There’s a limited number of colours and shapes in this world, so your logo isn’t your whole brand. Your colour could remind a potential customer of a completely unrelated business (I recently thought of a well known auto care shop when looking at the website of a debt refinancer) and you need to rely on more than just that one aspect of your company to raise brand awareness.
If you have a marketing campaign, do you use just one channel? Only one ad image? Of course not, any campaign is more effective with multiple channels. It’s the exact same principle for “startup branding”.
Have you ever answered the phone without looking, heard “hey it’s me” and known exactly who it was? This is essentially what you want for your company. You want your customers to identify you just from your Instagram caption, your slogan, your product pitch. Create your branding for the blind.
How do you go about this?
Seriously. Get a professional to write your copy, avoid awkward grammar, weird angles, and inconsistent writing styles. To help you make sure you instruct them correctly before you hire them, do this exercise:
Describe the personality of your brand in three words or less (e.g. youthful/bubbly/excited)
Describe the tone of your brand in three words or less (e.g. educational/inspirational)
Pass these keywords on to your copywriter, it will help them get the angle just right. It’s also in your best interest to sit down with them for at least an hour to tell them everything about the company so far — where did it come from, why did you make it, what are the goals, what is the central pillar of the company and what are accessories?
With the above brand example, writing like this!!! is probably ok 🙂 but if you’re selling funerals you might want to hold back on the smileys 🙁
Every word on that landing page counts. Make sure it’s the right words.
One of the biggest things you need to adapt to with social media is using each channel for what it’s best for. Don’t post long form essays on Instagram, don’t post pictures of your breakfast on LinkedIn. It’s easy in theory, but executing different strategies for each platform can be hard, especially if you’re doing this with a small team (and no budget).
Only use each platform for what gives you optimum results. Keep your personality across each platform consistent. Even if you’re posting vastly different content for each platform, you should still be identifiable.
Case Study: Tesla
“Submit your Project Loveday video by June 5” followed by a link to Gizmodo. Not much is it?
Compare to their Instagram:
Again, it’s not much, “Easter egg will make world’s fastest accelerating production car even faster; 0–60 mph in 2.4 sec. Free software update next month.”
The content is different, one is a link to an external page (perfect for Facebook), one is an image that’s good to look at (perfect for Instagram), but the language they use is very straight-forward and has a focus on information ahead of style. It’s functional — and that’s Tesla’s whole brand.
They’re not trying to convince you that the colour red is prettier or faster than other cars, they’re not using models in bikinis to sell cars, and they’re not wasting their energy typing about useless things.
They’re consistent as well, they got a troll comment on the Facebook post saying they shouldn’t think so lowly of Australian creatives and replied “I think Gizmodo were surprised at the quality of videos coming through for the project”. It was pretty emotionless (apart from the use of “I think”), was short and sweet, and they corrected someone without being condescending.
Linguist point: In the Instagram caption they’re missing a “the” (the world’s fastest). Of the two categories of words (function/content), the is a function word. The fact that they left out a function word and not a content word further implies a focus on only the most essential or important pieces of information. From “the world’s fastest”, compare “the fastest” with “world’s fastest” — both are missing a single word, one makes more impact than the other. If you had to cut words to fit an Instagram caption, which would you choose?
If you cut corners (or budgets) on content, consider it a cut to the value of the brand. Cheap content = cheap brand; remember that your customers can see right through non-genuine attempts. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money though, it could be more of a time investment. Less often but higher quality content is another option.
Let’s say you’re a scented candle company. How many emotions can you sell from?
Love: this one’s easy. Romantic candles in the bedroom, say no more.
Fear: you have a presentation/exam coming up. You’re at the point where you’ll do any memory trick you hear about. It just so happens that you recently read about how certain scents can trigger memories, so you go out and buy a candle you’ve never smelled before and burn it while you practice your pitch. Sniff it right before you go on stage just to refresh your memory and everything goes just fine.
Another angle could be using scent and memory association with parent-baby bonding. There’s actually a lot here.
If you can connect your product to an emotion and then genuinely connect that to a customer, you have a sale. If your attitude is “I’ll just throw something together quickly” then you’re probably not emotionally connecting, and with no emotion there’s no sale.
There’s a reason why copywriting exists as a full time job — it’s not something you can just jump in and out of whenever you realise you need a product description.
When asking people about startup branding, one person said to me that they were the brand because they were the founder, therefore their personality was the brand (hence they don’t need to spend money on branding because they just have to be themselves).
Ok, you know who this works for? Freelancers.
Freelancers are their own brand, because they are one person. It doesn’t work like this for organisations and even startups shouldn’t fall into this trap. It might work when you’re pitching to investors for funding (they like to pick people), but not to customers (who are picking products).
If you are acting as the brand then remember that your own personal flaws will be on show as well. Depending on your personality, they could sometimes be magnified. You could come off as arrogant, condescending, know-it-all, or authoritative when really you’re trying to be informative and helpful.
I suggest you schedule a time to really go through your brand and ask yourself these questions:
What is our personality (warm or cold and corporate?)
What is our tone (peer to peer or coming from a higher power?)
What is our visual (round and soft or sharp?)
What is our current branding (be realistic and objective, might be best to ask outsiders how they perceive you)
What does the startup brand look like in its best form
Use the above questions as guides to give to contractors or staff who then go on to create your brand through content, marketing, photography and so on. Diversity in your stock photos may also be something you need to reconsider if your customer base is diverse.