Branding is a key differentiator and a major reason why some startups are successful while others are not. Good branding is at the heart of any good business, but most of the branding advice you’ll find online or in person is about making sure that your brand remains consistent in your marketing efforts, or gets improved, if it’s already established. What happens if you’re just starting out, trying to build a business from scratch? Startups need to connect with people and get them to buy into their yet-to-be-proven solution.
Here are five things startups should do to differentiate themselves effectively with branding.
1. Identify your target market.
The first step to branding your startup is gaining a complete understanding of your target market. Who are you trying to reach? Think about who you want to experience your brand.
Once you’ve determined your target audience, everything in your branding should connect back to it. In short, your ideal customers should become part of your startup’s identity—after all, you can’t succeed without them.
A failure to connect with your target market will lead to long-term failure; therefore, it’s important to constantly receive feedback to determine how your customers perceive your brand and product.
Survey your early customers with questions such as:
- How would you describe our product to a friend?
- Tell us how you’d feel if you were no longer able to use our product.
- How can we improve our product to better meet your needs?
Your goal should be building passionate customers who will share their experience with others, and that comes from correctly identifying your target market.
2. Study your competitors’ brands.
Next, start evaluating your competitors’ brands. You can learn a lot about marketing in your industry just by studying these previously established entries. What do their logos look like? How are they different from one another? How do they talk to your shared customer base? It’s important that you not take any of these qualities and copy them for your brand. Instead, look at the motivations behind these choices, and use the qualities themselves for the next step of your process.
If you don’t understudy your market and competition, then your venture has already failed. Here are three reasons why you should study your competitors:
You’ll be prepared- You will know what you are up against. By studying your competitors you have an idea of what the obstacles and challenges would be and can plan ahead on how to overcome them should the situation arise. One resourceful way is to improve and improvise on ideas and concepts from your competitors.
You don’t have to start from scratch- Finding outlets that are willing to work with you and distribute your product/service is one of the most tasking, time-consuming and completely necessary parts of building a business. That’s why it makes sense to study what the competition is doing so you can improve on that, especially in the area of market research and reach.
What works for them, ‘MIGHT’ work for you- In some cases, by studying the competitors’ websites, social media posts and existing ad campaigns you’ll be able to see what they do, what works for them, what doesn’t and what you can improve on or do better than them. There are also quite a few digital, automated tools that you can use if you don’t want to do the job yourself. One amazing free web based tool Addicted2Startup.com uses for its social media advertisements is Canva. You can easily sign up, choose the layout, add the pictures and text and your ready to share.
3. Being unique and selling your story
Identify how to differentiate your brand from the competition. It could stem from your business plan in general: One example is if you have a price advantage over your competition, you would want to emphasize that in your branding. Otherwise, find a way to make yourself stand out. Are most of the other brands more traditional or more conservative? You could inject some fun, add some technological twist to it. (i.e Websites, Viral Video). Are the other brands elitist and pretentious? Shoot for something more down to earth.
Thailand creates very creative advertisements and this is one of them.
Once you have established your brand, you have to sell your story. A major challenge you will face as part of the startup phase is people may not instantly recognize who you are or what you do.
Building your story not only helps you focus on your company identity and culture, but it’s a memorable way for your clients and customers to identify with your brand on a more personal level. Sell an experience before selling a product.
A company that applies this very well is Soaplab Malaysia. Addicted2Startup wanted to highlight the great work they have done by telling the story behind their startup, their company vision and following constantly through with their marketing campaign.
I specialise in guiding startup Entrepreneurs to create their own handmade skin care product by teaching formulation to create the best premium product right in your own Home.
I also have been in Business line for close to 10 years now (few different businesses) and know the ups and downs when it comes to business. Ive lost close to few hundred thousands of dollars during this time and im here to guide you so that you avoid the mistakes I did.
SoapLabMalaysia builds its social media following by creating useful content. i.e online soap making classes, personalised formulations and detailed explanations between the difference of lotions, cream, body butters and more.
Successful branding is closely tied to a successful story, and by using that story as a jumping off point, you add to your own credibility.
4. Good Design Matters
How your product looks and is being marketed are very important in branding your startup. When it comes to visual branding, fonts, colors, logos, etc. all contribute to your image and purpose. An example is when you go to a shop, and you have 2 similar products to choose from. Both with similar content, however 1 of them looks visually appealing, colourful and has all great packaging while the other comes in cheap finishing. Which would you choose?
Controversy aside, we have to admit that the Mast Brothers really did an excellent job in using great design to visually tell their story and sell their bean to bar craft chocolates.
When applied correctly, these elements can quickly define and communicate the mood and values you want to give your target audience.
Images are easy to share across social media platforms and can offer a first impression of your company. Make sure your visual output is a reflection of your target market and story.
5. Maximize Your Visibility
Once you have created a unique visual and verbal story—now it’s time to leverage assets across digital channels and integrate your marketing campaigns.
The goal is to reach your target market through a coordinated messages across multiple channels. Target marketing to your user demographics, which sounds obvious, but it’s necessary. An example would be, if you are selling durian products, chances are you would want to target the Asian market as opposed to the Western crowd. One marketing strategy that was recently applied by a durian stall in Penang, was that this durian seller tied up with a virtual coin/points company, which enabled you to buy your durians using your coins/points. This was a big hit with the Chinese tourists as they came in bus loads after shopping at this virtual mall. The idea was simple, Chinese loved durians, they were shopping in a virtual mall using points, so why don’t my stall accept virtual points.
Attack your social media outlets simultaneously and use them as a way to reinforce your brand; think about “share-ability”. We talked about using visuals to reinforce your brand, and moments captured in photos are some of the easiest moments for customers to share.
We at Addicted2Startup would love to hear your startup stories. Kindly send us your stories or let us know who you want featured here.
Good luck and all the best in your ventures.