July 7, 2016
“Branding” can be a vague term. At it’s most basic, it refers to what everyone, from audiences to shareholders, thinks about your company. Naturally, you want to establish startup branding early, so that you can build a consistent image. But some people don’t realize how essential it is to start branding as soon as possible.
One helpful way to think about the concept of your startup branding is to contrast it against another well-known startup truism: The minimum viable product. Startups need to launch when they have the bare-bones version of their product, because the sooner they can get relevant audience feedback, the sooner they can start iterating and the sooner they’ll wind up with the best product possible, the maximum viable product.
For branding, the opposite is true: You need to start with the “maximum viable brand story,” because you need to prove that your aspirations are higher than the current product or service you offer. Products start out as a bare minimum and grow with the startup, but brands start out at their maximum and the startup eventually grows into them.
Commenting on a question on InBound, entrepreneur Ryan Stoner explained this principle:
“Startups don’t just need a minimum viable product, but also a maximum viable brand story. A strong brand story is the differentiator and can help drive business growth, provide you with a compelling story for investors and customers and be bring clarity to everything your company does.
Even the most amazing startups sometimes have trouble telling their brand story. Startups should invest early in telling a compelling story that attracts people and brings the company’s story to life with marketing activations that address specific needs. Storytelling is the difference and essential to brand success.”
Startup branding needs to establish a story early. Don’t get bogged down on designing logos: Just figure out the narrative that connects you to audiences. As Ryan puts it, “Your brand story isn’t about painting a picture of what you are doing right now, it’s about showing people what’s possible.”
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