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 realising 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. If you are curious to find out the specifics of branding and what steps you should follow to turn your business into a valuable brand, then you are in the right place. Here is all you should know about how to build a strong brand for your early-stage startup.


It’s Not All About the Logo

A brand is all associations that people make with an entity including names, signs, symbols, designs. The combination of these elements is intended to identify and differentiate the goods and services from those of competitors. Branding started from logos and slogans indeed, but it has become a much more complex notion; branding efforts allow consumers to differentiate between your products from others on the market and provides a way for consumers to purchase from whom they are familiar and trust.

A brand echoes reliability and has meanings and associations with them, for example, Google and Amazon are strongly associated with innovation and Gucci and Prada with style. Brand associations come from:

  • the user experience
  • the physical or virtual environments where this experience occurs
  • the behaviour of the brand’s representatives –  because people create and care for a brand, not software
  • internal and external communication

The brand strategy defines and manages all these aspects in order to achieve company goals. The outcomes of a branding strategy will arouse emotions among customers (they can either like or dislike your brand) and will ignite passions where consumers make choices based on the brand they trust and believe to be reliable.

Brand image is determined by the set of associations linked to a brand that consumers have, whether reasoned or emotional. It is your job, to mould these views and associations consumers have of your brand through marketing activities so that they view your product favourable over your competitors to boost sales and gain positive brand equity from the early stages of the startup. Therefore, use your marketing and remarketing campaigns to create a positive brand image by creating strong, unique and favourable associations through your product attributes of pricing, packaging, user imagery and product benefits that are functional and meet the needs of your market.

Evidently, there’s a lot more to think about than just your logo to communicate your product attributes and benefits. Your brand is the sum of all the perceptions, experiences, feelings, and attitudes consumers have. But there is good news – you can use your marketing efforts to mould these views to build a strong brand and reap the benefits


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Get Right With Your Purpose and Influence More People

Great brands have purpose. They make promises, then keep them. As a result, they influence scores of customers. Most failed brands float around without point or purpose. They influence no one.

The biggest mistake we see new startups make is that they don’t iterate their products and find their point and purpose fast enough. Too often we see startups dive into marketing with faulty business models, lack of clarity of the product they’re developing, and zero idea who their customer actually is. While some of those factors are just part of flying head first into business development, if you’re struggling to get right with your purpose, your customers will never fall madly in love with you.

How do you find your purpose? How do you make, and keep, promises?

By answering one simple question: “What’s the special thing only YOU can do that your customers will miss out on if you never existed?”

That, right there, is your purpose for being. Develop that. Whether it’s disrupting an entire industry or finally being the only option on the block giving real customer service. Whatever it is, make it what you’re known for. Deliver that as a promise in everything you do. Promise your customers that they can rely on you to fulfil your purpose. Build on their trust. Some of you might have just realised that we pinpointed a major problem for your own startup. Don’t panic, you’re in great company. Incredible business owners and household name brands have made it out of this phase. They developed brands that promised to deliver on their reason for existing.

And the best part? You consume these brands every day, and don’t even realise promises are being made and kept. It’s completely natural. It doesn’t feel cheesy, and it’s all authentic. That’s the signature of a well-developed brand system and purposeful marketing.

Do it right and no one even notices that you’re doing it.

Here are examples:


Apple promises to keep delivering innovative tech that disrupts industries. They deliver on that promise in unique, (and sometimes baffling) ways. It’s no accident that a massive number of people have iPhones practically glued to their hands, with ears that perk up when they hear about the next product drop.



Airbnb promises to deliver “living like a local” wherever you travel. They’ve leveraged a nearly untapped gap in the hotel industry: a taste of real life. They even evolved that promise of authenticity by offering curated “locals-only” experiences. Want to surf in California with a pro? Go dancing in Brazil with a world-class Samba instructor? They’re on it. That’s why 150 million users are registered on Airbnb, and it averages 500,000 stays per night.


With a strong sense of purpose, anything is possible. But if you’re floundering to nail down why you even exist, your brand (and subsequently, your marketing), will reflect how confused and uncertain you are.

Now that you know about it, don’t let it happen.


Create a Real Voice and Tone

What is voice and tone? Why do you care?

Just like creating visual guidelines for your logo, colours, and typography, your brand system needs emotional guidelines. How your brand treats people in written and spoken word can make or break you. That’s where voice and tone come in.

Here’s how we define them, in plain English.

Voice: Your company’s overall verbal persona and attitude.
Tone: How your company’s persona adapts to speaking in specific situations, to groups of people or in special scenarios.

Your voice guides your tone, your tone considers who it’s addressing. Here’s an illustration of how this works:

If your grandmother called you tomorrow needing your help with a computer problem, how would you talk to her? Would you talk to her the same way you would your spouse? Or a teenager? No way. Overall you’d be helpful, but the words you choose are going to be different depending on who you’re talking to. Grandma’s probably going to need you to walk her through her issue as simply as possible. A teenager, on the other hand, will probably teach you some things.

Just like you, your company’s voice leans on its overall personality to dictate the general attitude in conversation. Honest, transparent, innovative, intelligent are a few good qualities. Your company’s tone changes depending on who specifically you’re speaking to, but never loses sight of the established overall voice.

Marketing campaign for teens? Cool. The tone adapts to communicate with them, while upholding the overall voice’s focus.

Employee handbook? The tone addresses adults (we hope), but the voice doesn’t change.

Your company needs an established persona that’s consistent in order to feel relatable to your customers in marketing.


Branding and coherent communication

Strong brands are captivating, they do not bore you, they are not broken records that repeat or reproduce things mechanically. Brands with minimal marketing communications risk becoming out of date, irrelevant, or forgotten.

If you want to create a strong brand image, you must maintain consistency, take a long term view, and carefully leverage existing brand equity. Your brand’s identity and message must consistently be delivered to customers as inconsistencies may result in diluting brand meanings or changing the values of your brand.

Every time a startup prepares to interact with its audience, they should ask themselves:

  • Would my archetype say that? Do my messages sustain the value proposition?
  • Would my model do that? Is this the attitude my audience appreciates in me?

Is this the style that defines me?


Final Thoughts

As established, a brand comprises a name, term, sign, symbol, or a combination of them that effectively identifies the product or service and acts to differentiate them from competitors. Therefore, it becomes apparent that to build a strong brand, you must leverage these elements and communicate them so consumers will want to buy your brand over another.