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 www.shaijumathew.com or blog www.shaiju-mathew.blogspot.in. You can also check him out on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaiju_Mathew)