What is good branding? A logo on a laptop? A company’s name printed across a shirt?

A brand is more than a name or a logo. A brand is how people perceive your business and how your company is defined. A brand is an image and idea. More importantly, these are all things that differ amongst individuals.

But what’s so important about branding and why is it crucial that start-ups focus on their branding efforts?

Branding: Why Tech Startups Should Care And How They Can Do It Right
Is a word or logo a brand?

What’s In A Brand That Makes It Important?

A brand is the summation of all the thoughts and emotions a consumer has when a company’s brand comes to mind. In a climate where 64 per cent of customers seek brands that represent their shared values, it is crucial that companies focus on branding strategies that capture the attention of their potential customers and establish a congruence of values.

Good branding allows for the differentiation of the product that a company is providing, giving consumers a reason to consider it over others. This is especially important for a startup because it is essentially trying to introduce a new idea into the market it is entering and acquire a customer base; whether it is by capturing an untapped market segment or providing more than its competitors.

You have to give customers a reason to buy Mac over Windows, Xiaomi over iPhone or Under Armour over Nike, for example.

A successful brand is one where the company has established a purpose and its associated values to connect with their customers on an emotionally deeper level, is consistent with their branding efforts, and empowers their employees. As you can see, good branding isn’t what one merely senses, but perceives.

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Company Purpose And Values, And How They Connect With The Customer

Arguably, a company’s purpose for existing is mainly to make a profit. But a deeper question worth asking is, what purpose does your company serve for your customers?

Your customers are more likely to connect with your brand if your company is very certain of what its core purpose is and the values it perpetuates. That is, you need to be able to convince them that your shareholders have a vision that transcends getting a big pay cheque. And in order to do that, you need to know why your company exists.

For example, Dropbox was created with the intent of distributing a product that was aimed at making it easier to access one’s files without the need to constantly carry a physical object around, like a thumb drive.

However, that’s not how they brand themselves.

Their mission is to “unleash the world’s creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working” and describe themselves as being “obsessed with making work better for people”. They’re not telling you anything about their product – you wouldn’t know what the product is or what it does (a vague “making work better” doesn’t count) from their About page.

Branding: Why Tech Startups Should Care And How They Can Do It Right
Remember these?

But that’s exactly it.

They’re trying to sell you an idea; something bigger than the product itself, something bigger than a cloud storage and file sharing service. They’re trying to sell you the idea that purchasing their product is going to contribute to this amazing ideal that they’re creating and that you, the customer, will be part of something so much greater.

Similarly, Red Bull sells energy drinks. But on its landing page, it tells you nothing about its product other than the fact that it’s an energy drink and instead tells you about how it has enabled the ambitions of a wide variety of individuals. Scroll further down and they tell you about the recyclability of the metal can encasing the energy drink.

The Red Bull brand isn’t about an energy drink; it’s about the fruition of ambition and most importantly, it’s a brand that cares. Customers buying their products might believe that they’re contributing to the sustainability of the environment while pursuing their dreams. A double whammy of feel-goodness that appeals to the emotional side of a consumer.

Branding: Why Tech Startups Should Care And How They Can Do It Right
The first thing you see on Red Bull’s landing page is not actually their products, but a promise of an experience. Image: Red Bull

A startup usually has a strong idea of how it can bring something different to the table, but it’s usually marketed in the form of the features of the created product. A purely pragmatic person might compare your product with another and decide on yours because it has more features at a better price point but how are you going to get everyone else to believe in your brand without having looked at your product; to trust that your brand has their best interests in mind? Here’s where identifying your company’s purpose and values becomes a key asset in creating good branding.

Consistency

And once you’ve decided what your company’s purpose is and the values that drive it, you need to apply them consistently.

A consistent brand is a visible brand, which is crucial to the initial phases of customer acquisition in a startup. There are many ways of doing this through myriad methods of promotion but most importantly, you need to ensure your company is being presented in ways that are necessarily consistent with the image it is trying to portray (an idea that is discussed in the two-part series on sponsorship).

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Your Biggest Sellers Are The People Already Working For You

It’s important that the image and values that your employees perpetuate are consistent with the branding efforts of your company.

Imagine branding your company as customer-oriented, only for a grouchy, mean-mannered employee to answer the phone on a Monday morning when a customer calls in to request for a reservation!

It’s thus crucial that not only your customers buy into the brand, but your own employees do so as well. As mentioned earlier in the article, to create a brand, the company needs to know why it exists and this includes its employees — arguably the company’s best brand ambassadors since they constantly live and breathe the brand on a day-to-day basis.

Branding: Why Tech Startups Should Care And How They Can Do It Right
Would you trust a company if their employees don’t seem happy working there? Photo: Brooke Cagel via Unsplash

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016, a company’s employees are perceived to be thrice as trustworthy as its CEO. So it’s imperative that your company takes the necessary steps to train employees to behave in ways that are appropriate and representative of the way you seek to portray your company’s brand image. This could be done by educating them, providing them with the right resources (for example, if they want to post something about the company or its products, what types of guidelines they should follow) and of course, motivating them to do so.

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What Next?

As you can see, throughout the article, it’s easy to realise that creating a brand doesn’t start from the product. It starts from the creation of the company.

From its purpose, to its values, to its employees. The creation of a brand is from the ground-up and not top-down.

However, don’t mistake this to mean that the product is totally irrelevant and that you can sell an amazing idea with a terrible product (customers will see through this eventually).

The idea is to find out what type of product the market requires and sell it using a brand, but the creation of the brand doesn’t necessarily revolve around the product.


Featured image: Red Bull Jobs