How to Brand a Startup Company

How to Brand a Startup Company

Among many important aspects of starting a new business, branding is one of the most important in today’s digital economy where information is bombarding your audience. The following are the critical steps to take in order to establish a solid brand for your startup business

Step 1: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid Rule

Many entrepreneurs try to get cute or creative with their name. Their thinking is to create a name that is unique and has special meaning behind it. But simple, easy to find, easy to remember, and easy to understand will win 9 times out of 10 in the race to reaching users or customers. The art of creativity is found in simplicity. 
“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” ― Dr. SeussClick To Tweet
Rule: If it is hard to explain what your brand name means, or if it is hard for someone to associate your brand with what your company does without you standing in front of them explaining it to them, it is probably too complicated. 

 

Step 2: Choosing A Brand Name

Following the KISS rule, try and keep the name as short as possible. Think of names 7 letters or less. Use words that describe what you do and/or who your audience will be. For example, if your target audience are car owners, first consider using words like drivers, drive, cars, etc. in your name.

Brainstorming Process

  1. Develop an exhaustive list of names (50+ names)
  2. Survey – Ask several different people to offer ideas for names (especially potential customers)
  3. Prioritize your list from strongest to weakest. Only consider top 3.
Search engines will help create brand awareness IF you use commonly searched keywords in your company name.Click To Tweet

Step 3: Check Availability & Usability

Coming up with a good name that is easy to understand and remember is half the battle. Making sure the name is available, and that it can be secured and protected is equally important. Is the company name or brand name you are considering available on a state, national, domain name, and social media level? If no, revert back to step 2.

Determine Availability & Usability

  1. Conduct a search on Google
  2. Check state records
  3. Check national records to see if a trademark exists.
  4. Conduct a domain name reservation search.
  5. Conduct a social media search on top 5 sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube

Make sure no other company has a similar name, especially in the same or similar industry.

Important: Just because a state allows you to register a company name does not mean it is available to use commercially. This is a common misunderstanding among entrepreneurs. A company name can be incorporated at the state level, and you still run the risk of conflicting with another existing company or trademark. Even when registering a Fictitious Name with the state, a message will indicate the state is not responsible for conflicts that may arise. So, don’t assume the name used for incorporating means you are in the clear. Lastly, always check with both state and federal laws on registering a name and incorporating a company.

 

Step 4: Brand Identity

Consider one of the three options when developing a brand identity strategy:

Option 1: Company Name with Product Brand

Examples:

  • Microsoft – Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Xbox (microsoft.com)
  • Samsung – Samsung Galaxy (Samsung.com)
  • Apple – Apple iMac, Apple TV (apple.com)
  • Amazon – Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Prime, Amazon Tap (Amazon.com)

Most Popular Use: Multi-Faceted Tech Companies

Option 2: Company Name & Product Name

Examples:

  • Twitter (Twitter.com)
  • Facebook (facebook.com)
  • Snapchat (snapchat.com)
  • Evernote (evernote.com)
  • UpWork (upwork.com)
  • Petco (petco.com)
  • Blue Apron (blueapron.com)
  • TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.com)
  • Legal Zoom (legalzoom.com)

Most Popular Use: Niche Application or Service Providers

Option 3: Company Name Different From Product Name

Examples:

  • Proctor & Gable (P&G) – Tide, Bounty, Charmin, Febreze (pg.com & febreze.com)
  • Unilever – Dove, Axe, Degree (unilever.com, axe.us)
  • Frito-Lay – Doritos, Cheetos, Sun Chips (fritolay.com, doritos.com)

Most Popular Use: Consumer Products

Hint:Notice the strongest brands in the world use KISS. Notice the simplicity and continuity between the name and their domain name.

Summary

Depending on the nature of your business and target audience, your brand identity and strategy should fall in one of the three options above. The reason why companies choose to have a simple corporate name, is so that they can create strong brand awareness with their customers and potential customers.

 

Step 5: Brand Promise

A name, icon, or logo communicates to the public a brand promise. Your brand promise is what your company values. What is your company promising to its customers? And, What are the top 3 thoughts someone should have when they hear or see your name and/or logo? That is your brand promise!

Examples:

  • Environmentally Conscious
  • Easy to Work With
  • Quality Products
  • Quality Service
  • Fast Service
  • Low Prices
  • Honest
  • Fast
  • Fun

Hint: Usually, a company can deliver on three brand promises. Once your list becomes overwhelming, all the promises get diluted. When you think Apple, a brand promise comes to mind consciously or subconsciously such as innovative, creative, quality. Your brand promise may also influence the name you use for your brand. Or, Amazon.com’s brand promise would be customer-focused, convenience, forward-thinking.

What are three brand promises you want everyone to associate with your startup company?

 

Step 6: Create a Logo and Icon

After you have solidified a name, and what it stands for, now it is time to develop imagery to communicate who you are and what you do. A logo and an icon may be different. More and more iconic logos are being used especially for mobile applications.

Hint: Logos need to be designed in a way that communicates a message you want your audience to receive. For example, if you operate a new amusement park, the logo should reflect the idea of high energy and fun through bright colors and whimsical design. If you are a corporate law firm focused on technology, your logo colors and style should communicate professionalism and progressive thinking.

Rule: Don’t minimize your logo and look for low cost options in the design and development process. Your logo communicates who you are, what you do, and how you do it. If someone sees or hears nothing else about your company, it most-likely will be your logo. Plan to spend over $1,000 for a quality startup logo.

 

Step 7: Create a Tagline

A tagline is the most important thing you want people to know and remember about your company. For example, Tesla has considered, “Drive Quickly. Tread Lightly,” and “Zero emissions. Zero compromises.” These tagline tells Tesla’s audience their primary brand promise.

Other Examples:

FedEx – “The World on Time
Disney – “The Happiest Place On Earth
Dollar Shave Club – “Shave Time. Shave Money”
A startup company's tagline should be as short as possible with the greatest amount of impact.Click To Tweet

Summary

A strong brand gets built on a solid brand strategy. Some good example of newer brands that are simple, creative, easy to understand and easy to remember – Chewy.com, BlueApron.com, WordPress.com

How to determine if you have a strong brand strategy? Work towards answering “Yes” to the following questions:

  1. Is your company name simple, easy to understand, and easy to remember?
  2. Is it available on all levels, and can it be protected?
  3. Does it fit in one of the 3 brand identity options?
  4. Is your logo appealing, have a clear message, and well designed?

The harder it is to draw a connection between the company name and what the company does, the more money and effort you will need in order to educate people on what your brand represents. If you brand happens to go viral, these best practices in branding may become less significant. But regardless, it is wise to build a brand in such a way that will help an audience easily recognize and remember who you are and what you do.

A strong startup company brand gets built on a solid brand strategy.Click To Tweet

Article Resources:

 

James Zimbardi
[email protected]

James Zimbardi is the CEO of Zynergy. He has over 20-years of experience incubating startups, launching companies in various industries, and leading digital business innovation projects for large corporations. His expertise is leading cross-functional teams and progressive thinking startup companies through the process of launching new ideas, products, and services. Mr. Zimbardi has a Bachelor in Business Administration in Marketing and IT, and an MBA from MIT as a Sloan Fellow in Innovation and Global Leadership. Company Bio | LinkedIn Profile

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