How does growth influence your brand?
This a guest post written by Thomas Koponen from online coupon and deals platform Saleduck. Photo: Danist Soh / Unsplash.com
For many entrepreneurs, the ‘brand’ simply represents a name and logo of their business. The initial decision to choose the name and logo might have been quick and easy; a browse of available domain names or you decided on a name that sounded cool and unique.
The problem many startups face is how to approach strategic branding when their business continues to grow. After all, you may or may not be the same company that you started out with.
This article aims to help entrepreneurs with startups on how to identify, describe, analyse and understand their startup brand and why they should or shouldn’t consider a strategic rebrand.
A rebrand can be expensive and time-consuming, depending if it’s a visual redesign or a full rebranding with purpose-led growth at the core, but it doesn’t have to be if you know why you start. Just give me a framework tool such as the CBIM (Corporate Brand Identity Matrix) or Balanced Scorecard and let’s get it over with you might say.
Uncover Your True Purpose
All too often startups get distracted with design, their image, having good copy text and focus on product development.
This results in hollow brand truths and an unclear brand positioning. Ask yourself: Why does our brand exist and how does it make a positive impact in people’s lives?
When considering a rebranding, re-evaluate and agree on a written purpose. It will give you a clear idea of where you want to go and help re-focus your overall business strategy and who to sell to.
Discover Your Brand Architecture
When considering a change, any change, you should be able to describe your current situation, identify what components you want to change and what you expect to achieve with the change.
Look at the brand architecture types outlined by Kapferer from corporate brands (branded house) down to product brands (house of brands). Place your brand on that spectrum.
If it’s hard to fit into one distinct position, your brand architecture is unclear and it will distort your long-term vision of your business strategy.
Is there a clear distinction between your company name and some of your products? It’s not uncommon for your best selling product to even become your new company name (SONY was founded as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo).
There is a shift from product brands towards corporate brands and not just startups. You might have noticed Unilever more prominently displayed on their products or Coca-Cola shifting towards a “One Brand” strategy.
Who are your competitors? Photo: Shutterstock
Map out your competitors, see if there is a herd mentality in your industry and identify where there might be an opportunity for you to position your brand more clearly or distinctively in the mind of the consumer.
Improve Your Brand Positioning
A meaningful brand positions itself so that it is always true to its positioning and clearly states which values and beliefs are at its core.Take a look at your closest, best performing competitors. Crawl their websites and publications and list their USP’s, mission and vision statements, core values and taglines.
Codify and break it down to categories. What adjectives do they use to portray their brand personality, how do they express themselves, what sort of relationship do they strive for and with whom? This will give you a glimpse of what you are up against and sets a benchmark for your startup to surpass.
Strategically rebranding your startup with insights into your best performing competitors will give you an extra edge and influence how you craft your messages and shape your brand image to be more attractive and meaningful.
Craft A Stronger Culture
It is important to understand that a brand starts from the inside. If it is not fully understood internally, how can you expect external stakeholders to understand you?
Much of a startups organisational identity goes unreported, but it’s there in small pieces, just like your DNA, and it affects how your startup performs.
A strong culture is also a powerful tool to retain and also attract new talent to the startup, as it elevates your employer brand. Photo: Shutterstock
A visual rebrand or name change can re-energize the entire organization and lead to positive culture change. The results may include improved levels of employee engagement, motivation and morale and with that ‘buzz’ going around the office, it’s nice to be around the office again.
Support Brand Recognition
A rebrand is also great opportunity to introduce, re-connect and develop stronger relationships with your customers, consumers and partners. This is especially true because trust and reliability are important factors when doing business with someone else.
With your new name or logo, you have an opportunity to refine your storytelling and create new or improve existing mental associations to be more positive or stronger.
The rebrand can also be used as a signal to other stakeholders of maturity, professionalism or of a changed attitude when a startup has simply outgrown its original idea or the business has evolved.
I have briefly touched upon why a startup should strategically consider to rebrand without going into details of how a startup should strategically rebrand. There are plenty of influencers, agencies, tools and frameworks out there that might provide a more industry or company specific insight than from my experiences.
Remember, before you commit to a full strategic rebrand or acquire a new business domain, research and browse databases such as the European Trade Mark and Design Network to see if the name you want to rebrand to is available or if it is already a registered trademark. If you want to patent throughout EU, have a look at Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM).
Interesting side story, in the case of SONY rebrand, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo considered becoming TTK, but opted not to because Tokyo Railways was commonly known as TTK in the minds of local consumers.
So also take into consideration your business environment and market outside your direct competitors when considering doing a strategic rebrand of your startup. Avoiding such pitfalls early – despite an available domain name – will save you time and money, and help you in avoiding legal problems.