4 Branding Strategies Every Startup Founder Should Know About
Having a solid branding strategy is key for a smooth launch.
Getting your startup off the ground takes a hefty dose of planning, as any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you. It isn’t just about listing your products and services and finding financial backing, either — though those are important keys.
One of the most vital aspects of getting a new venture off to a good start is the branding — and not just colors, fonts, and so on, but the strategy behind every branding decision you make. As an entrepreneur myself, I can vouch for the importance of strategizing, rather than a scattershot approach! Of course, newcomers to the startup world may not have a solid grasp on this.
Here are four branding strategies that every startup founder should know going in.
1. Brand your promotions
It’s a common experience, and I’ve seen it myself — a new startup launches, only to see a slump in expectations. The idea, concept, execution, brand personality, all of the details that matter are great. Logically, the startup should succeed.
What was lacking? Many times, the founder and branding team neglected to demonstrate an immediate value to the potential customer. A customer that is on the fence about trying out a new brand can often be swayed by a promotional aspect. That could be anything from a free gift to a percentage off their first purchase and beyond. The point is that it adds extra impetus to their consideration of you as a newcomer.
Beyond that, however, there are other aspects to promotions that can enhance this branding strategy. Namely, branding your promotions. As we know, branding isn’t just about the visual aspect — it’s about the experience, the values, and other more intangible things. So when I say “brand your promotions,” I mean more than just stamping your advertising with your logo.
Ensure that your promotions fit the spirit, purpose, and values of your startup. And it’s not about just the initial purchase from a new customer — you want to build a repeat client base. Choosing an initial promotion combined with a loyalty program is an excellent two-for-one branding strategy that can intrigue your audience and help them along down the consumer’s journey.
2. Establish and maintain your social media presence
A second branding strategy centers around social media. These days, what doesn’t? Social media is a useful tool for startups. More than three and a half billion people use social media worldwide, with numbers projected to continue to climb steeply. Consumers are increasingly turning to official social media accounts to research new brands, learn more about them, get the opinions of others regarding them, and interact with the brands themselves.
Here are a few important aspects of this particular brand strategy:
Know your audience, and know what social media platform they favor. Facebook is the top platform for most brands, but the demographic that uses it is gradually changing. For example, the percentage of teens on Facebook has gone from 71 percent to 67 percent over the last six years, and continues to drop. Teens as a demographic are increasingly turning to Instagram and other platforms that are still building, like Snapchat. So analyze your audience, and leverage their social media preferences to get the most bang for your branding buck.
Get verified. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube all have a verification process for brands, celebrities, and other types of accounts. Verified status elevates your content and can even affect how readily and frequently it is viewed. Check on the process for each social media platform and let your audience know that they’re interacting with the real deal.
Speaking of interacting, respond to everything. Everything. Even if it’s just a thumb’s up or a like, it’s a great way of building a connection with your customer on an individual level. If you can’t handle all of that yourself, outsource it to a social media manager with a friendly, respectful disposition.
3. Use cohesive visual branding
Through your startup's development, you’ve worked with graphic designers and brand developers to put together a style guide for your branding. Color palettes, fonts, graphics, visual styles, and so on — everything needs to fit together coherently, as though it belongs to the same family. Because it does, but you might be surprised at how many small business owners and startup entrepreneurs then forget about the importance of using that style guide once they get going.
Don’t forget about it. Keep going back to that well. Use your style guide to inform every visual and stylistic decision you make for every piece of product packaging, marketing, and beyond. This is especially important when it comes to your website. Ensure that your website is so well-branded that everyone knows what brand it belongs to when they visit, even if they don’t see the logo right off the bat. But also, make sure your logo is on there.
It’s true that branding strategies aren’t solely about the visual aspects. But that’s no excuse for letting that slide. With your site, social media accounts, and marketing materials, you’ve given your brand a place to live. Make sure you mark it and own it.
4. Evoke an emotional response
A final branding strategy that really works for startup founders is a little more difficult to pinpoint, but no less effective for all that: get an emotional reaction. How you ask? Here are a few methods:
Tell your story. Get to the nitty-gritty of why you started this business, what motivates you to continue, the challenges you went through, everything. Everyone loves a good story.
Broadcast your values. Make sure that your audience understands where you’re coming from and what you want to achieve — and why. Ideally, your brand’s values will align with your audience's values and make an emotional connection.
Be yourself. Audiences react well to brands that they perceive as authentic and personal. Don’t cover over the things that make you unique; celebrate the quirks of personality that made your brand what it is.
Each of these aspects — and more — contributes to an emotional connection between your brand and your audience. Research, real life, and common sense all point to the fact that consumers are more likely to work with a brand when they feel a personal connection it.
Your startup can be the new best friend of your audience — and there’s no more successful way to help a new brand grow than that.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor