“How much” Branding Needs a Successful Start-up?

8 months ago

Context: anyone can make stuff, but not everything can be sold

The “quantity” of branding for a start-up should equal the sum of the energy, optimism and vision invested by the entrepreneur in that start-up. In a few words, this is an essential part and a powerful engine (if used properly) that helps you launch, support and develop your newly born business.

Most of the times, start-up founders tend to focus their business strategy only on the expenses incurred by manufacturing costs, logistics costs and the overall communication costs. In the service sector, for example, the manufacturing costs refer to the administrative, staffing, sales and delivery costs. In the case of goods, you may add the procurement costs of production flows, dedicated staff, raw materials, etc.

Start-uppers often search for funding well-shaped ideas in terms of overall process and deliverables, but they lack a comprehensive vision on the new business, because they do not know that, in the idea – development – creation – product/service final sale cycle, sales are the key to success.

The successful businessmen use several sayings coming from their own experience: “Anyone can make stuff, but not everything can be sold!”, “There are many good ideas, but everything from the idea to the funding, execution and success goes through the selling process!”, “A success story does not guarantee the same success to its copy cats!” and we can go on… 

However, sales are not exactly everything, they are just the final valuable and organic act that takes part in the existing business.

To make a SALE, we need to go through a complex process, with the following consecutive and, sometimes, overlapping macro elements:

  •     opportunity analysis,
  •     testing your idea’s viability and functionality as a product/service, (uses, users, characteristics, innovation, target audience, if it represents a need known in the market or we have to create the market, etc.)
  •     execution costs and infrastructure,
  •     distribution/delivery logistics,
  •     branding,
  •     communication,
  •     capacity of servicing present customers vs. new customers. 

Out of these elements, the branding is often disadvantaged or neglected in the start-up process.

Branding strategy complexity

Brand auditing is a process using management, sales, marketing, sociological tools, backed up by specific data and instruments. One of the results of the branding process is the branding strategy that defines:

  •    brand vision (what the brand wants to become),
  •    brand promises (the brand’s commitment to the clients),
  •    brand positioning (how you want your brand to be perceived and what are its competitive advantages),
  •    delivery process (how you want to fulfil the promise made to your clients and what you do for this).

In other words, you first have to answer a set of questions that are vital to a profitable start-up:

  •    what do you want to be in the market?
  •    what terms, functions, uses and added value does your product/service offer?
  •    what is the place you want your product/service have in the consumer’s mind?
  •    what are the competitive advantages (functional offer vs price)?
  •    what are the delivery ways of your product/service (technical, emotional, geographical features, etc.)?

The brand development strategy is as important as your business strategy. Moreover, it is a creative process.

Branding may also be defined as a business process planned, strategically oriented and integrated in your entire organisation. Branding sets the direction, vision, the clarity of the goals, the sources of inspiration and energy for activating the future brand in a powerful, decisive way. Take care! Even a strategy with the best potential can fail when executed inefficiently and incoherently.

The brand strategy is not built in order to match a planning, but it is the starting point for one.

Three steps for a guaranteed market success

In order to be successful in the market when planning a start-up, you have to think about: 

1. Creating a business strategy (business plan) with an overview of the industry; knowing the business industry and how your business will behave in a competitive environment.

2. Understanding very well the profile of your future clients and, most of all, understanding how the economy will impact your business. These should enhance your capacity to better segment your customer groups, to create a cost-effective product/service and to have the background capacity of using a big part of the existing and potential market.

3. Assumed branding – making more strategic brand decisions during the development process.

Branding is more than a visual representation

Strategy is a complex action system, a system that is occasionally represented by rational models. Many brand strategy development processes are unintentionally turned into discussions on corporate strategy and therefore these efforts are blamed for their lack of value (at first sight). It is essential to follow the logical thread: you cannot develop a significant brand strategy in the absence of a business strategy, and no business can harvest the success the market can provide without a coherent brand strategy!

Although you can create your business name, logo, taglines and a set of graphical elements in order to identify your brand for short-term marketing purposes, your business goal is not the short-term survival!

How branding helps you avoid the early traps of entrepreneurship

The most frequent trap that many companies go into is that they do not set a long-term business strategy that clearly states how they enter a competitive market, to create value. An efficient strategy should act like a bridge between the past and the future. This involves decisions regarding the best moment to make commitments or to wait, to act in order to get rid of the things that are not profitable and to change the rules of the game, if needed.

Building a brand vision helps the start-up founders to avoid this trap and to think about the brand projection on the long-term. It helps the managing board to be consensual on the long-term objectives related to the brand behaviour in the market. This also provides the guidelines determining what indicators you will need to monitor the progress made when building and developing your brand, as well as the investment recovery time. The biggest perk is that it provides a starting point and a mandate to start the things that will support the delivery of your brand promises.

By definition, the brand vision is given for a long-term and transcends certain products, markets or the mandate of the company’s management. A brand vision statement should be connected to the company’s vision and interlinked with the brand’s aspirations and values. 

Branding best practices

With the brand strategy in the background, we will now set the clear starting point and the technical ingredients we need regarding our target audience, product positioning, differentiation and utility, added value, etc., to express the visual communication of the brand interface and to standardise it. We will also create the guidelines for the entire brand communication package for all online and offline media.

A good example is Sony’s brand vision, guided by the idea that ”We Help Dreamers’ Dream.” In this context, Sony is positioned as a company that CELEBRATES life. “We create things for every kind of imagination. Products that stimulate the senses and refresh the spirit. Ideas that always surprise and never disappoint. INNOVATIONS that are easy to love, and effortless to use, things that are not essential, but hard to live without.”

You can easily check whether the products sold under the Sony brand fit or not this vision, or if the corporate communication line of their brands and sub-brands matches the company’s strategic vision. The conclusion is yours.


Ciprian Dron

CEO Unity Group