I once went to a speed dating event.
I met someone there, the type of person I was looking for. I dropped in the conversation all the reasons why I was a perfect candidate for him: reasonably sane, a good listener, I know how to use cutlery 🙂
Some time later I met him by chance at a bar. With butteries in my stomach and shaky knees, I went to talk to him. What could go wrong?
“Er…who?…Sorry, I don’t remember you, I talked with a lot of people that night” – was his answer. And so my happy future with him dissolved together with the dog, the house, the car and the garden…
And then I understood: I didn’t really show my true self, my own unique qualities and values.
A bad brand strategy feels the same: you know you have a great product or service, and you cannot wait to meet the people that believe in your project (investors) and need your help (customers). But if your startup talks, behaves and looks like many other, if your company is not providing an experience that instills an emotional connection, your suitors won’t notice you.
The brain is overrated
“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.”
Marty Newmeier, author and speaker
“95% of purchasing decisions are emotional.”
Gerald Haltman, professor from the Harvard Business School
Investors invest in startups that sound reliable, consistent and authentic. Customers invest in brands that they feel understand their needs and help them build their identity and sense of belonging…Just think how customers have become loyal tribes and even advocates around brands like Apple or Harley Davidson.
For startups, establishing this emotional connection since the beginning is key because bigger competitors with more resources and employees have been in the market for longer. So, be smart and don’t fall in the trap of many startups that focus on the rational reasons such as price, features, convenience etc why their audience would choose them over their competitors.
Focus instead on the subjective perceptions and associations of the experience you provide – i.e. the brand- because this is what defines if you audience embraces your product or service (yeei) or not (booh).
Gut feeling toolkit
Startups that don’t have a proper guidance from brand professionals tend to make the mistake of delaying the brand process right before launch, normally in the shape of a logo and some colours.
No story to tell, no memorable voice, not a solid message nor consistency in the communication. How can you expect to inspire a gut feeling with this? I certainly didn’t on my speed dating event…
Developing your brand should go hand in hand with developing your business. After all, your brand is how your company is going to present itself to others in all the touch points, interactions and communications. Your brand is not a logo, your brand is the visual, written and experiential perception your audience has about your company.
So, if you want to create that gut feeling, hold your horses and have your checklist in place before winking to the right investors and customers.
Imagine your startup is going to the dating event. You want to connect with everyone that will love your product or service. Ask yourself:
– What is my purpose as a company? What is what I have to offer?
– What is my tone of voice? Am I formal and serious, close and friendly, playful and carefree?
– Who I want to meet? Are they young, old, adventurous, conservative…?
– Where do I want to get: a life partnership, a short-term relationship, a one-night stand?
– How do I look? Am I wearing an elegant suit, casual trousers, ethereal dress…?
– What is my story? I am fresh new in this world or I have been married three times and still believe?
This work is the strategic foundation of your brand, aligning what you are offering -the promise- to what your customers and investors are looking for.
This approach has allowed brands like Airbnb to align their strategy successfully in spite of growth, rebranding and competitors, owning the concept of “belonging” customers connect so much with.
By doing this work you get a roadmap or brand strategy that is going to save you tons of time and money.
A startup brand needs to convey a solid presence in a structure that allows flexibility as it grows. With the knowledge gathered on the first step, is now the time to create a living brand consistent across media and channels.
In other words: how do you present yourself to the world? Like a person, your brand has a core personality that is conveyed in how you look and sound: logo, color palette, type font, voice…, an ever-growing personality that is distinctive, solid and attractive, and talks in a formal, friendly, funny, serious way depending on the context.
The brand of your startup will need to expand also, and you need to be prepared: this shoes are not fitting anymore, the trousers you liked so much are not really your thing now…And when the time comes, take your roadmap into account: you don’t want to repeat mistakes such as GAP‘s failed rebranding.
With the roadmap created on the strategic level, make sure your brand is aligned throughout all these changes, and the secret word for this is…consistency.
At all times, in all places, your brand needs to be consistent in all visual assets, tone of voice with the different audiences, and in your behaviour, acting according to the values, mission and vision.
Creating consistency in all communications means you know when and how your customers interact with your brand therefore you can deliver your promise to them anytime they need it. Think in Cards against humanity and the hilariously serious way they deliver their despicable promise -their words, not mine- in every touch-point, communication, media or action.
Promising to your date that you are super empathetic and then being rude to the waiter for nothing is not going to work…, so, review and align every action, every interaction, every touch-point to your brand strategy so that your customers perceive the authenticity of your brand.
A consistent agile brand engages audiences, establishes a solid presence in the market and attracts investors.
Now you are ready to go out in the world. As a startup brand, you are opening your space in the market. You are going to the speed dating event the market is knowing who you are, what you offer, to whom, and why you are the best catch around.
No more: “Er…who?”.