Marketing Bootcamp

Don't Brand for Now, Brand For 'Then'

Don't Brand for Now, Brand For 'Then'
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Companies go through a number of stages, from start-up to maturity. And each phase has different dynamics. By visualizing their goals from Day One, confident businesses develop a consistent brand they can grow into -- one that doubles as a guide-wire for customers, management, staff and investors.

Related: The 7 Tenets of Branding

As an entrepreneur running one of these confident businesses, one of your greatest strengths is that you can dream. And your brand should reflect what you see in that dream, and far into the future. So, the branding you do should capture that success point -- the picture you have of exactly what success looks like. By developing a brand focused on that point, you give yourself a brand to grow into, not one you need to keep changing as you grow.

Brand your success point, not your success journey.

Too many brands brand in the moment, not beyond it. They start out wanting to look credible. So, they often give themselves a name and a brand that fits in with others in the sector. That works for a while, but as they grow and face increasing competition, those very same factors soon box the business in. It gets harder and harder to be noticed -- just as increasing competition makes differentiation critical. So, they rebrand.

If they later need investor funding to capitalize expansion, they will need their brand to be interesting to investors. A product-focused brand will probably not feel big enough or ambitious enough for these stakeholders. Their working title won’t align with their working capital. So, they rebrand again.

If they need to expand into other sectors and/or other markets in order to meet their growth targets, they will need a new brand capable of doing that . . . and every time they go through the rebranding process, they incur expenses and time, and have to re-educate the market all over again about who they are now.

Related: It's Not You, It's Your Story: Why Branding Matters

But by building a brand from the start that is as closely aligned as possible to your vision of success, and behaves in ways that are consistent with those intentions throughout the journey, you’ll make better decisions and reassure all who come into contact with you that they are working with a purposeful company. So, exactly how do you do that?

How to build a future-proofed brand.

  1. Start with a powerful premise: a reason for launching the business based on what is missing for consumers. Uber saw the need for an alternative to taxis. Why will you succeed? What have you seen the need for? And, why is it so different from what people can get today? Next, quantify your success point -- in terms of what your business will look like one day:
  2. How big will it be? To answer this, ask yourself: Where’s the point of greatest profitability? Will you be most profitable at scale or as a specialist? Local, national or global? While, for most entrepreneurs, the temptation is to go big, that’s not always where the profitability is.
  3. What are the likely sector dynamics? How busy are things going to get in this space over the years ahead? Busier sectors will probably mean more competitors. How different will you need to be to stand out?
  4. How much headroom do you have before you need to diversify? In other words, is there sufficient organic market growth for you to meet your plans? How long can you stay in this sector before you will need to expand into other areas? That will decide how single-minded and/or single-sectored your brand must be.
  5. How do you want to grow -- through cash flow or through investment? This will help you decide whom you must appeal to the most.

With these answers, you'll know why you intend to succeed, how big you need to grow, how intensely you will need to compete, what you will need to fight to get there, how broadly you may need to diversify and the extent to which you will need people to invest in you and/or a business that grows based on sales.

That’s success. Build your brand and a business plan for that -- then get out there and chase down that dream.

Related: 4 Branding Lessons That You Don't Want to Learn the Hard Way