Running a start-up is humbling. Founders have to be capable in so many disciplines as the sole CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, COO etc and their self confidence usually suffers. It’s why sole traders find it harder to get investment than teams do – because investors know you’re out of your depth in some way.
Founders are naturally concentrating on the product first, then finding suppliers and customers or securing investment. Creating a Brand isn’t high on the agenda is it? Tech, Team & Traction is everything you’re told and you are the brand anyway so with a good enough logo and some consistency you’ll be fine. This is true to start but from this day on as you build a reputation, your Brand becomes increasingly important until one particular day when it becomes critical.
Brands are many things including markers of trust. They become shortcuts or memes of a consistent quality experience so be sure you decide what that experience is going to be from the outset.
Brands are markers of you too. Most conversations about your company happen when you’re not in the room so a brand is a stand-in, a reminder of how you want to be remembered. We describe most people and things in one sentence so make sure it’s the sentence you chose, not the one your competitors made up about you.
Brands don’t always need to shout in these early days. I designed the PURE digital radio brand for VideoLogic (now Imagination Technologies) in the late 90’s. Highly technically advanced, the Evoke was the world’s first sub £100 digital radio but the logo was subtle for a new brand because it was designed to sit comfortably next to a Sony on a John Lewis shelf. It was designed to nullify that brand so the product became the differentiator. It was after all, just a better radio.
Before any visuals, brands exist first as a name of course so choose something memorable with meaning, more on that another time.
Visually brands need more than a logo, they need a hero shot. We blew the photography budget at PURE on an image of the Evoke that was used for years because it was a great shot and that consistency helped build the brand. It set a template for all subsequent images and new products for years.
The critical moment though is when an investor likes what they see and projects a few years ahead to when they can profit on what they’ve yet to acquire. How portable is this company? A great brand is much easier to re-sell than a great founder.