be able to answer the following questions: if your brand is a person, what kind of person would it be? Is it a girl or a boy? Is it young or old? How does it talk? Is it serious all the time? (It shouldn’t be!) Your brand’s personality shall reflect consistently on all your marketing efforts. This will help your audience easily form a memorable perception about your brand.
Another powerful way to humanize your brand is through storytelling. Creating specific and relevant content is an effective approach in engaging your customers. It is a good way to counter the cold and intimidating way most brands advertise. Take for example Plum Organics, a company that sells baby food. Recently, they launched a provocatively-named campaign called Do Your Part[ner] that encouraged parents to spend more time with their partner.
You’d think, what does that have to do with baby food? But what they actually did was they stood by what their brand believes in–creating an open dialogue about the real lives of modern parents. They believed that happy, strong, relationships aren’t just good for parents but for the family as well. By creating a story inspired by real experiences of fellow parents, they didn’t simply advertise baby food, they created a story that every parent can resonate with, making their brand relatable and human. That’s more powerful in fostering customer loyalty than traditional advertising.
Consistent design aesthetic
When people hear of branding, they often think of the business’ logo and color palette. While design might not be all there is to branding, it is one of the most defining elements of a startup. We easily identify Starbucks by their famous green logo and Coca-Cola with its classic fancy white text on red background design. Your audience’s first interaction with your brand will be based on how it looks, so it’s important that you invest your time in creating a unique and consistent design aesthetic for your brand.
Take into consideration what your color palette will be and stick to it. The right color can improve readership by 40% by making messaging easier to read and more visually appealing, and color is one of the first things our brains perceive from a brand, so it’s often the first thing that would pull the audience in. Specify how the logo should be displayed as well, and make a list of fonts that will be used in all your visual content. Which ones should be used for headings? For the captions? The taglines?
Unless you have a background in graphic design, it will be best to hire a professional to assist you with your visual branding to design your logo and choose the right colors and typestyle. Having a specific visual guide is important to maintain consistency in all your content and make it easy for customers to remember your brand everytime they come across your visual content. Changing colors and font styles all the time will confuse customers and make your brand easily forgettable.
As the number of mobile phone users who view content in their phones increase progressively, the importance of branding in the startup phase cannot be stressed enough. How people perceive your brand is crucial in determining your business’ success. That’s why your brand identity should already be well-established at an early stage. It may be a challenging task and it will surely require a lot of your time, but implementing the branding strategies mentioned above will help your startup create a brand that will easily be remembered and gain the trust and help you connect emotionally with customers.
Lois Sapare is an editor at Scoopfed. She is a former student journalist with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. When she’s not writing content on a variety of topics, you can find her watching psych thriller films or keeping up with the latest buzz in the tech world. @scoopfed