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Di-Mystifying Effective Branding For Startups What words define your business best.

By Aji Issac

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Effective branding is when people are looking for a job-to-be-done from your industry and your business name is recalled for a "hire", and you are able to charge a premium. It also stands for words they use to define your business, and how they perceive your business when they hear your venture's name. Thus, Apple is high-end mobile, and the Micromaxs and Xiaomi Mis are more value-for-money mobiles. All of them are mobile phone companies, but are recalled differently and bought by different segments. A non-branded barber charges Rs 40 for a haircut; another barber with a little more training and a brand, charges Rs 400 premium -- that's real branding hitting your real bottomline.

Things have changed a lot since 1967, when Sir Philip Kotler published his book "Marketing Management", which is now in its 14th edition. Now people are consuming more information (information doubles every 12 months). The rise of digital, discovery and knowledge is inspiring businesses to spend on business identity and branding, compared to just selling. In short, this is a new era with a new consumer attitude, "I am too busy, I am selective, I can search, browse, ask when I need it, why should I keep you in my mind today?" -- powered by Google, Facebook, apps and social connections. So how do you ensure effective branding on a limited budget?

Go for cost, speed, quality

Please don't go crazy about marketing and creative excellence demanding great out-of-the-box ideas, creatives and error-free execution. Instead, focus on balancing cost, speed and quality. Startups should bet big on low-cost, and high-speed (allowing you to release early, experiment more), with the right quality (not the best, HD quality vs full HD quality). Today speed stands for advantage. Big names can't risk quality in marketing, but SMEs can use it to their advantage. Example: A quick, low-cost, good quality "Kodiakanal won't" video (with 3.6m+ views) by a small NGO made giant Unilever compensate its ex-workers after 15 years!

Benefit lines over creative taglines

Spend time on business modeling, target group understanding, value addition and so on. Create benefit lines over taglines. Have one statement that defines the company -- make it shorter and meaningful. Large companies put big dollars behind their taglines to make it meaningful, which gives them RoI. SMEs should make it direct by using benefit line for business advantage, Examples: YouTube: "Broadcast Yourself"; eBay: "Your Personal Trading Community" (1998), "The World's Online Marketplace" (2001), "Shop Victoriously" (2007). Look at logged out versions of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Linkedin -- all of them harp on detailed benefit line. It's okay to change it once in a while but the core of your message will remain more or less the same as it is focused on core benefits.

Have a brand guideline document

Use Google docs, keep adding and editing it; it can include everything from vision, mission, values, color guidelines with reasons, rules to break the rules, mistakes to avoid, and so on. Share it with everyone, from the peon to the venture capitalist, and let everyone speak the same line and internalize it. At Techshu, even the SEO team sends a proposal saying "SEO focused Digital Marketing Mix Proposal"; the SEO team's designation reads: "Digital Marketing Executive-SEO" to stand and live for "Right Digital Marketing Mix".

Audience and frequency

This is the big one -- instead of going random to many, go to few, and go to them more frequently to build a recall. An easy way is to create FB audience(s), where you want to build brand recall, be it for HR needs or business needs. Now segment it to core 1 to core 5. Keep it anywhere from 500 to a few lakhs. Now reach out to them more frequently, even with paid boosting. Paid is not crime, amplify sparingly and in bytes.

Personal connections

I use Lookout app for mobile to export mobile contacts along with email contact to create my custom audience on Facebook. Our sales team does the same. Real life connections promote you more -- they are your true influencers.

Amplify, play it up

Look at every small activity, be it the team's Small Women's Day activity, or a co-branding exercise with some top company. Don't hesitate in paid boosting to the specific audience set. Don't boost from the front panel of FB, however; boost it from the business panel (to specific audience). Use of Twitter, appropriate hash tags, Twitter ads (with low budgets) will all help. Never stop ads, make them run at low budgets with low bids – they give you great RoI. Also use remarketing code and relevant rebranding ads on the branding blog pages to emphasis positioning, and for a stronger brand recall.

Aji Issac

Co-founder & CEO, TechShu

TechShu’s Founder Aji Issac believes in improving digital success percentage by selecting the right company and doing the right mix for them to get the right business metrics met. TechShu is one of the leading digital marketing agencies in India and one of the largest in east India. It offers end-to-end digital solutions and has a customer base that includes HP, Greenply, ABD, BJP Bengal, SRMB, IIHM, Macroman, and LinenClub of the Aditya Birla Group.

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