Brand Identity Strategies For Startups

How do you create a brand strategy for a startup that makes you look good, makes your audience feel good AND makes you money? I’ll show you how to do in 9 steps right now in this startup branding guide.

This is what we will cover:

  1. What is a brand? 
  2. Where do you fit in the market?
  3. What does you brand stand for? If you get this right, other people will promote your brand for you without you ever asking them to do it.  
  4. Brand personality & Identity
  5. Your brand name
  6. Colors & fonts
  7. Logo design
  8. How to maximize your impact.

There is a checklist that goes with this startup branding guide.

What is a brand?

The importance of branding for startups cannot be overstated. Unfortunately,  most people seem to think that a brand is a logo. This is totally wrong. A logo is only one small part of a brand. So what is a brand?

Your brand is what people think about whenever they interact with your business. The things that they think about include some things that you can control and others that you cannot control. Your objective should be to carefully define your brand yourself and not let the market or your competitors or unsatisfied customers defined it for you.

A simple way to understand this is to think about your friends and ask yourself what differences there are in the brand for each of them as individuals. One might be intellectual and funny. Another one might be intellectual and serious. Another one might be funny and reliable. Another one might be funny and unreliable. When they walk into a room and start interacting with you, the energy and the mood of the room changes. You have the same impact on your friends and your brand has the same impact on your customers.

When people think about your brand, do you want them to feel sophisticated, reliable, cost effective, efficient, accurate, strong, warm and fuzzy? There’s not right or wrong answer. It depends on your product and your customer but you can only make this decision by understanding your customer and that requires customer research. If you want to watch my video about customer research check the links in the description after watching this video.

Also, keep in mind that branding only works when it’s consistent. And if it’s going to be consistent then you need to think through this very carefully at the beginning because changing your brand down the road can be very difficult. Now, let’s move on to other critical aspects of brand management for startups 

Where do you fit in the market?

You might have heard of the term market positioning. The word positioning is relative. How do you plan to position your brand compared to other brands in the market. For example, is it more reliable than the competitors? Does it have a more pleasing design? Is it more refined? Is it the best value for money? The best way to figure this out is to Google products or service similar to yours and analyze your competitors.

This should include reviewing what people are saying about all of your competitors. Check out the major social media platforms they use. Don’t be afraid to sign up to forums and social groups anonymously and just ask questions and share your opinions to see how people react.

If you can afford it, go ahead and buy your competitors product and take note of everything in every step of the buying process. Take note of what they did well and what can be improved. If you’re not in a position to buy your competitors products, do as much as you can – sign up to their newsletters, follow them on social media and use free trials if they’re available.

As you do all of this research, think about how each of your competitors make you feel and rank them in order of best to worst and do your best to identify the reasons.

Competitor research is critical. If you want to see my video about competitor research check the links in the description after watching this video.

What does you brand stand for?

Your brand cannot be everything to everyone. People want to buy from brands that share similar values to themselves. For example, If you decide to offer an eco-friendly product or service and being eco-friendly is important to you then you need to communicate both of these points to your potential customers.


If you communicate the fact that your product is eco friendly you’re just communicating a feature. People can buy eco-friendly products from anywhere. On the other hand, if you also communicate the fact that being eco-friendly is important to you as an organization, now you’re communicating something about your values and it helps to define your brand in the mind of your customer.

If a customer in this example has the choice between buying the same eco-friendly product at the same price from two different stores but store number one applies eco-friendly principals throughout the organization whereas store number two doesn’t apply any eco-friendly principals, then the customer will most likely buy from store number one.

Whatever it is that you stand for has an impact on whether people buy from you. Customers want to know whether you are legit, whether you’re authentic or just pushing some sales copy created by a marketing department.  

Brand Personality & Identity

As I mentioned earlier, a brand is a lot like personality. So ask yourself, what kind of personality would your customers be attracted to?

There are some fun questions you can try to answer that can be helpful like:

    • If your brand was an animal which animal would it be and why?
    • If your brand was a car, which car would it be and why?
    • What other brands do your customers love and hate? I’m deliberately using the words love and hate because it helps you to define what your brand is and what isn’t.

Creating a brand is only one small part of starting and growing a complete business and, although all of this theory is useful, putting it into practice is not so easy. If you want to watch me create a complete real business from scratch in just a few hours – not a demo business, a real business that provides real services to real customers – and watch me make hundreds of decisions in real time about everything required to go from zero to making a profit, there’s more information here.

Your Brand Name

If you already have a brand-name, this is a good time to review it and make sure that it still works. You obviously need to select a name that is consistent with the analysis you completed in the previous sections.

If you don’t have a name here are some ideas to help you invent one. Most names fall into one of these categories:

    • Invent a new word like Twitter
    • Use a suggestive word like Buffer
    • Reframe an unrelated word like Apple
    • Describe something literally like The Dress Company
    • Alter a word by adding or removing letters like Tumblr
    • Use the initials of the longer name like HBO (Home Box Office)
    • Combine two words like Facebook and Pinterest
    • Before making a final decision, make sure you check the availability of the brand-name as a domain and its availability on the major social networks.

Colors & Fonts

The reason that colors matter is that every color triggers a different emotional response. This is obviously not an exact science but it is something you need to keep in mind when you’re selecting brand colors. You also need to consider the colors and fonts of your competitors. You might want to look similar to a competitor or you might want to look very different.  That’s a judgment call you have to make.

Take a look at this color and motion guide from The Logo Company.  I think it does a pretty good job explaining the significance of each color when it’s used in a brand.

Logo Design

Even though logo is the first thing that comes to mind when developing a brand, I think you can see that it wouldn’t have made any sense to start working on a logo without working through the previous exercises.

For most of you, you won’t literally design the logo yourself. You will get a graphic designer to do it for you but, as a result of working through the steps we just discussed, you can provide all of this info to your designer and they will have all of the information they need to get started. If you don’t have a specific logo in mind, ask you designer to start by creating 3 different designs based on this information, then pick the one you like best and start refining that one until you get to the final design.

The final important point to make about color is that, regardless of what colors you choose, you will need to use your different scenarios where the logo must appear on a black background or a white background. Make sure that you have versions of your logo, and any other important graphics, that look exactly the way that you want them to look with a black or white background.

How To Maximize The Impact With Your Brand

How can you create a brand that will make you make money and also concurrently have a positive impact on your customers?

Ask yourself, questions like this: Is there a way for your brand to make people that are nervous or insecure feel more confident? Is there a way for your brand to make people that are forgetful feel more reliable? Is there a way for for your brand to make people that are not attractive feel like they are attractive?

You can actually achieve these lofty goals with the right combination of the right name, logo, colors and images, the right tone in your sales copy and the right personality on your website and social presence. All of these things combined – are your brand and your brand, in and of itself, can have a positive impact on your customers.

Think about that for a second. It’s pretty crazy. Applying MPI principles to business is a new way of doing business.

If you’re just getting started and you want to know how to start a real business with a tiny budget that can grow into something big, check out my article/video called “How to start a business” where I outline the fastest, lowest cost, most practical and most enjoyable way to do it.

Sometimes it help to work through a startup brand questionnaire. Check out this one from Lean Labs.

Now, it’s over to you. But if you want to make sure everything is done right, hire us to do it for you!

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