Startups are often hesitant to invest into a Brand Strategy exercise due to budget constraints, thinking it’s only necessary for Big players. Startup Branding expert Saswata Das explains how Brand Strategy as an exercise can help you predict the market responses and attract the right customers.
As a start-up, should you invest in a Brand Strategy exercise?
I am often asked this question by budding startups that are very cautiously making their investments and are unsure if Brand Strategy is a thing only for the Big guys or they should also take it seriously. My answer to them and every other startup is that Brand Strategy, particularly for a startup is a no brainer. Let me tell you why.
Let’s say you are a technology startup and you have cracked the code. You think you have made the best invention of your times, created an innovative product solution and secured a patented technology status.
Or say you are a Food startup that has crafted the yummiest cookie in the world.
Well, the Marketing Rule 1 says: Create a product for which there exists an inherent need so that it sells itself. So, you have created the best product/service – you’re sure that the consumer/customer should come running after it. Right?
Surprise! The Consumer doesn’t think as logically as you thought. They think emotionally – That’s why brands were born – it’s all a mind game.
The customer doesn’t care a damn about your patent until you show her the value in it. The consumer doesn’t pick up your cookie until you make it evident to her – why only you? Why not your competitor?
So apart from figuring out the product/service you need to figure out
- What role does it play in the life of the consumer?
- How does your product make her feel?
- What experience do you want them to have with your product/service?
That’s where Brand Strategy kicks in.
Brand Strategy is an exercise that will help you predict the market responses and attract the right clients. So, for a start-up, Brand Strategy is really the foremost and essential exercise. If you ask me when is the right time to invest in a Brand Strategy; my answer is the moment you conceive a product idea.
But unfortunately, some believe that Brand Strategy is something that comes during promotion activities – when you start communicating about your brand outwards. Well, that’s completely a wrong idea.
Creating and perfecting the Brand Strategy is the starting point and a destination too.
So, here are 7 reasons why Brand Strategy is a must for any Startup to create a successful brand?
Let’s go one-by-one:
For any Startup, it becomes essential to have a really passionate team, that is cohesive, led by a bigger vision and is constantly motivated. Hence it becomes essential to define: “Why are you in business?” or for that matter, “What do we want to achieve together?”. Any given day, a team member, if faced with a self-reflecting question as to why is he in here and what is all his work leading upto, he should immediately find the answer and the right direction.
More often than not, this is very clear in the Founder’s mind. But the fact is he needs a team to make the startup successful and the entire team needs to be aligned to the same vision. The goals need to be as clear to the team-members as it is to the Founder. This is precisely why the Brand’s Core Purpose and Brand Values need to be defined and articulated. A Brand Strategy exercise will help you do just that.
Establishing a Differentiation
We all know that in a crowded space, for your Brand to stand out and shine, differentiation is the key.
While making the elevator pitch to the Investor, you got to quickly answer his question “What do you do and why should I care?”. Similarly when you enter the market, you got to answer to your customer/consumer – “Why do you matter to me? What problem are you solving?”
A Brand Strategy exercise will help you do a thorough competitive analysis, find the Points of Parity and Points of Differentiation and carve out a clear cut differentiation strategy, unique to your Brand. This will guide how you will do things differently than all your competitors in the market.
Brand Value Proposition
Defining the Brand Value Proposition for your brand is essentially a perfect description of the rational plus emotional benefits that helps win both hearts and minds for your consumers.
One of the key deliverables of a Brand Strategy exercise will be a clearly articulated Value Proposition. This helps you decide where to focus on, what not to compromise even in stringent conditions as that is the key value you are offering to your consumers.
Brand Strategy tied to Business Strategy
The right Brand Stragey can help you achieve your business goals faster. Your Brand Strategy has to be always aligned to your overall business strategy and will be the essential fuel to succeed.
Brand Strategy is essential to steer your startup in the right direction to accomplish your business objectives. eg. Depending on how aggressively you would like to grow, your Brand Strategy will decide whether or not to take a Challenger stance and take the competition head-on. All your subsequent investments and brand communications will be guided by this Brand Strategy articulated.
Another key deliverable of a Brand Strategy exercise is to define the Core Essence of the Brand – what does your Brand stand for. Now as much as this helps you focus, it helps in your future diversification plans.
It’s essential to keep your Brand core broad enough to accommodate new product developments as well as focussed enough, not to dilute the essence altogether.
- If your Brand’s core is defined around “Car Service” you can do anything in the realm of making car servicing easier. However, if you make it a little broader say “Car Care”, the arena grows manifolds and adds plethora of possibilities.
The caveat here is that it’s as much important to define what your Brand can’t or shouldn’t do as much as what it should. eg. If you brand stands for “Everyday products” for an Indian audience, you ideally shouldn’t be launching something like an Olive Oil under the same Brand because Olive Oil is still isn’t an everyday product in an Indian household.
Right Messaging and Tone
Before you start any kind of Brand Communication, whether its B2B or B2C, you need to articulate the right message as well as the right tone. Brand Strategy helps you pin-point the right messaging that is based on the Brand Core, Brand Value Proposition and the key USP or differentiation discussed above.
However, that’s not enough. There can be various ways of delivering the same message and that’s when the right Brand Tone comes in. You will catch the attention of your TG when you use the right messaging and the right tone.
Brand building is all about consistency. When your consistent communication reaches your target audience time and again, you will be surprised to know how it helps them recall your brand, even if they have been ignoring the communication for a long time. Consistency works subtly and registers your Brand’s colours, your message and tone in the minds of the consumer and that’s what is the core of building a Brand.
With all the facets that a Brand Strategy exercise helps articulate and document, it becomes easy for you to have all brand building streamlined to the same goal – as everyone is referring to the same Brand bible. This helps in increasing your overall ROI that is so critical for any startup.
Rome was not build in a day. That goes true for any Brand building exercise too. A Brand is not built overnight, it takes time to build. While its fuelled with the passion of the Startup founder, it also needs the facets described above to reach the summit faster. Hence my advice will be to start early in the game so that all your efforts are aligned and they pay off sooner to make your Brand a huge success.