The Branding Must-Haves That Don’t Occur to Startups Until It’s Too Late

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Creating a startup is oodles of fun. Your heart thumps with emotion when you think about your business model, and your mind spins thinking about all the future possibilities. But reality sets in once you start to market your product.

There’s nothing more painful than realizing you have created something awesome, but you can’t seem to make anyone look at you, or worse, care. And then you have to pull yourself back together to figure out what went wrong.

While startup emergencies often show up once a company begins to heavily invest in marketing, the problem is typically not the marketing itself.

The problem is flawed branding.


One of the biggest missteps, among many, in early startup development is going only skin-deep on developing a brand, only to have to go back to square one after marketing efforts tank.

It’s painful watching a startup produce flimsy visual design and hollow copy in their campaigns, as the company gets passed over because a competitor is already out there doing it all much, much better. Ad dollars go down the drain, and everyone is panicking.

These waves of panic often occur after a string of horribly low-ROI campaigns, which force you to realize that you need to improve your brand, or your ship is going to sink. The reason is that you simply can’t market a product successfully without what we call a strong brand identity system.

Done right, your brand identity system can be a money-making monster. It’s capable of stirring the emotions of crowds of fans. Leave it to chance, and you’ll likely hit that brick wall of marketing failure.

But you can do something about it now, long before your marketing tanks. So what should you do early on to avoid wasted ad revenue, lackluster marketing, and sleepless nights?

Here are some branding lessons to embrace right from the start.

It’s Not All About the Logo

Overwhelmed startup founders have the natural tendency to focus on a brand’s tangible assets: logos, color, typography because they’re easy to understand. If you put your logo everywhere, it’s branded, right? I guess, but that doesn’t explain why your last marketing campaign flopped like the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad (sorry Pepsi, but whoa boytone-deaf).

My agency defines a brand identity system as a long-term, permanent marketing tool that dictates your short-term marketing campaigns.

Control and consistency are the names of the game. Just as you can create visual guidelines that address color and typography, so can you create emotional guidelines for writing copy, campaigns, and social media.

Startups often forgo building a brand identity system in favor of diving headfirst into marketing. Marketing is sexy. It’s tangible. It also has the ability to utterly wreck you if you’re not fully prepared to master it.

In fact, startups rarely address developing a brand identity system in their first iterations, because they often haven’t felt that punch of failed marketing yet. They only tackle developing a stronger brand when it’s a dire need, and by then it’s much more difficult.

There’s a better way to make it out of these beginning stages armed with the right mindset to skyrocket you toward strong marketing and even stronger customer retention.