KNOWING WHAT YOU STAND FOR | Fundamentals of Branding for Startups

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Branding, the word sounds like something we hear regularly in this contemporary modern-day life surrounded by industries and firms, especially if we are talking to a business professional or a marketing expert. We also get to hear the sound of it at various seminars from motivational speakers and sometimes also from the mouths of faculty members of business schools. We are all so familiar with this word, but do we truly understand what the term “branding” signifies?

Now suppose, one day your friend who works as the General Manager in a large multinational company comes up to you and shows you the new Rolex Daytona watch that he recently purchased. You infer from this that your friend is making a handsome amount of money annually, or else he wouldn’t be able to acquire a Rolex watch. Therefore, the name Rolex outlines an idea of success, wealth, and affluence in your mind. This is exactly what branding is all about. It is the idea or impression that a firm wishes to create of itself in the minds of its target audience or potential customer base. The idea of having a Rolex goes hand in hand with inheriting wealth, having a pay raise, or starting up a booming business. This image of a successful persona that companies like Rolex or Rolls Royce have been able to make an integral part of themselves in people’s perceptions are top-notch examples of successful branding.

Similarly, if you see your colleague arriving at the office in his Toyota car, you just assume that he is a rational person since you are acutely aware that Toyota specializes in longevity, reliability and most importantly offers great value for money. Funnily enough, Toyota owns a separate luxury wing famously known as “Lexus”, which manufactures cars that are comparable to the German luxury car industry big boys e.g. Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, etc. Moreover, Toyota itself produces many other luxury cars such as the Toyota Alphard, Toyota Century, Toyota Crown, etc. that can by no means be considered “reasonably priced”. Yet, the image of “rationality” remains persistent in the minds of people. This is what appropriate branding does for you. In the words of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, “Your brand is what people say about you after you leave the room.”

 

The importance of branding

Why is branding important though? Why does people’s perception of your company matter? As long as the products and services are consistent and first-class things should work just fine, isn’t it? Well, thinking that way merely deals with the tip of the iceberg that we call, “running a successful business”. Branding, however, works with a much more long-term vision. An organization’s brand image makes up for its brand equity. People are more easily able to trust and associate themselves with a company that everyone perceives well or talks highly of. Would you rather prefer to hail a ride via Uber or go for ridesharing in an unknown, lesser known ride hailing service? Well, you got your answer right there. Now, what about new business ventures? Why do startups need branding?

Branding to shape up the startup’s persona

Branding gives a startup its own aura. A unique persona that people can associate only with this specific startup. For example, consider Tiktok. Tiktok uses its signature glitch style logo, which demonstrates the funky nature of the content that is created within the app. The font of the writing is soft on the eyes and joyful, bringing a sense of euphoria to the consumer. However, branding does not only encompass the logos, color combinations, and jingles that you see or hear in a company’s billboards, leaflets, and ads, although they are all part of it. It’s the entire ‘experience’ that leads to the creation and sustainability of the brand.

Aligning with the values – branding the startup from the very core

Concisely, branding is an organization personified. It is crucial for a startup to possess its own values, beliefs, stories, and personality. All of these cumulatively define who the company is and what it stands for. From awareness to retention, personality covers the perception of the totality of touch-points in a business. Good branding is the residue of memories of the experience that remains in the heads of consumers once they are done doing business with the company. Branding makes you stand out from the crowd. It presents a company with the opportunity to showcase its uniqueness and the subtle differences that set it apart from all the similarities that the competing rival brands share, the differences that make the company what it is. Through conveying these messages and core business values, the company gets to form a genuine connection with its customer base. And not only does branding provide the company with a spotlight and podium of its own, it also assures its customers that the company is here to stay for a considerable amount of time. Therefore, an established brand is not only successful and unique but also a familiar name in households and gives off a notion of reliability.

Branding as a bridge to acquire and retain customers

Branding is the communication bridge between a company and its current and potential buyers. Through branding, companies “talk” to the people and people get to know what the company is all about. And this way, companies can also resolve any concern that might reside in the minds of their target market. For example, Bangladeshi e-commerce giant evaly has recently appointed renowned singer Tahsan Khan as its Chief Goodwill Officer. The convergence of the pop singers popularity and the nature of the company’s customers is expected to create a greater brand equity. It is using such personal branding and PR tools that companies retain customers and also capture new market segments.

Putting in the hours – Branding takes time

Branding sounds like the quick bypass to overnight success, isn’t it? The one-stop solution to running a successful business with an established brand name. However, we can assure you that branding is not remotely as easy and fun as it sounds. In fact, it is far from being so. If you think starting a business is tough, then we can confirm that making your business memorable is tougher. Branding requires a distinctive branding strategy. Now, what is a branding strategy? A Branding strategy gives a company a rough idea of what it needs to work through. The set of actions that you plan to perform and execute in hopes of making your business grow bigger e.g. brand identity, interactions with consumers, brand personality, etc. is cumulatively known as branding.

A step by step guide on branding fundamentals

Numerous factors are critically fundamental to developing an effective branding strategy. First off, a company needs to filter out and determine the target market segment that they wish to work with. For example, Rolls Royce does not produce TV commercials because they believe people who can afford a Rolls Royce do not have time to sit in front of the TV. Therefore, the marketing and branding campaigns of a company need to be aligned with the demographics of its target market, focusing on their needs and wants. Secondly, evaluation of competing brands is key. There is no industry in a free market economy where you can run a monopoly, at least as a startup. Therefore, doing your homework on rival companies is fundamental to making your products stand out from the crowd in an already saturated market.

The third point would be visuals. Yes, they matter! From the logo of a company to its associated colors, as well as the taglines and jingles, all of them together tell something about the brand’s personality. About the values, ideas, and people behind it. For example, Apple as a startup represented revolutionary tech-products with a keen eye for designs, whereas Airbnb represented the homely feeling that you can get at any corner of the world. Fourthly, acknowledging and emphasizing your strong suit is very important. Companies need to illustrate and talk more about what makes them unique, what features they offer that others don’t, how the product offers more benefits than its substitutes for a comparable price tag, or how the company is saving time and other resources for its buyers.

And finally, since a startup is new in the industry, it is better to be safe than sorry. Hiring personnel with expertise and relevant experience in branding within the particular industry to help express the startup’s ideas, objectives and personality is the safest bet to go with. All in all, the key to having a proper brand identity and to projecting it to your target audience begins with truly understanding what you stand for. Understand the problem that your startup is aspiring to solve, know what clicks among your target audience and then carve out a phrase or a sentence which truly embodies what you stand for. Instill bits and pieces of that value in the entire service/product offering and only then will you be able to truly harness the timeless power of branding.

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