Hey Now! has worked with our fair share of start-ups over the last 3 years since we’ve launched. It’s an exciting time for start-ups in Cleveland and it’s been really incredible to see the huge impact our work can have on a new company.
When you are a starting a business, there are so many things to consider. Between writing your business plan, securing funding, perfecting your offerings, and finding help, sometimes investing in your brand and professionally marketing your company can feel like it should be secondary. Matt Brower helps clarify why creating a brand strategy is so valuable from the beginning and should be a first tier priority for every start-up.
Q: Why is branding and brand strategy specifically important for a start-up in your opinion?
A: When I speak to owners of start-ups I always tell them: Branding is not just a logo. It is the overall feeling a customer gets while interacting with your company. A lot of start-ups have the misconception that if they have some kind of logo mark that says their company’s name, then they are set to launch. But they are missing a crucial step: brand strategy. Creating a brand strategy sets the stage for everything marketing related. For instance, with a logo—what message do you want to communicate, what do you want people to feel, who do you want this company to appeal to, all of these things are answered in the strategy. There is no sense in creating a logo just to have a logo. You might not even know what you want to communicate because you haven’t gone through a strategic process.
Q: What should a strategy encompass for a new company?
A: There are really three core layers to creating a brand strategy that are foundational for a new start-up. First, we spend time discovering and solidifying who you are as a company, what your company will be known for and stand for, and how it’s different from everything else out there. Once you understand that, you dive deeper and clearly define your target demographic, position in the marketplace, the rational and emotional benefits to the consumer, and the promise you as a business want to make to the consumer. The third level is taking that strategic work and developing clear and concise messaging for consumers and investors that help create action. With this kind of plan in place you can focus your team and grow thoughtfully. A cohesive and concise brand strategy can literally be the difference in how long it takes you to become profitable.
Q: What do you see as the biggest issue for a start-up that doesn’t have a brand strategy?
A: Think of it this way… If you are really into a girl and you see her across the room and you introduce yourself in a way that really turns her off because you spilled food on your shirt and you’re being creepy, you will not have another chance with her again. It’s the same thing with a company and identity. You introduce yourself to a potential investor or consumer and you confuse them with an unclear message or just turn them off, you won’t get the chance to sell them on your company again.
The biggest issue in not having a strong brand strategy is that when you go to market and start putting your brand out there, you could be attracting the wrong customers and begin to be known for the wrong things. If my product is high end and my marketing says “sale sale sale” and the colors are cheap then I’m communicating to potential consumers that I am not high end. This inconsistency means that the people who my brand is resonating with are not my future customers and probably aren’t looking for what I am selling, which would mean they won’t buy what I am selling. However, if my brand feels luxurious, uses words and imagery that convey this and create a user experience that says “I know how to do luxury” then I will be pulling in consumers that this resonates with and who will buy my products.
Q: Any advice to owners of new start-ups?
A: Be patient. Owning a business is in the long game. Investing in the things that help you set a strong foundation for future growth are most important. Cutting corners is just not a good growth strategy!! Many owners don’t know this and flail trying to grow without a solid foundation. The earlier on you can create this plan and hash out what it is you envision your brand really doing and where it’s heading in the marketplace, the easier it is to steer the ship in that direction and focus your limited resources on things that give you more bang for your buck. It also helps when you get employees as it’s easier to communicate where you are headed and a clear path on how to get there.
More questions? Reach out to Matt directly by emailing him: firstname.lastname@example.org.