Today, tomorrow? Really when does one begin branding a start up? Is there a right time to brand a startup?
Yes. Right from day one or two. Or possibly the day after you have your basic idea and its name are in place. If you are wondering why the hurry, then you need to ask yourself why they ought to be a method in the madness. You wouldn’t disagree on the method. Right?
Branding is an essential step forward to bringing in a framework of thinking to the present and the future. At a fundamental level it is a ‘frame’, a sort of die that you cast, into which you pour in the molten liquid of thoughts, vision, plans. More importantly, it is also the pouring of the perceptions you would want to create amongst the various audiences who will be touched by your startup idea.
Where does one begin then?
1. First get an interesting story-laden name in place. Even a quirky one will do. As you go along, the business you do and the quality you deliver will add more meaning to the name. Amazon- from the river with connotations of widest, longest therefore unlimited expanse? How about Uber – meanings flagging smartness, outstanding etc. Another winning name Paytm. Here is the genesis of the name in the founder’s words – I cite his answer from Quora –
” We started with mission to create mobile payment system for India and named that Pay Thru Mobile (so it was written as PayTM in early days). Abhishek Rajan came with this name. We needed a captive merchant for this. Abhishek registered a domain nameand programmed the first version of recharge website as first merchant of system. Later once we realised the opportunity to become a consumer destination, we renamed it to Paytm and purchased new domain name . “
2. Then say the name aloud. What kind of ring does it have to itself? Crisp, soft, definite, delicate or kind of business like? Airbnb sounds rounded and informal. While Uber, possibly has an abruptness, which is definite. And Paytm is snappy?
3. This possibly is the baby move towards getting the tonality of the brand into place. Of course I would hasten to add that a name is just one aspect that can determine tonality or tone of voice. What I am saying here is simple – the sound of the brand is an echo of the meaning-making and meaning-conveying aspects of the brand.
4. To this name and sound add a strap line. One that ought to capture the proposition, benefit, outcome and any such description that conveys to the user the meaning and more importantly the expectations the idea is meant to fulfil. Some examples – Uber is “Everyone’s private driver” , Airbnb is “Belong anywhere” and Paytm is “Paytm Karo.”
When it comes to creativity about the strap line, you would gain by borrowing some premises from the famous Blake Snyder who wrote the book “Save the Cat” – possibly the best take on screenwriting and one of the famous names in Hollywood. His concept is of the one line or log line as he calls it. The log line is that one line, which can describe the complete film – story plot and more. He goes on to saying that a good log line should have more than just a description. “The point is that a good logline, in addition to pulling you in, has to offer the promise of more.”
Some examples he cites,
A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists – Die Hard
A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend – Pretty Woman
Now what these convey are a combination of plot and expectation.
My take – borrow this principle of writing the strap line from Blake Snyder. You will end up giving the brand a meaning. One that intrinsically has the ability to describe the idea, excite the audiences and create the right expectations from the startup idea, solution.
A practitioner’s little secret here – good strap lines are not always the well rehearsed ones. They could be articulated in the way we speak, words which are an unusual mix of languages, or deep meaning ones like the Ultimate Driving Machine of BMW. Active voice, descriptions, benefits, experiential suggestions and sometime plain instinct too helps.
5. The next move is to look around you. Examine the competition and the environment. Study the color trends. To this study, marry your likes and dislikes. The outcome would be a brand palette. At least the beginning of one, and the first steps towards mapping a colour to your idea and vice versa.
6. Follow this up by articulating the purpose of your idea. Answer these questions:
What is transformative about the idea or solution? What are the needs your idea fulfills that have never been done earlier?
7. Once you have these basic inputs in place, call in a smart advertising agency or a branding agency which will then go about taking this forward. Give them the freedom to recast and reword. Allow them leeway to do their own analysis of the environment and come back with insights on colors, tonality and other identity aspects related to the brand.
Brand identity is a large subject. The swathe includes the graphic representation, which I have touched upon in a précis manner and the meaning definition of the idea. What the idea can do, what gap does it fill, how does it do the fulfillment differently for the user or the audience.
When both the meaning and graphic aspects are harmonised, you will have the beginning of a ‘brand’.
Get this thought process going. And hit the ground running. The best day is the day you have the idea in mind. Don’t wait for that Monday to come!