The importance of brand image in start up companies
"the act of giving a company a particular design or symbol in order to advertise its products and services" from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
The dictionary definition of branding is simple but it's amazing how few business leaders understand its importance. I have meet directors from large, international businesses who do not see any reason for investing in fresh design, in pr, in web innovation or in core messages.
How a business, product or individual is branded plays a big role in whither they succeed or fail. A brand is not just a logo, it is all your ethics and persona. This includes your style of design, your execution of that design, your attitude, your logo, your marketing, your internal policies and even your business process can all influence your brand image. If image is everything then this image needs to be right.
If you are a start up company, it is common to be branded as such. The benefit of this is that you are young and enthusiastic - the downside is far worse. People are less likely to invest in something that does not carry much experience or credibility. So you want to look like an industry leader. How do you go about that? Well it all starts, in my opinion, with your target audience. If you can get inside their heads you can appeal to them. If you do not you may find you offend them, upset them, or put them off. You may have a few target audiences but try and consider your key audience.
Next you need to think about what it is that you wish to communicate with them. What are you messages and why do they need to know these messages. Also how can you back these messages up, not only with evidence but also graphically in your brand style, in your logo, the name of your business, in your typography and in your copy.
All these things are a lot easier to make effective if they are proactive rather than reactive. By getting these things clear in your head at the start can help you with everything else that follows. If you wait "to see how things go" then you may find that this simple process becomes a lot more complicated and expensive. Not only will getting these messages straight in your head help you to sell your service or product, but it will also help your employees and their motivation and behaviour.
Most companies are so worried about their image to the end user that they forget about communicating this to employees which can create mixed messages when these employees are representing the company elsewhere. Make sure all of your staff are on board and believe passionately in your brand and key messaging. Also your suppliers are good advocates for your brand and they will also spread the word about your service and style of approach.
In terms of the design element of your brand - once you have got a solid style this needs to be implemented consistently across all marketing materials. Not only on you letter heads, business cards and compliment slips, but on your signage, leaflets, brochures, email signatures, PowerPoint presentations and website. Think MacDonald's. It will cost you in money but not in respectability. I have come across so many businesses which have about 6 variations on their logo. This causes confusion in a target audience and gives you a unorganised persona.
You need to make life easy for your target audience. If you can create consistency with your brand this leads to a comfort zone. Simplicity is the key. Your messages may be complex but the way you communicate them needs to be simple.
When starting a company it's important to start building brand identity. Reach potential customers through the use of logo products and create a favorable impression with fun freebies like stress balls and personalised travel mugs. Your company logo is the most recognisable feature of your business whether you've been in busy for 2 days or 20 years. Take advantage of the benefits that promotional items can give you.
So in this brief article you will have noticed that you don't have to be a genius to be good at branding. All it is is communicating, in a simple way, your messages to your audience. It will take time, money and attention to detail. The starting point is the recognition that branding is worth while. Once this is established its up to you how far you want to go. As they say "your attitude effects your altitude". So if you get the ball rolling soon you will realise you are flying. Its all in the brand.