Startup Branding Basics
Once you start developing your product, website, communication material, PDFs or other things and showing them to your potential customers, you start needing visuals, branding visuals. So, you need a name, a brand and consistent communication. Let's look at what needs to be thought about here.
What is Branding?
"Branding is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to the company. This helps to identify a product and distinguish it from other products and services."
Why is Branding important?
Branding is what makes your company identifiable by potential customers
Branding is what makes your company distinguishable from other products
Branding reflects the values you want to communicate to your potential customers
Branding is used in all communication with the customers
How to create a Branding in easy steps?
To create a coherent and powerful brand, that communicates relevant messages to the customers, you'll need to start thinking from the basics (Framework: Branding). Let's look at the details below.
What is the vision of your company? What is that one long-term, almost unattainable goal your company wants to achieve? For example, Microsoft's vision is: "A computer on every desk". The vision is a one-sentence forward-thinking statement.
The mission, on the other hand, is a statement reflecting what your company does in the present, how you do it and potentially why you do it. Let's have a look at Google's example. Mission Statement:
To organize the world’s information (what) and make it universally accessible and useful (why).
N.B.: Google doesn't have the "how" part of the mission, which is also fine.
To provide access to the world' information in one click.
You have already defined your target group earlier on. This target group has common characteristics, common values, thinking behavior or other patterns. It speaks in a similar language. You brand should be appealing to this specific type of customers and their values. If you are a service company for financial institutions, your branding will be much more professional and serious than if you selling games to children.
Based on your defined target groups, your vision and mission, what values do you stand by? What values do you want to communicate? Again, if your customer is a financial institution, you'll want to communicate value of trustworthiness, transparency, client communication. But if you are designing games for children your values will be completely different, for example: fun, educational...
Finally, once your backbone of vision, mission, target group and values is ready, you can think of how to reflect that through your company name, logo, colors, fonts, style and words (Framework: Style)
First, you can think of the general style of your company's brand specific. Would you want it to be more classic or modern; mature or young; feminine or masculine; playful or sophisticated; lean or luxurious? You can position your preferences on the graph.
Second, select 3-5 colors or a color palette for your style. You can get inspiration on Pinterest or on Google in general. Colors also have an emotional meaning, which you can use when selecting colors.
At this point, there's no need to develop of your fonts. Google has plenty of downloadable fonts that you can use for your branding, click on the link.
Name & Logo
It's time to find and select a company name! Start brainstorming with your team on a few ideas. You can use the following strategies to create a name:
Existing words & phrases: Apple, Dollar Shave Club...
Combinations of several words or parts of it: Accenture (accent + future), Instagram (instant camera + telegram), Spotify (spot + identify), Facebook, SnapChat...
Names: Hewlett-Packard, Abercrombie & Fitch...
Misspelling: changing one or two letter to misspell a word (this strategy is quite common nowadays): Lyft, Flickr, Tumblr...
Acronyms: DHL, UPS, IBM, BMW...
Metaphor: Nike (goddess of victory), Amazon (river)...
Other languages: Uber (means above in German)
Invented names: Google, Pixar...
You can also use free name generators such as Namelix for ideas and inspiration. After entering a few key-words, Namelix, will generate examples of names with the help of its A.I. algorithm.
It's generally useful to conduct a brainstorming sessions in which you can do the following:
Prepare post-its and pens for each team member
Give everyone 2 minutes to brainstorm about words associated with your company (one word per post-it). These words can represent things, feelings, actions, values, USPs...
Play with the words according to the naming strategies, you can use a translator and a thesaurus to find synonyms
After you've gathered a few options, you need to evaluate those to make sure your name is: appropriate for your audience, memorable, easy to pronounce and distinguishable (with an available domain and trademark).
Now that you have a name, colors and fonts, you can start designing your logo. At this stage, you can do it yourself on easy tools such as Canva and Crello, Adobe Illustrator or even Powerpoint. Additionally, you can request a professional logo on freelancing platforms for competitive prices: 99designs, Upwork or Fiverr. In the later case, you'll be required to submit a "Brand Guide" which encompasses the details from Frameworks: Branding and Style and most likely other questions defined by your freelancer. Kapsly, a swiss startup, also offers to request services with an option to pay with company shares.
We are here to help! So if you'd like a professional branding on which you won't need to work in the next years, you can request our services below!
At this point, you don't have to design your own logos as it will costly and require some time. You need a quick solution. For that, you can use The Noun Project where you can download icons for free.
Finally, when thinking about communication with your customers, prepare a list of words your target audience uses to communicate and the words you want to use in your material (presentations, website...).
Finally, it is worth mentioning that you can always test your branding with real customers from your target group. This is especially relevant if your Innovation lies in the creation of a new Brand.
Supporting Tools & Additional Resources
Pinterest: for color inspiration
Fonts: for downloading fonts
Namelix: for generating names and logos
Canva: for easily creating a logo
Adobe Illustrator: for creating a logo (better quality but harder to use)
99designs: for finding a competitive freelancer
Upwork: for finding a competitive freelancer
Fiverr: for finding a competitive freelancer
Kapsly: for services with an option to pay with company shares.
The Noun Project: for downloading free icons
After completing this, you should have a first version of your branding, logo and name that you can use in the next steps. In the beginning it's enough but once you validate your idea, you will need to create a more professional version of the branding. However, right now, such a branding already allows you to quickly get to the customers.