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By Emily Frumberg

At the core of good business is good branding, especially when considering the fiercely competitive and overcrowded world of tech startups. Startup marketing and branding has often been relegated to an afterthought, with founders instead focusing all their efforts on other facets of their business—like raising capital, business development, as well as the technology itself. However, having a distinctive brand is an important asset in today’s highly competitive market. With thousands of companies emerging in this space, branding can put your company at a competitive advantage in the long term.

So, what exactly is a brand? For starters, a name, logo/image and color palette does not a brand make. While it may be easier to focus on the tangible, one of the biggest missteps for young brands is to only go skin deep. Great brands have purpose.

Great branding creates a loud, concise and consistent message that embodies the heart and soul of your startup. Branding is your business’ personality. It’s how your business is perceived by your customers, your competitors, your partners, and the public.

Just think: what differentiates Pepsi from Coke? It’s not their product or the slight difference in taste. It’s who they are as a company; who they partner with; what is their mission; or their sense of social responsibility; it’s the platforms they advertise on…Simply put, their brands.

Jeff Bezos put it well when he said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” So let’s get them talking…

The Pillars to Building Your Brand:

Find your brand’s DNA

First, you need to define your brand’s DNA—the building blocks of your brand identity. Creating the messaging is a complex process to ultimately determine the following:

Why: This is your startup’s elevator pitch. Why do you do what you do?

What: What’s your competitive positioning and core value proposition?

How: How does your technology differ within your industry sector?

Who: Who are your startup’s target audiences?

And Why does all of this matter to your target audiences?

Brand building
Source: Getty Images

Messaging and Positioning

Once you have a clearer idea of your brand’s DNA, it’s important to refine your messaging so it can accurately illustrate the value proposition and characteristics of your brand. You can now start collecting and creating content that will help your target market define it in the same terms.

Be upfront and explain who you and your team are. Showcase yourselves, explaining why you have the right team and the right product to address and solve the problem you are addressing. Also, explain why your key audiences should trust you.

What’s your differentiator? What are your selling points and advantages? Don’t be afraid to talk about other like-brands and similar projects. Further, don’t be afraid to benchmark your services and/or products against your competitors. Now’s not the time to be humble.

Thought Leadership

With thought leadership, a company is positioning itself as an innovator and leader for its technology. Thought leadership expands awareness of company spokespeople as credible entrepreneurial leaders in innovation and, specifically within the technology startup space. This elevates the expertise of its leaders, as well as the brand, in the marketplace.  

Identify and quantify audiences, and develop a messaging infrastructure designed to align brand voice and value proposition with specific audiences. Keep in mind that while your words and messages may slightly vary from audience to audience, your voice must remain the same.

Mission Statement

Your mission statement needs to be simple, but well thought out. A non-business person should be able to understand what your company does. Having an idea that ordinary people can grasp, really helps with communicating to your customers.

Just remember, your mission statement shouldn’t simply be memorized. It should be something you can expand upon and talk conversationally about.

And last but not least…

Visual Identity

While I mentioned earlier that a logo, typography and color palette does not make a brand, it is an important step once you have completed your messaging. The reason this must come last is that it is integral to dive deep into your brand identity and know your intangible assets before deciding the tangible.

Overall, a successful brand is the driving force that has propelled many of our favorite companies from tech startup to industry leaders. Strategically building a strong brand is a surefire way to differentiate yourself from peers in your space. For startups at the early stages of development, defining your brand’s core message, values and personality right from the get-go is key to securing long-term growth in the space.