by Julie Legrand, Off The Ground www.offtheground.biz
Branding is a very complex challenge. People often mistake a brand for a logo, but it’s much more than that. Often startups think branding is just an annoying thing on their “to do” list so that they just ignore it and push it off until they’re big enough for a full-time marketing team. Big mistake. Yes, branding does cost money, and to do it right, it’s a rather involved process. But it costs a lot more to rebrand later on in the game.
Here are minimum 3 steps a start-up needs to take to launch their brand:
1) Finding a Name Finding a name that you can get excited about is one of the most aggravating challenges of starting a business these days. The Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl is famously quoted as saying the “Foo Fighters” was intended as a placeholder and is “the worst f#&ing band name in the world”. While they’ve gone on to be one of the most successful bands in the past two decades, the point is he hates the name, but once he launched it was too late to change it. Today the name must not only be catchy, but you also have to take into account two additional complications:
Naming definitely not easy, but it’s an important part of your business. Today, you may have to bring in a naming agency and you typically can get great name for about $5K plus legal fees for the trademark work.
2) Creating a logo Ah the crappy logo . . . my pet peeve. I often find that tech founders try to save costs by cobbling one together or they opt for the $10 online logo farm. Their intention is that this will be used as a placeholder until the money really starts coming in, but often they find themselves permanently stuck with it because it’s becomes too complicated expensive to swap out once you’ve already launched your product. Unless you’re swimming in cash, I don’t advocate hiring an expensive branding agency to do a $50K brand evaluation, but I do recommend bringing in a pro. You can find awesome freelance designers to create a complete brand (logo, guidelines, social networking iterations, etc.) it for $3-$5K (if they ask for less than $1000, they’re probably not up to the challenge). The trick is finding the right ones and understanding how to art direct them through the process.
3) Nailing your pitch The logo is just an image, but your pitch is the essence of who you are. For a startup this is an ever-evolving process and you’ll be pivoting the pitch for quite some time. Whatever your product is, you need to effectively communicate what you do to prospective investors, partners and customers. Sometimes this just flows, while other times it’s quite a challenge. In these cases, I like to hire great copy writers (typically from ad agencies) to nail the language. Once you’ve got your pitch solidified, the rest of the marketing language just flows. The three core elements are the pitch are as follows:
Simple, right? Well to be honest, branding it a bit more than this, but if you do these three things well you’ll be in great shape to take off. Yes, you will need to spend some money bringing in the right team of experts to solidify your brand up front. You should plan to spend a minimum of $5 – 15K (or more for a consumer-based brand) on your brand early on, but it will save you money in the long term. Do yourself – and your funders – a favor and come out of the gate with a solid brand that you can live with for a long time.