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‘Why do start-ups fail?’, do you wonder? Has it anything to do with the product they offer or the services they render? Or maybe it’s the way they handle their brand image! The latter is some food for thought if you have only just entered the pool.
To simplify the branding process for your company, stick to these ten commandments. They are basic, most of them are common-sense (yet hide behind the curtain) and practical to stick by.
Do not read the other nine commandments of the Branding Bible, without clearly understanding the power of a brand. A brand’s substance is not related to just a name or a logo; your entire business depends upon it.
When people think of online shopping, they think of Amazon. When they want to order food online, they say, ‘Let’s Swiggy’. Now, that’s the kind of immediate, definitive relationship you would want to establish with your customers. While this cannot happen overnight and for most start-ups, it looks like a distant dream; you can surely get somewhere once you understand how important it is to call yourself a brand.
Branding will give you the confidence to stand tall in the market. It will give you a voice and help you carve your “own” niche.
To have this misconception is quite natural because, at the brand’s infancy, you want to take lesser risks with your reputation, capital, and resources. But just because you’re buying that time to see how consumers respond to your product or service, before mapping out further strategies doesn’t mean you play in the dark. From early on, it is necessary to have a clearly defined audience for your brand.
Targeting a well-defined audience will help you gain greater visibility and a direction in the market. You will know what appeals to them and what is it that needs to be communicated. Your content strategy will not lay foggy and you will direct your target group in the right direction. In a way, you will lead your brand on the right path.
Start-ups often think that they can be everything to everyone. In an attempt to do this, it makes them a watered-down brand that appeals to nobody. Pleasing everyone has never worked and never will. You need to find your niche.
So let’s say you know the power of a brand (maybe that’s why you landed here.) But, you do not have your brand guidelines in place? Now is the time.
Brand guidelines are a part of the last phase of the branding process. This guide consists of all the visual and verbal assets of the brand and lists down the ways to use them. Following this guide ensures the brand’s unique look and feel as well as the voice to remain uniform regardless of the platforms.
This list is not very comprehensive. But the worst thing would be to start from nowhere. Without basic brand guidelines in the early stages, you will lack the consistency and direction needed for success.
Does your team have anything to do in the brand-building process? The question is rhetorical. Budding entrepreneurs need to keep a check on their branding efforts (cost-cutting would be your priority at that point in time), but this doesn’t mean that you have to play solo. Flock together and make employees feel that they are an integral part of your organization.
It’s only true that your best resource is the employee. You ignore their worth and you are on your way to committing a branding crime. With changing trends, most consumers today put faith in person-to-person communication and ignore direct advertisements. Hence, personal consulting takes priority over corporate communications.
When you honor your employees and treat them well, they tend to speak well about the brand they are working for. They will post happy, positive pictures on their social media pages, they will be part of the thread that has anything to do with their team members; you will see them conversing with friends and acquaintances about the project they are working on, the upcoming product launch or whatever. In a way, your employees become your brand ambassadors or influencers. Why ignore this added benefit along with high productivity from the fulfillment of the basic need of feeling content at work?
Some of the world’s most famous brands have been guilty of stretching the truth too far and they have burnt their hands. PepsiCo’s Naked Juice claimed about being all-natural and ‘non-GMO’. When cross-checked, they ended up agreeing to a huge settlement to cover this it up. Ouch!
Similarly, very recently, Samsung customers found the brand with its hand in the cookie jar when it said that the pictures were taken on the brand’s phone. Those were clicked through a DSLR camera.
Most certainly, for big fish like these, it’s easy to ride these kinds of hiccups. But as a start-up could you? We can safely assume the answer is, No. Keeping this in mind, there ain’t any ifs, ands or buts here. As a commandment, be truthful and genuine.
The whole purpose of branding boils down to give your business a unique identity that differentiates you from other players and helps to keep the customers coming back to your provision. Sadly, it’s very common to see start-ups ignore originality. Most of them get into the rut of what others in the market are doing and unconsciously follow the same lines.
As a start-up, being similar or close to your competitor does no good. You are supposed to position yourself as not only different but better than the rest. Think about it this way: If you’re giving out the same branding message as other fish in the sea, what reason do they have for marinating you?
Simply putting: Be the cat, not the copycat.
One important thing that you might have noticed about certain brands is their consistency. Over the years some of your favorite brands have not tried changing the avatar. This explains why you feel nostalgic when you eat a Parle-G biscuit or rub Vicks Vaporub on your back. These brands have been true to what they created when they came into existence. Even today, you can visualize their color palette, the look, and feel of their packaging and advertisements they came up with.
Once you clearly define your brand guidelines, you need to build your further communication, while still sticking to brand identity. This will help customers recall your company, your product and what you stand for.it will ensure cohesion in all communication and overall identity. While rebranding is important, sometimes latching on to the brand identity helps to keep you in the limelight.
We live in the era of digital and to stay relevant and up-to-date, social media is our best bet. A consumer can get regular updates while you can also communicate regularly.
But the pros and cons cycle rides through yet again! Social media comes with its cons too. The same thing that makes it such an effective branding tool also makes it a dangerous resource at times. Start-ups get the required limelight on social (if your brand strategist guides you with correct platforms and content plan) However, it’s very easy to make mistakes or faux pas on such a grand stage and end up in a dump hole.
When the Bee Gees singer Robin Gibb dies, MSN asked the audience to click the LIKE button to pay their respects. The brand was accused of insensitivity for all the wrong reasons and people left many negative comments on its social media pages. This only shows that using content that is not relevant or off-beat for promotion is a big no-no.
Customers will keep coming to your page, they will write reviews that might sound like music. But they will leave comments that would pinch you too. It is very common to see several loops on the pages where entrepreneurs have taken it personally and picked up a fight with the customers. One simple yet effective way to control yourself is to chalk down some social media guidelines too.
When a company declares to undergo rebranding, the audience sits in eager anticipation. Why?
Let’s talk about a name that has revamped so many brands all these years. In 2018, the legendary agency, ‘Ogilvy & Mather’ dropped ‘& Mather’ from its name and officially announced it. It also introduced a new logo, color scheme, a brand new website, organizational design and new practices for consultancy and digital campaigns. Just so you know, the company picked up a brighter shade of red as the brand’s signature.
As a start-up, you don’t have to think of rebranding already. But you will get to the finishing line someday.
Fast-fashion giant, H&M released an image of a young African-American child modeling a green sweatshirt on its website. The slogan read, ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’. When this went viral, customers were outraged and accused the company of its lack of cultural sensitivity.
So you see, mistakes happen. Even the biggest brands commit errors and learn from their failures. As a start-up, you shouldn’t panic if you think you backed the wrong horse. Go easy on yourself and learn from your failures. If H&M can, you definitely can!
‘One mistake is allowed’, they say. But have they said that only one is allowed. Being a newly-fangled entrepreneur can leave you in the lurch of listening to several suggestions here and there related to your branding needs. A branding studio that specializes in branding startups might be the answer to your solutions. Who you gonna call? Slangbusters. No seriously, we have answers for the right questions.
— by Tasneem Baldiwala, Freelance Content Writer, Slangbusters Studio