Why every startup needs to care about branding

Everyone is familiar with the word “brand” but what does it actually mean? And why should a startup care about its brand? Startup Sauna CMO Kasper was lucky enough to catch Lukas, the CEO of our partner company booncon PIXELS, after his talk to our fall’15 batch this afternoon to interview him about this.

If people don’t like you – or worse, don’t know who you are – succeeding is impossible. Brand is the personality of your company. It is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. It’s the overall experience people get from your company, service and product. This means a brand is a lot more than what meets the eye. It includes your visual identity, your logo, colours and fonts, but also the tone you use in your communication, the user experience you provide on your website or application, and what people think about you.

It becomes more simple when you think about how you describe a person. You think about how they look, act, speak and how you feel around them – it’s really the same with companies and brands as they are made of real people.

“Think about your brand as the personality of your company.”

K: Ok, a brand is definitely important but sounds like a ton of complicated work though — creating logos, defining colors and building a top-notch user experience. With limited (or no) resources, how can a startup start building its brand?

L: There are a lot of pieces to a brand and companies can easily spend lots of time and money getting all of them right. However, for startups the most important thing is to get started. Start building the personality of your company without worrying about perfection. You can always improve as you go. To get going, startups can follow these three concrete tips:

  1. Be honest. Maybe the most important thing with building your brand is to stay true to who you are. Your brand can’t be something you’re not. So don’t try to build a playful brand if you and your company aren’t.
  2. Ask for help. Although your brand will grow and change as you do, you should never start with anything made in a hurry – people can spot sloppy brand elements and it’s never impressive. Focus on what you can do the best and if creating a logo for example isn’t your forté then you probably shouldn’t be the one making it. Ask help from freelancer friends, students, professionals or someone you know.
  3. Be coherent. Whatever you do, have a red string to follow. It is a lot easier to develop your brand from something consistent to something better than it is to manually fix every randomly created element.

In addition to these, there are quite a few good tools out there for startups. These vary from setting up your first website through Squarespace or finding that perfect font from Google or Adobe free fonts, to kickstarting your online presence by setting up a Twitter account and using high quality stock photos from services like Unsplash with discretion. A crucial point to remember is to measure the things you do, so take the time to set up Google Analytics and make future decisions based on data instead of a gut feeling.

For great examples, take a look at companies like Hello RubyLeeLuu and Smarp.

K: Anything startups should avoid?

L: Yes.

  1. Avoid people who don’t make you feel good. You should surround yourself with people you enjoy working with, especially when working with something as crucial as your brand.
  2. Avoid super cheap online services and working with people miles away from you. According to our experience these services end up costing you more in lost time and unsatisfactory results.

So be honest, ask for help, don’t produce half-ass content and if you’re totally lost, start off by thinking of your brand as the personality of your company. booncon PIXELS were kind enough to share their actual session slides for the public, so take a look, learn, try, fail, and prevail!

Want links to the services mentioned in the presentation? Get them here.___

We at Startup Sauna work with a bunch of coaches and co-op partners to provide the best support we can for early-stage startups. One of these is a mix of both, a partner who brings along a team of coaches, booncon PIXELS. They’re an international Experience Design Studio based in the heart of Helsinki creating captivating brands, websites and applications.

The team has been a part of the Startup Sauna accelerator program since fall 2014 arranging brand clinics for the startup teams.