3 Essential Branding Tips for Startups

June 29, 2016

This is a guest post by Janni Valkealahti.

Defining your company’s character and the aimed brand image is more important for the company’s success than you might think in the beginning. How you look, sound, act, feel and present yourself is built from the colours you use, your logo, your tone of voice, your story, the visuals you choose to show, your pitch deck and fonts, only to name a few.

Thinking of all these can feel overwhelming when you’re just starting your startup adventure. But don’t worry, every company started from somewhere.

To get your brand off to a great start, follow these three tips:

Be consistent

Your business, team, product and processes are developing everyday. However, this doesn’t need to be the first thing people notice about your brand. Having a dozen different fonts, colours and logos in use at the same time might pass on a feeling that you don’t know what you are doing, even if you feel like it. So if you get an awesome idea to update the company font to a better one or make a new version of the logo, do it with consideration and not too often. And, moreover, if you do it, make sure to update all materials.

In other words, aim for using your brand elements (even if they are still on the basic level) consistently and build on them as you go – not bit by bit daily but at once and with a thought.

→ Pick a font pair (one for titles, another for body text) that seems good and use it all around in different materials, your presentations, business cards, flyers etc.

→ Update all old and new materials according to your current elements. Don’t show a presentation with all the new stuff and then hand out your business cards with the font from last year while wearing a t-shirt with your designer’s newest font modification.

Choose your style and stick to it

The biggest enemy of Good is Perfect. Instead of aiming to be pixel perfect from the very beginning, pick what feels good to you and stick to it. It is very tempting to try out different things, change your website based on the newest user behaviour statistics and switch your brand story every time you have talked to a marketing pro. However, this process is exhausting and if done constantly also eats a lot of time from focusing on your business. There may be many different brand identities that feel appealing to you and from which you draw inspiration from but it’s good to remember that taking single elements of different identities and combining them into one (your brand) is rather risky. One brand may have stylish, simplistic typography and another nice usage of bright photos and a third one cool illustrated patterns but it doesn’t mean these would go well together. Instead the combination might communicate a very shattered brand message.

Also, information in this world is never-ending. You can always find studies or professional opinions how this and that colour or button style brings more contact requests or orders but at the end of the day there are no right or wrong answers, anything might work for you if you make it work. It might be better to stick to your brand guidelines than adding red buttons to collect more leads, blue to add the feeling of trust and use Arial in links since you read somewhere that the most clicked links are written in that font. Aim for finding one style that feels good now and then stay with it for some time before updating everything.

→ Listen to advice, read about the newest trends and browse through examples, but let these new ideas sink in for a while before changing your brand over night.

Aim for credibility

The spice of startup life is the ability to be casual, relaxed and fun. On the flip side of the coin there’s a gazillion startups out there aiming to get those desperately needed investors to support them. This combination calls for differentiating yourself from the rest and appearing credible at the same time.

Aim to present yourself in a unique but always credible way.

→ What makes you stand out is you. Your story, team, team member backgrounds, idea, results and how all of this came to be. Have space to tell this story. It can be the ‘About Us’ section on your website, your blog or how you tell your story in general. Either way, make the story an asset.

→ Provide potential investors and partners with enough information about you. Giving out flyers with only hello@startup.com types of impersonal emails, or only mentioning your team to include James, David and Anna isn’t necessarily the most credible information that makes someone want to invest a six figure amount of money on your business.

If you’re interested to learn more about how to grow your startup’s brand, check out our CEO’s Lukas’ presentation for the spring ’16 batch here.

About the author:Janni works in our co-op, coach company booncon PIXELS, an international Experience Design Studio. The PIXELS team has been coaching the Startup Sauna teams on branding and design since the spring ’14 batch.