November 7, 2023

Yes, Your Startup Needs a Brand: Three Questions to Get Clarity About Your Branding

Have you ever been on a date or spent time with someone new and their talking points jump from traveling through Europe to their stock portfolio to working on old cars to techno to their new obsession with antique upholstery?

You may have lucked out and met a true Renaissance person, or, more likely, you’re stuck thinking,

“This person is all over the place.”

At some point in your life, you’ve probably found yourself chatting with someone who isn’t clear about who they are. Maybe that was you in your younger days on a college campus exploring new things. It’s a natural part of growing up, but imagine that same, “all over the place” person is a company that wants you to buy a product. Instead of a 20-year-old who wants a nose piercing and tickets to Coachella, it’s an IT provider that wants to manage your cybersecurity.

Now it’s a different story.

Branding isn’t just your logo or color choices in advertisements. Branding is the core message you want to communicate with your customers that translates throughout all the ways customers will interact with your company. That includes social media, email marketing, digital and print advertising, and yes, logos and color choices.

If you want to communicate strength and stability, that will impact branding choices very differently than communicating bubbly and fun.

The major companies that have mastered branding are probably coming to your mind now because… well… they’re great at branding. Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, and many others have all made significant investments and devoted years to building up a clear brand identity. And even if your startup is in its infancy, establishing your brand is just as important to you as it is to Phil Knight’s team at Nike.

Lucky for you, finding your brand identity is a lot simpler than finding yourself.

Start with three simple questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Who are my customers?
  3. What solution am I offering?

Who am I?

Let’s establish who you are first. Answering this question will provide a filter for what you will and will not devote time and resources to. Don’t forget there are only so many hours in the day, people on your team, money in the bank that’s available to you, so you can’t be all things to all people.

Remember when Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr.) served fried chicken, then had to completely rebrand and go back to focusing on burgers and fries? Or when ESPN launched a phone service that lasted less than a year? It’s critically important to be clear about what you do and leave what you don’t do behind. If you operate a lawn care and landscaping business, don’t offer to clean homes. If you provide cybersecurity, don’t also manage social media accounts. This level of clarity will help you stay laser focused on what will actually grow your business and be the filter your branding needs.

Who are my customers?

This isn’t just about you.

This relationship is a two-way street. If you want to connect with customers, then you’re going to need to know exactly who they are and how to communicate with them. This will allow you to not only meet them where they are but also identify their needs more accurately than your competitors.

For example, a core demographic of Apple users is young people who want to use the latest tech. This messaging is clear in Apple’s advertising with cool, forward-thinking people doing impactful work. That advertising goes back to Apple’s original branding where users were encouraged to “Think different” and the company has maintained the same messaging. Understanding your customers, meeting them where they are, and speaking their language turns brand users to brand evangelists.

What solution am I offering?

This is where knowing yourself and knowing your customers meet.

Your business exists to solve someone’s problem, and your branding should reflect the solution you’re offering. That way every experience with your brand reminds potential customers that you are the answer they’re looking for.

Let’s look at some of our examples. Hardee’s customer base was coming to them looking for burgers and fries, not a diversified menu. Apple users need new technology (phones, laptops, iPads…), but they also want to feel modern, progressive, and trailblazing. In both cases, the company acts as a guide bringing you to the desired product or experience, and their branding communicates it clearly.

Ultimately, you want to position your company as the go-to when ____ problem arises. If your branding clearly showcases a solution to that problem and the emotions attached to it, you’re much more likely to create a lasting connection.

Branding Solutions with Summit Strategy

Brace yourselves. Creating a brand that connects with your desired audience will feel daunting and take a lot of time. Navigating color choices, fonts, design, messaging, goals, and every other little thing while also running your actual business is tough. We’ve given you a starting point to start telling a compelling story, but our experienced team of consultants and industry experts can bring it all together and make it sing.

Ready to elevate your branding? Schedule an exploratory call today to see how Summit Strategy can take your brand to new heights.

Krystn Macomber

CP APMP Fellow, LEED

There’s magic in disrupting the ordinary. This is the philosophy Krystn brings to working with and empowering her clients. With a 20-year track record of helping global professional services enterprises, Krystn is redefining what’s possible for companies looking to elevate their marketing, pursuit, and business development operations. She is an industry leader, award winner, mentor, coach, and highly sought-after speaker.

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