branding should set your start-up apart.

According to the Small Business Administration, more than 620,000 new businesses open annually in the United States. Globally, 1.35 million startups open each year in the technology industry alone. In this highly competitive environment, only 10% of startups survive their first five years. Feeling pressure to create a successful business and appear as professional as possible, many early-stage companies face difficult choices about where to invest their limited resources, especially when it comes to the loosely defined area of “branding.”

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: Number of Start-Ups Per Year

Competition is fierce.

It can be easy for a new business to spend thousands on logo design, a web business cards, t-shirts, brochures, giveaways, etc., but do any of these activities grow the business? Does branding even matter for a startup?

Yes, but not exactly in the way you’d think. Below, we explore five areas of branding startups should focus on.

#1 Start-Up Branding Focus: The Customer Experience

One of the simplest definitions of a “brand” is the experience that you provide to your customers. And delivering a positive experience is critical when you’re a fledgling business trying to compete against much more established companies. So, when you consider the foundational experience your business will deliver to your customers, be sure to factor in what they value most highly.

A few questions to help you identify these foundational needs are below:

  • What are the most critical phases of your interaction with a customer? How will you know if you got them right?
  • How can customers contact you, and how quickly can you respond?
  • How should customer complaints be addressed?
  • Who in your organization is ultimately responsible for customer satisfaction?
  • How can you go “above and beyond” for your customers?

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: REI is a good example. REI is a great example of a brand that runs on excellent customer service. It offers omni-channel customer support – connecting with customers on a multitude of platforms so that individuals can receive the support they need via their preferred channel. They have also built a reputation for customer satisfaction because they stand by their products even years after purchase.

#2 Start-Up Branding Focus: Defining Your Value Proposition

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: Part of your start-up's value is in how it alleviates customer pain points.

How do you alleviate customer pain points?

When you’re introducing yourself to an unfamiliar market, you need to quickly show how you’ll benefit your audience in order to capture their attention. Defining this value proposition will require you to be very specific about these benefits in order to help people make a purchase decision. Questions that can help you define your value proposition include:

  • What is the primary measurable benefit we can deliver to our audience (saving time, money, etc.)?
  • What pain points are we addressing in a customer’s daily routine?
  • What do we make possible for customers that they couldn’t do without us?

#3 Start-up Branding Focus: Differentiation

Very few startups have the privilege of offering something completely unique to the world, and that’s okay. It just means that your business will need to show your potential customers how you’re different from your competitors in a way that makes that customer choose you.

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: branding should set your start-up apart.

Branding is not the time to blend in.

When you think about branding your small business, you have the opportunity to consider all the nuances that make your product or service special and find creative ways to share those differences with the market. Below are several areas to consider when deciding how you will focus on differentiating your start-up’s brand:

  • Cost/Price: are you delivering at the lowest possible price, at a luxury level, or somewhere in between?
  • Quality: how much better is your product or service than the competition? How can you prove it?
  • Service: What lengths do you go to to help your customers that others can’t or won’t?

When branding your small business, be bold. Embrace colors that depart from the industry standard. Take time to design a logo that reflects not only what you do but who you are. When you’re competing against hundreds or even thousands of other startup in your industry, your visual branding is how you literally stand out in a crowd.

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: T-mobile's colors are a great example.T-Mobile has done a great job using branding to shine in a loud wireless market. Its color – hot pink – is bold and unique among its competitors, and the company’s advertising takes a similarly strong approach by challenging larger wireless carriers.

#4 Start-Up Branding Focus: Focusing Your Marketing Activities

When building a start-up, you’re going to face a lot of questions about where you want to go and how you want your organization to look and feel. The most successful companies have thought of the answers to these questions in advance in order to avoid endless discussions about the organization’s direction. Answering the questions below can help you stay on the right path:

  • Who is your target audience? What are their demographic and psychographic characteristics?
  • Based on the above, where should your brand be present to catch your audience’s attention?
  • What tone should you use to communicate with your target audience?
  • What should you NOT do, based on your audience’s expectations?

#5 Start-Up Branding Focus: Setting the Guardrails for Your Marketing

Even the largest businesses can’t afford to reach everyone, so it’s especially important to think about where you need to be present and what you need to say to that audience. One of the most important parts of branding your startup is focusing and preserving your limited resources by zeroing in on marketing strategies that work within the resources you have.

5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: Targeted marketing is best for start-ups with limited resources.

Choose your targets wisely.

To better focus your marketing efforts, think about the following questions:

  • What is your marketing budget? How will you spread it out over the first month, six months, or year of your business?
  • How do you intend to capture your audience? Will you be offering a discount on your product, generating leads by giving away a free white paper or case study, hosting a contest to increase publicity, etc.?
  • Is your start-up doing something newsworthy? Is free publicity from a press release or media outreach a viable option?
  • What kind of presence do you want to build on social media?
  • What kind of ROI can you expect from your chosen marketing strategies?

Many household brands found big results when they simplified their approaches and focused instead on doing one thing great. Yeti has a similar brand story; starting with great coolers and expanding only as growth allowed them to continue delivering exceptional products.5 Reasons Branding Matters for Start-Ups: The Yeti Story


Ultimately, hats and water bottles are fun to think about, but real branding has a much bigger impact. If you’re ready to think about the practical side of branding your start-up – the big picture questions about who you are and why you matter – contact Young Marketing Consulting. We love to talk branding with small businesses!



“Your brand is your promise”

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business - Cattle Brand

A cattle brand, one of the world’s first marketing tools

Branding is likely the oldest form of marketing in the world. The practice of using a mark to indicate ownership or craftsmanship has been in use for thousands of years, with the word itself coming from the Old Norse verb “to burn” and likely originating from the practice of branding livestock. But what began as a signifier of cattle ownership and craftsmanship has evolved into something much different in the modern era, and it’s fair to wonder, how, exactly, a brand can help your business.

If you ask people to define a brand today, the first thing that many of them point to would be aesthetics: colors, fonts, a logo design. These are the kind of details that companies spend many thousands of hours and dollars pouring over in the hope that their choices will drive increased sales in some indirect fashion. And because of branding’s indirect link to results, the practice is often dismissed by smaller businesses who have a more immediate focus on marketing activities that drive measurable results. But a brand is much, much more than its aesthetics. And today, we’ll examine three ways in which branding can help your small business.

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business

The Stella Artois logo, which was first used in 1366


1. Branding distinguishes you from your competitors.

Brand aesthetics catch the eye. Brand experience drives loyalty.

Good branding is much more than just a memorable logo, it’s how you do business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Branding encompasses the characteristics and values of your organization, helping you to distinguish your offering in the marketplace with a brand identity. If your brand identity reflects your target audience’s values and needs, it will make consumers will feel connected to the brand. In fact, 64% of people say that shared values are the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. However, if your brand identity isn’t clearly defined and expressed, don’t expect to have strong, long-lasting relationships with your customers or clients.

Because your brand educates your target audience how you’re different (and why it matters), communicating your brand identity is one of the best ways to grow your business. As the below example from Mad Men shows, you’re most likely not offering a unique product so you need to set yourself apart from competitors.

Now, in reality the example above flies in the face of modern branding practice, because it’s a rather cynical take that doesn’t differentiate the business in any real way. But by focusing on what you do differently than a crowded market, you’ll be regularly stressing how much better you are to consumers looking for an improved experience. And when customers identify with your brand message and have a good experience, they will start to promote your products and services. That’s the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that can be crucial for small businesses looking to grow.

2. Branding tells you how to price your products and services

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business - Price Tag

Your brand identity sets your pricing expectations

The second, often-overlooked reason why small business branding matters is that your brand identity helps determine price. Apple, for example, is a brand that has made its brand synonymous with innovative products of the highest quality. Apple also delivers a product and service consistency that creates trustworthy relationships with customers. Both of these factors allow the brand to set high prices in order to communicate to consumers that they are receiving the best product available.

But of course, the question is what do you do if you’re not Apple? Let’s say you’re running a quick service salad bar concept restaurant that promises to make healthy eating affordable. Your pricing should follow suit, and be set as low as you profitably can.


Set your brand pricing on a scale that ranges from affordability and accessibility (on the low end) to quality and luxury (on the high end).

3. Branding helps you make internal decisions

The third and final reason why branding matters for small businesses is that the brand identity you create will help your company make internal decisions. Your brand conveys both an identity and a purpose, and by doing so it tells your managers and staff how to act in various situations. For example, if your brand focuses on customer service and you have an employee providing a poor customer experience, you’ll know instantly that that employee is not aligned with your brand and will be able to take corrective steps. If you’re facing a strategic decision about where to invest in resources, a quick check of your brand identity will tell you what areas cannot be touched because they could compromise your ability to deliver on your brand promise.

In many ways, it’s actually easier for small businesses to have good branding because they aren’t trying to convey a message and mode of operation across thousands of employees. So go ahead, get out there and try a brand on for size. And if you’re curious about exactly how to build a brand identity, why not contact Young Marketing Consulting?

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