How Do Founders Inject Heart Into A Startup? Branding

The best startups hold user experience to the highest level. Excellent UX dictates the quality of the experience before, during, and after interacting with a product. It’s not based on the company or the product itself. The user gets all the attention.

We all know how great Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies taste within the first bite (if you don’t know, come back when you do and thank us). As a literal consumer, we experience the chewy, the gooey and whether or not they hit that ‘childhood’ sweet spot, “like mother used to make”.

Users need only rely on their initial emotions to tell them if your product is good enough. The options to choose from are endless. The best products are not sold because they look or taste good. It comes down to how the experience made the user feel.

This brings us to branding. In the same way user experience focuses on the interaction process, branding touches on the feeling a product evokes in a customer, whether good or bad. Proper branding is impactful, consistent and taps into emotion.

How do we do this? First, we need to analyze the company, its competitors, and most importantly, the users. Brand strategy has a massive influence on the user experience. A brand must meet the user’s expectations in a unique and valuable way.

Where’s the heart?

When businesses fall within B2B or B2C, large or small, we can find ourselves in an atmosphere that’s devoid of emotion. Our eyes solely on getting a sale.

Proper branding adds warmth and a human touch to an otherwise lifeless entity. Businesses serve a function. Brands tell their story.

As a founder, sales are priority, but let branding lead.

While customers are purchasing your product, they are being exposed to your brand. Generating revenue allows for ad spend to drive more sales. To scale the business, be more than a commodity. People connect with stories, not companies.

Greater than a logo.

Branding works beyond a logo or website.

It’s the intangible aspects of a company that create an emotional attachment to the customer. Basically, branding is a feeling.

The connection someone has with a business is based on its messaging, design, even the mindset of the employees. All these aspects combine to give the customer an initial impression.

Whether they are in-store or interacting on social media, customers should be able to recognize you across all channels. Maintaining consistency increases trust and builds a true connection.

Do the right people know you exist?

What makes a startup is not whether its technology-based or venture funded.

The essential ingredient is growth. And more importantly, to grow fast. This distinction separates most companies from that of a startup. An auto shop is not designed for fast growth. A search engine, however, is.

Its business model is repeatable and scalable.

Every startup needs to increase its visibility (attention). Greater visibility offers greater opportunity. Thus, branding is essential. If what you do is not clear and why you do it is even more blurred, you run the risk of being easily substituted or forgotten.

A lot of companies make running shoes. But Nike sells excellence.
A lot of companies make running shoes. But Nike sells excellence.

Branding helps to explain the features and benefits of your product, your core values, the problems you see and how you are going to solve them. Not only do customers benefit from this knowledge, but investors and stakeholders need this information as well to evaluate the company.

Be consistent in what you believe. Be a leader.

Times have changed. Opinions were once formed based on what we saw on TV, read in magazines or heard on the radio. The mediums have evolved, giving birth to streaming, blogs and podcasts. Today, our social capital is derived from our follower count and the interactions we gain on social media.

When your message is consistent and targeted to an audience, they feel heard and in return are more likely to respond.

A customer is only a customer when they purchase your product. But your brand is already out there. What you stand for, your values, should be the same around the world.

How you express them can vary, depending on the audience.

Have a plan everyone can follow.

In a startup, your core team matters.

Lead by the CEO, the remaining stakeholders in a company should deeply understand its mission, users and value proposition. A properly branded startup centralizes that information.

Before designing the product and creating the visual identity of the brand, all stakeholders should go through a Brand Strategy Session:

Imagine you’re building your dream car.

Don’t worry, we already know what you’re thinking: 1967 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 with a dual-quad 428 Police Interceptor V8 engine, vintage Nightmist Blue paint, beautiful Shelby wood steering and those lovely Kelsey-Hayes wheels with F60–15 Firestone Polyglas GT tires. Of course, this is your dream car!

But, before we can take it out for a drive, we need to know what parts to get. You want to go from 0–60 in under 4 seconds? There is a lot of work that goes on under the hood to develop that feature. Brand Strategy teaches you and anyone else “driving” your company deep insights so everyone is traveling in the right direction.

The strategic framework allows for stakeholders in the company to communicate the vision, prioritize long vs. short-term goals, and define the brand identity along with the product.

If you have a marketing person on your team, whether in-house or contract, you’re ready for branding and strategy. Start now. It doesn’t need to be high-fidelity — it needs to be true to you, unique to your strengths, and direct to your users.