How Important Is Branding For A Start-up?


These days it’s become a regular thing for almost every ‘A’ grade business school graduate to launch a start-up. One CEO, two engineers — and voila! A company is formed.

However, one needs to understand that there is more to launching a start-up than developing a killer app or product. Almost every branding, public relations and marketing professional would say the same thing i.e. “start-ups need to come out clearly with their message to the public (consumer) at the initiation stage itself”.

Even though you might find your business to be wonderful and sublime in every which way, it could have very little impact if it cannot make its own identity in the marketplace to stand out from similar enterprises whom in business language we classify as “competitors”.

Eric Pinckert – Managing Director of a LA based brand building firm, BrandCulture once said, “Start-ups need to think about branding from the start. Start-ups are actually positioning and branding themselves from the first time they ask a friend or family member to support their idea”.

Pinckert further added, “The problem is that as start-ups assess their priorities, branding is often thought of as something that comes later when they are ready to launch”. Like Pinckert there are several others who have also emphasized that personal branding of individuals that comprise the start-up can be a focus, since investors are looking for credibility in a team.

Although a great product is a plus point however if branding of the same is not done in the right way, it will not reach out to the target audience and stand tall among its competitors. However most of the start-ups still feel that branding is something that needs to be done later as it is looked at as a liability because of the heavy budgets involved in branding activities.

However they fail to note that big players in the market like Coke, Google, Yahoo etc. still spend a lot of time, money and energy in branding activities to sustain in the market.

What is branding? Branding is not merely giving a name to a product and launching it in the market. It is creating awareness and bringing loyalty towards your product / brand among the consumers. It can be done in various ways apart from the traditional branding activities eg: PR and social media platforms which are the latest method of quick branding and awareness among the target audience.

With latest developments in technology, a brand can be created or destroyed in seconds with mass consumer reviews online. Word of mouth has now translated into “reviews online” or viral campaigns that get shared within seconds over the internet.

Some ignorant strategists look at branding with the hope of generating direct business. They fail to understand that branding is not primarily used for generating sales. It is a medium to reach out to your potential target audience and create awareness for your brand which in turn brings in business and brand loyalty at a later stage. It is setting stage for your brand and paving in-roads into a market which might already have leaders in the segment you want to cater to.

Not to Forget: Amazon, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram and virtually every tech company you can think of has become successful with not any traditional marketing activities but with just good PR, viral marketing, and word-of-mouth.

Now whichever side of the branding argument ‘to start early or wait’ you might fall on, here are few quick things to consider before you take a plunge:

  • Who is your target audience? – Knowing your target audience is a must!
  • Have you identified or checked your social media push or lack of it, tells you about your company at the early stage?
  • Does your CXOs and other leadership team using social media? If yes, then how do they use it?
  • If potential customers/users had to describe your product/company to someone else, what would they say about you or what would you want them to say about you?
  • Have you checked the message sent by your ideal larger companies whom you may want to emulate to their customers? And what tools do they use for the awareness program?
  • Have you thought about the message you would like to give to the general public through publications about your company and your products?
  • What does your website, which is quite often the first interaction point for users, say about your business?

Maybe all of the above questions would have popped up in your minds, if you’re a start-up. If not then give it a thought.

Aaron Shapiro, CEO of global brand strategy agency Huge once quoted, “In the tech world, there are no truly original ideas; everything is somewhat similar to what someone else is doing. So, you need a way to communicate what your start-up does with a special twist.”

We all know that every company can develop ideas, scrap ideas, make reports, do research and get back to the ideating stage whenever they want or whenever their products do not work in the market. However one might not get a second chance to create a first impression especially on the potential customers. So let’s keep branding closer and create a brand impact at the first instance itself!

Shaiju Mathew is an Indian author, social media strategist, blogger, reviewer, screenplay writer, and short film director, known for his 2010 book Knocked Up and short film Planchette. For more information please visit his webpage or blog You can also check him out on Wikipedia (

9 Mistakes Brands Should Avoid While On Social Media Platforms


Social Media is a huge thing today in the market. Every brand has a social media page or a profile to connect with their fans and target audiences. However are we on the social media domain only for the sake of being there because every other company has one? Or do you really believe in the magic of social media that will definitely help transform your brand online and in turn help sales.

Many so called experts who do not know much about the power of social media marketing feels that it is one more platform to generate sales and increase profitability. However it is not so. Studies show that as of January 2014, 74 percent of all internet users were on social networking sites. So it means, your brand has a huge chunk of potential fan base who can turn into your brand loyalists and spread the word for you if you connect with them correctly. In short, social media marketing or networking is an easier way to create awareness for your brand.

Creating a brand takes a huge effort however a small mistake can lead to hurting your brand’s reputation which in turn will lead to bigger and harsher consequences. In my opinion there are 9 mistakes every brand should avoid while they are on any of the social networking sites;

1) Giving Access to Wrong People: First and foremost you need to understand why you are on the social media networking sites. Obviously the answer is to connect with your potential fan base and to share your voice with them. How can one do that – simple, hire a social media strategist who has a good experience on the social media platforms.

Rather I have noticed couple of start-ups and brands who resort to hiring or engaging unqualified people with least experience on the social media platforms to cut costs. However they fail to understand that like any other marketing and sales function, social media is also a specialized field and a qualified individual will make a huge difference as every brand is unique and needs to be handled in a specialized way. So STOP involving people who have ‘ZERO’ knowledge about how social networking functions.

2) Stop Being Unoriginal: Being original always makes you unique and brings credibility to your brand. Therefore avoid sharing images, posts and information that you find on the internet that might tarnish your brand’s reputation. Like John Rampton (social media strategist) once said, “You want to establish yourself as an authority figure in your industry, as well as engage your audience. But you can’t do that by rehashing the work of others.” So in short develop original content that will appeal to your specific target audience which in turn will increase traffic and promote sales.

3) Hijacking Hashtags: Create original and exclusive hashtag for your brand as studies have shown that pictures and posts shared with hashtags receive more likes than those without. Always use hashtag with caution as their might be times when your hashtag will be hijacked to tarnish your brand. A famous example is of McDonald’s who asked their customers to share their #McDstories without specifying much about the kind of stories they were intending at. Resultant, people spoke of their horrific experiences with McD rather than telling heartwarming stories that the brand was expecting. So always define your hashtag clearly so that it reaches the target audience instead of it getting hijacked.

4) Spamming Your Followers: Sharing posts on a regular basis is very important however do not get carried away and post too many that your followers might just unfollow you and move away. What is good for one social media platform might not be good for the other and therefore they are unique and different. So how much is too much, you might ask. According to popular studies one should follow the below frequency calendar for the popular sites viz; Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+.

  • Facebook: Although experts say 1 post every two days. Studies say max two posts a day, 7 days a week.
  • Twitter: 1 Post every four hours, however depending on your brand you can increase it to 1 Post every 2 hours on week days and 1 post every 3 hours on weekends.
  • Linkedin: Strictly 1 post a day and avoid weekends.
  • Google+: 2 Posts a day and avoid weekends.

5) Not Understanding Your Platform Of Choice: Only because there are several social media platforms it is not necessary for you to open an account everywhere. Understand which platform will work well for your brand and give you maximum exposure. Although Facebook is a popular medium it only gives exposure to 10% of your page followers rest you need to pay for boosting your post to reach out to wider audience because its business for both you and Facebook. Therefore it is necessary to understand the distinct nature or use of each platform to set realistic goals and to also get the maximum value out of marketing over a specific social media platform.

6) Social Media Can Replace Your Website or Blog: Social media platforms can never replace your website or blog. What works for you today might not work tomorrow on any social media platform. Therefore it is very necessary to link your social media platforms to your website or blog to divert traffic to them. Ultimately any form of marketing should bring value to your product and here it is your website or blog.

7) Not Tracking the Progress or Impact Of Your Social Media Platforms: Just being present on a social media platform does not help. One has to track if your posts are reaching out to your target audience and if they are driving traffic to your website or blog. Without researching on the same you wont be able to find out the effectiveness of your campaigns. There are several tools in the market which can help you monitor your campaigns viz; Spredfast, Sysomos, Viralheat, UberVU, Sprout Special and Google Analytics (which is widely and commonly used). Apart from the tools mentioned earlier, Social Media Examiner too has a guide that can help you track your ROI (Return on Investment).

8) Paying For Fake Fans, Likes and Shares: When you see huge number of fans and followers on your profile it might give you an ego boost. Moreover when you get likes and shares on every post you publish it is again a wonderful feeling as you can gauge from the response how popular your brand is among its target audience. However if the fans, shares and likes are genuine and not fake then you can actually be happy and ecstatic as brand awareness is automatically done by your genuine fans. Alas these days fans, likes and shares are doctored and bought which most of the time are fake and do not contribute much to your brand apart from giving you a false ego boost seeing the numbers. Avoid it completely!

9) Never Get Too Personal: Your brand will have its own identity and personality which is essential for it to stand out from other brands. It is also essential for the people associated with the logo to be identified in the market. However never get too personal with your social media profiles as it might hurt your fans sentiments and hurt your brand in turn. Sharing posts that might hurt people’s religious sentiments, political bent, gender or class discrimination apart from engaging in negative feedback eg: Amy’s Baking Company is something to be avoided completely as it will not only make you unpopular amongst your fans, but you will also lose out on genuine prospective fans as bad news travels faster.

These are few loud pointers one need to remember when you are building a new social media page or promoting an existing one. Say a big NO to these 9 pointers and then you can definitely see a better and wider reach for your Brand without hurting it on the social networking sites!

Shaiju Mathew is an Indian author, social media strategist, blogger, reviewer, screenplay writer, and short film director, known for his 2010 book Knocked Up and short film Planchette. For more information please visit his webpage or blog You can also check him out on Wikipedia (

4 Major Trends In Social Media Marketing You Cannot Miss In 2015!


With every year forward every trade analyst and market researcher predicts few trends to watch out for in the coming year. Like every marketing platform, even social media marketing can watch out for some notable trends in 2015. For most of the so called marketers, strategy for social media generally involves throwing some words in a box, posting, and linking it to their latest product or service and it is no rocket science to figure out that this kind of strategy will fall flat on its face. However, change-creators in the marketing industry like to do things slightly different. If we do some research around then we can conclude that most of the top brands go ahead and achieve greater success by using the following four social media marketing trends:

1) Video Marketing To Go Beyond YouTube: In the year 2014 one would have noticed that YouTube was used extensively for video marketing. However a general look on the social media platform will show subtly branded videos are today popping up everywhere—on Vine, Google+, Instagram, Facebook etc. reaffirming the theory that attention grabbing, innovative, short videos will not only be reserved to YouTube in the coming year – 2015.

Moreover the monopoly of YouTube was challenged when about 1 billion video views on an average every day were viewed as per Facebook Newsroom reports on Facebook. In September 2014, Facebook released a “call to action tool” for publishers and content creators where the tool invites consumers to visit a particular website, make purchases or view branded or related videos in an organic and natural way. So I foresee Video Marketing going beyond YouTube in 2015.

2) Expansion of Instagram Advertising: As per early predictions the future for paid social ads in 2015 looks fuzzy as the ROI for such paid ads are well below expectations. According to Forrester, “social media users do not engage with social content very often”. Their findings were based upon a study on 3 million user interactions with more than 2,500 brand posts on seven popular social networks out of which six achieved an engagement rate less than 0.1 percent for most of the brands. In short for every 1 million fans on Facebook for a certain brand, each post had around 700 likes which was very low.

However one should not get disheartened as the future for one growing social network i.e. Instagram isn’t all that bleak. Forrester’s report showcased that Instagram posts generated 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement on Twitter.

So what are you waiting for? If your brand is not finding success on Facebook, try Instagram instead in 2015. The social network isn’t reserved for youth-centric brands as companies like Ford and General Electric have found success on Instagram.

3) Brand Publishing Will Be The New Content Marketing: Yes you read it right! Brand publishing is the new content marketing as it is more authentic and transparent as it keeps consumers engaged for longer periods of time by building relationships. Unlike content marketing, brand publishing requires a little more care as some marketers foolishly believe that content marketing exists solely to sell a product which it isn’t. AdWeek insists that all content exists to tell a story, no matter the platform—from tweet or blog post. So, 2014s content marketers will evolve into content publishers in 2015.

4) Image-Based Content Will Be The New In-Thing: There is a huge misconception around that social media platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram are only for selfies, home decor and recipes however it isn’t so. The image based social media platforms are going to be the first choice for many small and large businesses to help their businesses connect with their customers and fan-base. Many brands have understood the fact that visual stories help fans and general people to connect and identify with them and their products. Therefore showing off products, events and employees in pictorial format establishes the fact that your brand has a human side and allows your follower to get to know you a little better.There are many social media platforms and there will be many more coming in, however you need to understand that what might be good for one brand might not be good for the other. Understand the strength of your brand, identify your fan-base and then choose your social media platform to connect with them. Hope you and your business has a successful stint over the social networks in 2015!

Shaiju Mathew is an Indian author, social media strategist, blogger, reviewer, screenplay writer, and short film director, known for his 2010 book Knocked Up and short film Planchette. For more information please visit his webpage or blog You can also check him out on Wikipedia (

#Hashtag – Have You Tried It Yet?


If you are a regular social media person then you would have come across many a post with a hashtag these days. Maybe you have also used it blindly, following the footsteps of others on your profile or in your social media circuit. However, have you wondered why most of the people use a hashtag? What is the importance of doing so? Have you heard of Twitter hashtags? Have you noticed why these days does trending topics on social media come with a hashtag attached to it? Probably you might have not given a thought until and unless you are a marketeer and trying to promote your or your client’s brand presence on the social media platforms with a hashtag. Today let me run you through the importance of a hashtag and if you can create your own.

Purpose Of Having A Hashtag: It all began as a humble idea where a tweeter adds the # symbol (popularly known as the hash key on your telephone) in front of a word or a word group with no spaces in between turning that phrase into a link. Moreover, by doing so you allow Twitter to categorize the tweet and group it with others who have tweeted using the same hashtag. So in a way, come to think of the hashtag as a keyword tag and it is quite simple to understand and when anybody searches for a particular hashtag then they might receive an entire list of tweets which contains that particular hashtag. It sounds wonderful as the person searching for the same is happy to see all the posts with that particular hashtag and so are you as the originator because you;

  • are projected to a new audience
  • have new participants to your conversation
  • opinions are visible to others and to whom it matters
  • found a like-minded audience who are eager to read what you have to say

But is that all one gets out of a hashtag? No, I am not done here because with the right hashtag added to your posts, the number of re-tweets go rising and in no time your posts go viral grabbing the attention of bigger and wider audience who are new and in turn you get a new set of followers too.

Benefits To A Marketeer: On a daily basis Twitter processes around 355 billion+ tweets and therefore a smart marketeer who does not want his tweet to get lost in the crowd, will carefully choose the most potent hashtags to reach out to his target audience eg: Domino’s Pizza UK reduced the price of its featured flavor by one cent each time someone tweeted with the hashtag #letsdolunch during pre-set times. Only one cent per order – but enough motivation to generate 85,000 tweets and an accumulation of “crowd-sourced savings” large enough to ensure some diners ended up with giant discounts.

So are you excited enough to create your own hashtag? It is not very difficult however you need to ascertain few things before you proceed.

  1. Decide upon a hashtag that you want to create.
  2. The hashtag should not be long and needs to be somewhat descriptive for your target audience to understand what it means.
  3. Run a search on the social media networks to find out if the hashtag is already taken or not.
  4. Register your hashtag on Twubs or

So now you are ready to start using your hashtag. Unlike a domain name, a hashtag does not have exclusivity as anybody can use it and there are times when someone might use it against you. These things cannot be controlled, however by setting up an automatic email alert tool might help you in identifying when and where your hashtag is being used ( I would suggest Twilert).

Initially it will only be you who will be using it, however do not worry as it will soon be picked up by your supporters and via them their supporters, in turn creating a chain. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start ‘Hashtagging’!

Shaiju Mathew is an Indian author, social media strategist, blogger, reviewer, screenplay writer, and short film director, known for his 2010 book Knocked Up and short film Planchette. For more information please visit his webpage or blog You can also check him out on Wikipedia (

Big Eyes – Amy Adams & Christoph Waltz Rock!

The awards season are here and so are my reviews of the latest movies that are receiving some wonderful accolades at these functions. So today I am going to start the series with Tim Burton produced and directed real life story of Margaret KeaneBig Eyes. The movie stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz who have been winning one award after the other.

The story tells the turbulent relationship between Walter Keane (Waltz) and Margaret Keane (Adams). Margaret is a good artist who paints children with big eyes. Her work go majorly unnoticed in the early 1950’s and soon she falls in love and marries Walter Keane a fellow artist who promises to give her and her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye) security and protection from her ex-husband.

Walter soon starts showcasing her and his creations at every gallery and influential people unless a tiff in a bar makes him a national figure and mistakes Margaret’s paintings to be his. Soon people start noticing his work (originally made by his wife) and he becomes a national celebrity and the big eyes kids paintings become a sensation. Using his marketing savvy, he sells the prints cheaply in hardware stores and gas stations across the United States while Margaret is relegated to the background.

Slowly the tensions between the couple heighten when an intoxicated and infuriated Walter tries to set fire Margaret and Jane who escape to Hawaii. Margaret lodges a complaint against Walter claiming the ownership of the paintings ending up in an ugly court fight.

Performances by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz is outstanding. Both the actors fit the role to the ‘T’ and bring to life the celebrity couple onscreen. The story, screenplay and dialogues are quite gripping. The period setup looks authentic. Tim Burton has done justice to the subject and comes up triumphant.

On the whole its a wonderful movie and therefore every accolade coming its way is well deserved.

My Verdict: ****
Poor – *, Average – **, Good – ***, Very Good – ****, Excellent – *****