min read

Startup branding: How to get it right

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of leading a startup company, you’ll be acutely aware of the breakneck pressure of those crucial early days. Between sourcing your funding, building a competent team, and pouring all your hopes and dreams into a one-in-a-million idea, it can feel like a daunting task to get your project off the ground.

And that’s before you even reach the conundrum of branding.

Nowadays, an eye-watering 305 million startups enter the market each year — but only one in ten survive. You’ll need to do everything in your power to set yours apart, catching both investor and consumer attention. Your product, marketing and other collateral needs to do more than just look the part — they need to convince stakeholders that you’re a professional, pioneering enterprise that’s going to flip the market on its head.

Basically, you’ll need a bulletproof startup branding strategy, which is where we can help. Let’s take a look at exactly how you can get your startup branding right, using the insights we’ve gained from countless exciting projects.

Branding for Air Traffic Control

What is startup branding?

Startup branding is the tactical process behind building a unique, compelling identity for a newly established business. Traditionally, startups are looking to flip the script on a specific market niche — and this is reflected by a distinct visual identity to differentiate the brand.

This way, pioneering entrepreneurs can establish a recognisable image for themselves and communicate the company’s mission to their target audience — stealing the attention from bigger brands that have already accrued a good deal of market dominance.

How is startup branding different to general branding?

Unlike more general branding, startup branding emphasises the creation of a unique visual identity for businesses that only have a limited market presence. This is because startups face the unique challenge of building recognition and demand from scratch, which typically requires a more innovative approach to brand development.

As a result, startup branding features campaigns to identify the new company's unique positioning in the market and drum up interest in product or service launches, as well as investor attention.

On the other hand, more mature companies might focus on the branding elements that have already brought them customer recognition, such as an iconic colour scheme, an ad mascot, or a USP — emphasising their role as a market leader.

Logo mark exploration for Snowball

What are the key elements of branding for startups?

There are plenty of moving parts to pin down when building your startup branding strategy. Ultimately, these components will go on to inform the creation and distribution of any assets you create as a business — be it a social media reel, a thought leadership article, or even a product launch event.

Here are the main elements to consider:

  • Brand identity — In curating your picture-perfect brand identity, you’ll need to design a range of visual elements. This typically involves designing a memorable logo, selecting distinct colours and fonts, and developing a cohesive visual language for designers and marketers to adhere to. A consistent visual identity across print, your product, and all digital channels will help establish immediate recognition in your audience — and demonstrate to stakeholders that you’re a professional enterprise.

  • Brand story — Another integral component of startup branding is a compelling brand story. Every famous business has one — whether it’s having started in the founder’s garage or wanting to solve a problem faced by millions of customers around the globe. Messaging about who you are, what you stand for, and where you come from is essential for connecting with the audience on an emotional level. This narrative should convey the startup's mission, values, and the problem it aims to solve, creating an authentic connection with potential customers.

  • Brand voice — On a related note, articulating your brand story requires a defined brand voice. Developing a consistent tone of voice will help create a personality for the startup. Whether it's friendly, professional, or quirky, your style of communication will contribute once more to the cohesiveness of your brand and reinforce your image in accordance with your market position.

We collaborated with UK marketing agency Ascendant on a new visual direction for their logo, colour scheme, photography and iconography. Our work gave the team a concrete design philosophy to apply across all materials, bringing prestige to the brand mark with a stylish asset pack.

Why is startup branding important?

So far, we’ve spoken a lot about the definition of startup branding and the different factors that go into building the perfect identity for your business. But to truly prepare for your startup branding campaign, we need to dig a little deeper into the ‘why’ before we get to the ‘how’.

1. Market differentiation

Startup branding is crucial for establishing a unique identity in a crowded market. By carefully crafting a distinct brand for your startup, you can differentiate from competitors and make it easier for consumers to recognise and remember your product offering amid a wide array of options.

When marketing your product or service, you’ll be going up against alternative providers that have already established themselves as instantly recognisable brands. Essentially, this means that a customer with a unique need will be thinking of their name before they think of yours. However, a strong branding presence can help wrestle some of the audience’s attention away from the major players.

In this sense, your brand identity becomes a foundational element in building trust and credibility with your target audience — which will eventually lead to their conversion into paying customers.

2. Attracting investor funding and talent

Strong startup branding plays a pivotal role in attracting investors and securing funding. In these early stages of starting your business, you need to hit the ground running. While you might have initial equity or loans to kickstart your venture, they probably won’t last forever. So, if you’re going to keep the momentum going and chase the shortest possible runway to profit, then you’ll need investor backing.

Investors are more likely to support a startup with a compelling and well-defined brand identity, as it demonstrates the founders' understanding of their market, audience, and competitive landscape. A cohesive and appealing brand, communicated through components like your visuals, story, and voice, will instil confidence in potential investors. This will increase your chances of securing the financial backing needed for growth.

But investors aren’t the only stakeholders who need convincing. As your venture grows, your team will need to grow with it — and appealing branding will go a long way towards attracting and retaining the best talent in the biz.

3. Building a customer base

You’ve got the audience, you’ve got the investors, and you’ve got the staff — but you still need the loyal customer base. Startup branding is essential for building trust and fostering loyalty among your new customers. A well-crafted brand communicates a startup's values, mission, and commitment to quality, creating a positive perception in the minds of your audience.

As customers begin to associate your brand with positive experiences and reliable products or services, trust will build, leading to long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. After all, the very best marketing is the marketing you don’t need to pay for — but if your company is going to sell itself, then it needs the right foundations for the job.

Live-in care startup Elder aims to transform how the UK cares for the elderly — a noble and ambitious task. To get started, Elder needed to convince its investors not only of the value of the mission, but the competence of the team behind it. We helped produce investment-ready pitch decks that distilled the Elder message into digestible slides, with a clean layout and professional touch. Elder raised millions from its Series B fund and has won awards for its impressive service.

How to get startup branding right

We’ve worked with some big brands, many of whom come to us with a pre-determined brief, a way of doing things, and a sizeable customer base that they want to expand. But in other circumstances, our talented team of designers have been the ones to take these brands to the top — all the way from startup status.

We work hard to define audience personas, understand brand values, and devise the most productive ways to showcase these. We’re always learning on the job and thinking up new techniques to push the envelope of startup branding. So, over the years, we’ve developed some tried-and-tested methods for ensuring startup branding success.

Here are some of the techniques we draw upon to brand our startup partners and ensure their story is one that gets heard.

1. Establish clear-cut brand guidelines

We start by establishing a compelling design framework for our startup partners, ensuring consistency in visual elements for all future collateral. This uniformity helps set new companies up for immediate brand recognition, fostering trust and credibility among its audience.

We take care to implement the same visual system across each touchpoint, be it digital platforms or print materials, for the most memorable brand presence possible. At this stage, we’re in the throes of deep collaboration — researching the niche and competitors, brainstorming, presenting our ideas to the startup, then refining them based on feedback on logos, typography, and more.

2. Present a consistent visual identity to investors

Maintaining a consistent visual identity is vital, even across non-public-facing comms. This will help instil confidence in potential financial backers in a critical stage for funding. We work to build a cohesive, well-defined brand aesthetic for startups’ investor pitch decks that will communicate a sense of reliability and strategic thinking.This can also help green team members at startups to understand the brand’s values and objectives, making for a unified culture that will shine through in any funding rounds and pitches.

3. Embed brand identity into your product

One of the largest touchpoints you’ll need to consider is, of course, your product. This is especially true if you’ve created a digital product to be regularly navigated by your audience. Our designers build user flows and applications that incorporate core brand elements such as logos, colour schemes and accessibility features into the product design, assisting with usability and the creation of a recognisable brand identity.This builds immediate brand recall and also reinforces a startup’s values and personality, forming a crucial connection between the product and overall brand experience.

We’re proud to say that very few applications have as distinctive a look as basketball startup Hoops. Here, we incorporated slick NBA-style visuals and user flows into the app, inspired by jerseys and mascots from real basketball teams. The punchy colour scheme and component library embedded the Hoops brand right into the interface of the app, creating an instantly recognisable identity that could rival more established competitors.

Build your startup branding strategy with Shoreditch Design

If you have a fledgling idea you’re just getting off the ground, or you’ve started to get the ball rolling on your very own startup company, Shoreditch Design can help take it to the next level. Our talented bunch of designers are our in-house experts when it comes to branding for startups.

For more inspiration for  your startup branding strategy, take a look at some of our work for startups or get in touch with a member of the team for a chat about your business’ design needs.

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