5 Branding must-haves for startups 4

Building a memorable brand is more important than ever.  In this climate of unlimited choices,  your brand has to be cohesive, memorable and differentiated to captivate consumers and eventually capture mind share.

Branding isn’t simply a visual identity, and a lot of start-ups go wrong by undervaluing the importance of branding initiatives. Think of branding as a vehicle for communicating your value to the world, engaging consumers on an emotional level, and creating a sense of ownership for your customers and fans.  A strong brand paints a picture of your core values, your personality, points of difference and clearly communicates to the consumer why they should choose you over competitors. Here are 5 branding assets you absolutely should not launch without.

1. A Memorable Name

Good brand names are rarely arbitrary.  They are carefully curated ambassadors of your brand personality that convey your brand’s position, tone, and values.  Names can be proper names (based on the founders if you like), descriptive names, imagistic, alphanumeric, playful, invented etc. Whatever you deem appropriate to get the tone and personality of your brand across is fair game.

Once you’ve identified a few names, evaluate them based on ease of spelling, sound, appearance, appropriateness and relevancy to the target market, and level of distinction.  Once you’ve settled on a name you love, do a trademark search before you spend time and energy on a logo design.  It might also be a good idea to test the name with your target market to make sure it resonates in a positive way!

2. A Strong Logo

When it comes to identity design, brands need to “go big, or go home.”  Logos need to be instantly recognizable, memorable, and cue the product/service you are offering. Color is increasingly important in logo design. In fact, color has been found to increase brand awareness by as much as 80%. Because of the nature of human brain, we recognize color long before we can decipher words, and we often associate certain colors with particular brands. Opt for highly recognizable shapes, unique and customized typefaces, and an ownable color palette, as they all help to increase brand recall.

After you’ve designed your logo, remember to test it.  Look at your logo in the company of other brands it will be surrounded by.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it appropriate for the category so consumers can relate it to a product or service?  Yet does it stand out enough to be memorable?
  • Does it read well in print, on package and online?
  • Does it work in both black and white and color?
  • Is it appropriate for the consumers, cultures, and subcultures that will be receiving it?
  • Does it convey the brand personality?
  • It is cueing the emotional response you are hoping for?

3. Meaningful Marketing Collateral

Alexander Hamilton said, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” Brands need to own their positions and exhibit personality and emotion in order for consumers to make real and meaningful connections with them.  Arguably the greatest brands of the last century such as Coca-Cola, Apple, and Nike all have human qualities to them.  The emotions of their brands are palpable at every level.  We love them, we bring them into our homes and we make them a part of our everyday lives because they stand for the same things we do.

4.  An Optimized Website

Anybody can create a website — the Internet is full of sites where you can do it for free.  It is somewhat harder though, to create a website optimized for good user experience.  Your website should be a showcase for your brand personality, with rich and valuable content that will make consumers want to stay on your site and share it with their friends.  It’s a mistake to create a website just for the sake of having one.  It can be a truly invaluable tool for telling your brand story, proving your credibility and engaging with consumers in real time.  It is also the best place to gauge perceptions of your brands and products. Good sites balance design and functionality.

5.  A Well-Rounded Promotional Strategy

Social media is becoming a sort of “gold rush” with businesses attempting to lay claim to as much mind share as possible.  Interestingly, in a recent IBM study, 70% of executives thought their businesses would be perceived as “out of touch” if they did not engage in social media.  However, the same study also concluded that most people use social networks to interact with friends and families, not necessarily brands.

The point is, social media might not be a gold mine for your particular business.  A well-rounded promotional strategy will prove more fruitful in the long term, as you are engaging consumers through various mediums, and through a multidimensional approach.  Before you get caught up in promotional buzzwords, identify who your consumers are and where they dwell.  It’s not just a “presence” that will capture attention and be a driver to purchase. Brands need to convey real and tangible benefits across the board for consumers even to think about engaging with them.

-photo by flickr user bigcityal/Creative Commons

About the Author Amina AlTai is the Marketing Director at Imagemme, a New York-based packaging design and branding agency. You can follow her on Google+.
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  • http:/seedsclub.averagepersongardening.com Mike the Gardener

    We just did a redesign of our website to make it more streamlined, fast and efficient. So far our customers like the look and feel to it….it’s also easier to find things.

  • http://www.kickofflabs.com Josh Ledgard

    What about a set of brand promises about what you stand for? I think those are worth more than a logo or name. If you live if you your brand promises I dont’t think people will care about those things. For example: We state clearly at http://www.kickofflabs.com that you’ll have a stunning landing page up in 60 seconds. We also clearly call out support on most of our pages claiming that no one will love you more. If we live up to those… people tell their friends.

  • http://www.yellowbirdblogs.com Jen @ Yellow Bird Blogs

    To me, “branding” is how you exist in the minds of your customers and potential customers–nothing more and nothing less, really. Which is why it’s so crucially important to get it right.

  • http://blakedesignsolutions.com Tim Blake

    I agree mostly with what Josh stated – I think. I believe what Josh was trying to get at is that integrity is crucial to the success of any brand. If you don’t practice what you preach, the greatest marketing and design efforts will simply fall flat. However, unlike Josh, I feel that a strong name and a solid logo can make a real difference for a brand.