Here’s the short answer: Start branding right away.
For most business owners, branding is an ambiguous and scary word that means thousands upon thousands of dollars of investment in creative services and market research.
But branding is much more than just the creation of a logo and the decision on a few cool colors. It’s the cultivation of your business’s identity and character, and that entails more than a basic run-through of branding essentials.
PGA and Travel Channel marketing veteran Brian Woyt helps us understand why sooner is better than later when deciding the most fitting time to begin branding.
Should startups be branding from the birth of their businesses?
“YES. Most people think branding is simply a logo. Or maybe some colors. But a brand is a summation of all things that make an organization what it is.”
When making initial considerations such as startup capital, target market, product value, and other top-level business decisions, branding should fit into the mix. Consider what type of brand customers will think your brand is. The goal isn’t to trick your customers; it’s to make sure that they:
- Can immediately identify your product, service, advertisement, and ad copy when they see it
- Remember your product, service, company name, and personality well after they have experienced it
- Connect with your company on the levels of emotion and trust
By considering branding from the incubation of your business, you’ll be able to build its identity more comprehensively as you come to understand your audience and its needs.
What if I don’t have the money to back branding efforts?
“There’s a misperception that branding costs a lot of money. Branding is free, and it starts with the purpose and the promise an organization makes to its customers. That doesn’t require any capital.”
While some of the optional marketing pushes that come with a quality brand can cost money, such as promotion, public relations, and advertising, you can begin your efforts for free using organic marketing methods like content development and outreach.
What does the first part of branding creation look like?
“Remember: your brand won’t exist in a vacuum – organizations need to think about how customers will see the brand stacking up against its competitors.”
There are two absolutely indispensable elements of an initial branding.
The Positioning Statement
It’s at once simple and complex; a positioning statement is only a sentence or two, but its contents should outline the brand’s unique value compared to the competition. It’s where you’ll express your purpose and your promise to your customers. To build one, ask these questions:
- Who do you appeal to and why are you relevant to them?
- What are you passionate about?
- What value does your brand add? What is its promise?
Your positioning statement will be your jumping-off point for everything you construct related to your brand afterward.
The Brand Standards
From your positioning statement, you can lay out your brand’s guidelines. Use them to nurture a connection to your brand within your organization and far beyond it.
- Visuals – Write down hard standards for logos, imagery, fonts, and details of your corporate identity. Your employees and customers should be able to identify and react to your brand without explicit instruction if you’ve created quality visual standards.
- Messaging – Communication is invaluable, and it will be a monumental part of your business if you want to attract customers. Map out the points of communication between customers and staff and ensure that greetings, company information, and expertise are handled cohesively across the board.
Solidifying brand standards early makes business scaling significantly less stressful. No matter your turnover, new employees, especially those who have been customers before, can receive training on positioning and brand standards, and may even help them grow.
What are the initial costs of branding?
“The most crucial element of the brand is the thinking that goes into determining what the brand will be and what type of conversation or interaction it will have with its customers.”
The cost of amateur and professional branding has too wide of a margin to give a fair price estimate. It’s more constructive to consider which parts of branding will cost money and which won’t, then decide where you want to pool your resources.
Stuff You Can Do for Free
You can create your positioning statement, establish some brand standards, develop content, and begin outreach to other businesses for free. The only investment in these efforts is time.
The founders of your company and up-front dialogue with customers will help steer your initial branding. Creating a concept of your company’s character and the messages it will send to customers is the foremost part of branding anyway, and you don’t have to pay bills to anyone to do it.
Stuff You Can Pay People to Do
If you’ve got a knack for the creative, you can invest your own time in creating visuals. Or perhaps you have an analytical brain, and you don’t mind sinking some time into marketing research. In either case, there are bound to be parts of learning about your audience and appealing to them that you don’t want to take on yourself.
Some of the most common paid branding efforts include:
- Logo creation
- Web design
- Content writing
- Storefront design
- Market research
However, by assembling an extraordinary positioning statement and branding standards, you can keep these costs minimal and select only the services you absolutely need.
Is it too late to brand if I already have a customer base and a fully realized website?
“No. It’s never too late. Most brands evolve over time anyway. Consider thinking about it as an evolution.”
Introducing a brand with a bang can certainly make an impact, but piecing it together gradually can improve your targeting and impact over a longer span of time.
If you’re well-established, do an audit of your brand. Prepare your positioning statement and look over your brand standards. Ask yourself:
- Does everything seem like part of one brand?
- Does our brand connect with the audience that we have established?
Answering the questions will help you find out what parts of your branding and positioning aren’t quite right. These are the parts that need to change.
Shifting your messaging is going to be cheaper than reworking your visuals. If you don’t need to change your visual branding, don’t waste resources on it. You can still rebrand or improve branding through new messaging. Do so by reworking your communication guidelines, rethinking your content strategy, and revamping your outreach approach.
If your branding is a mess, break down the changes you need to make most and divide them between the things you can do on your own and the things that require outside help. Make decisions based on needs, not desires. Your bottom line will be grateful.
Brian Woyt, current CEO and Chief Strategist at Wolf & Missile, employs his countless years of experience in prestigious marketing roles for large-scale companies in his daily work. He has seen and orchestrated marketing efforts bottom to top, and has generously shared his expertise with us so that we can share it with you. Take it from a branding master – the time to start branding is now.
You guessed it – Leverage Marketing offers branding services, too. Even cooler, we can tie your branding efforts into other marketing channels as well, including paid search, SEO, video marketing, and anything else digital marketing. Catch even more on branding and digital marketing in our Leverage Marketing newsletter and learn all the behind-the-scenes stuff for free!