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How can startups ace the brand game?


Being a hub of experimentation, startups are brewing with great product and marketing ideas and with so much happening, you tend to miss out on branding.

Not that you want to skip it, but because it takes a fair amount of time, effort and research, which is something you can’t put your energy towards upfront.

So what you end up doing is, you put together a logo and a plain website with a flimsy message and try to get away with it.

Branding in its essence

Branding is an emotion that people feel when they see or hear you and evoking this emotion is not possible when you don’t have a well thought of strategy in place.

Your logo, website and all other elements will not make sense to people unless you manage to evoke the emotion you want people to relate you with.

While a logo and a website are the most immediate touchpoints for people to interact with your brand.

The mistake most startups make is they don’t understand that your entire branding doesn’t just involve your logo and website but there a whole lot of things contributing towards building a brand.

Components like your voice, tone, messaging, positioning etc also contributes towards building a brand.

Branding Components

Brand attributes

While listing brand attributes, you need to think of your brand as a human and list all that you want this human to be like.

Is it fun, quirky, young, and energetic or sharp, reliable and innovative?

These attributes will then guide your messaging and tone to shape your brand voice.


The word itself is quite self-explanatory; positioning your brand requires you to determine where you fit into the industry.

Are you a high-end luxury brand addressing a smaller audience or a mid-range product catering to a broader audience base?

Value proposition/ Brand Promise

A value proposition is a brand promise that you make to your customers. It answers the most critical question, which is, ‘WHY somebody should come to you when there are so many brands offering the same thing that you do’.

What is it that you do differently? Why are you better than others?

All of it comes down to asking the right questions and making an effort to find the right answers.

Six ways startups can amp up their branding game.

Brand guidelines —

It is your bible that includes everything about your brand from intangibles to tangibles.

It talks about your brand personality, values, mission, brand colours and their significance along with the logo usage and so on.

In my opinion, this should be something that you give to your employees along with their offer letter irrespective of if they are an operations person or a brand marketing person.

So that from the first day itself, they have a sense of what your brand is all about.

Employee & Employer Branding

Building your employer and employee brand is one of the most effective branding exercises.

Employer branding helps you attract the right talent to your organisation, someone who aligns with your brand beliefs and vision.

Who then, with the help of employee branding can be turned into your brands biggest cheerleader, both online and offline.

This facilitates you to win employees that are big on your brand and inherit a behaviour that harmonises with it, attracting more business and high quality of service delivery.

Creating a brand story and living it —

As much of a buzzword it is, storytelling is vital in business.

Your customer already has a story attached to whatever he buys; you need to crack that and fit yourselves into that story based on what character they are looking for.

Let me dig deeper.

Twelve brand archetypes guide your brand character in the story; they include rebel, hero, explorer, etc. An extensive discussion with the leadership should enlighten you which of the twelve archetypes frame your brand.

Do not associate multiple archetypes to your brand, one or max two archetypes should give you a clear picture.

Once you have your customer’s story along with brand archetypes, you move on to seamlessly place your brand into their story as somebody who they are looking for.

The job doesn’t end here, the story is ready, but now you have to start living it.

You live the story by delivering what you promised and sticking to the brand archetypes because once you are the part of their story, they expect you to be what you said you are.

Your brand lives in every department, from product to customer service, and hence you have to live your brand story throughout.

Establish thought leadership —

Thought leadership is one of the most exciting activities for building a prominent brand.

This can be achieved in two ways, either you can have your brand as the thought leader of the industry, or you can establish your leadership as the thought leader of the industry.

Both of these can also work in tandem, but I suggest you to first go ham on one, and once you get it right it will automatically create a ripple effect for the latter.

The best way to do this is to create relevant and non-sales heavy content at scale and communicate with people that influence your brand.

Cause Branding —

Cause marketing and cause branding share the same definition.

It involves associating your brand to a social cause that aligns with your beliefs; it helps to not only create social value for your brand but also puts you in a positive light by contributing towards the betterment of society.

Have room for growth —

You are a young company that is there to disrupt the industry, and hence It wouldn’t be fair to suffocate you in a box by laying rigid brand guidelines that will make it difficult for you to scale and pivot, in case you want to do that in future.

As I said earlier, startups are home for experimentation. In some instances, after getting into the business you might realise that the problem you are trying to solve doesn’t exist in your prospects head, it may also happen that you want to expand your services.

In moments like these, your brand framework shouldn’t be a hurdle. Hence I suggest you have a framework that doesn’t require a complete redesign, but you should be able to pull off your brand image with a few tweaks here and there.

So now when we know the tips and tricks to ace the startup branding game, let’s create some fantastic brands together!