You need a base of added credibility in order to break into your target market
Startups often avoid branding by saying, “it’s too expensive” or “it doesn’t create actionable results” or “it’s to cut time-consuming,” etc. A lot of people sometimes think they are building they brand just by using social media because they don’t actually need a brand. Some people think their startup is too small and they don’t need a known brand until they get bigger. The truth is that people that have never built a brand before look at this from a time efficiency standpoint and say that it is not worth putting time towards it. Also, some people prefer building their personal brand as an alternative to having an actual company brand. In the startup environment, people often start thinking about branding when it’s really late – in most cases after launch – and what this leads to is lots of issues along the way where branding ends up being an afterthought, as opposed to being built together with the actual business and the product that is going to be marketed.
Overall, branding can help startups to create value through three main channels: relationships, differentiation, and experience.
Relationships really create trust and loyalty. They really are a sort of an advocacy and a connecting kind of component to the end customer; that’s the number one and most important reason why building a brand means building a relationship with your customers, and that is really the key to success. When you’re a startup, you need to have early adopters who love you so much at the point of inviting their friends or their colleagues to come and join them. So, from a brand perspective, making sure that those relationships are solid is really important.
Differentiation is clear in terms of why a company or a startup would actually want to be differentiated, but how branding can help with that is sometimes a little bit fuzzier. In terms of differentiation, your brand should really be a communicator of that your competitive advantage, which helps you be seen as different in the marketplace.
Experience is what adds value on top of brand awareness. It is where brand awareness translates into brand equity as a voice telling people what they can expect from you, not only from the relationship side of things, but also from an actual interaction as well. A recent startup that has put brand as first in a lot of what they did is Pinterest. They really started selling an experience, continuously focusing on the actual customer experience in order to add value to their brand. That, not only in terms of UX/UI, but also doing it across all the platforms, even those outside of Pinterest as well. Their goal was to give to people navigating outside the Pinterest platform the same great experience they would get on their platform. So they really start from a small and personal perspective with bloggers and a small group of influencers to develop an MVP and scale it up from there, focusing on the relationship with those early customers as well as building experience with them. Thus, once the basic structure of the relationship, differentiation, and experience was achieved, they start introducing viral components when this basic structure was built.