I’d like to challenge a common start-up misconception that you don’t need to consider branding until after you have your product.
I have worked with a lot of startups and early-stage food businesses and find that frequently there’s a fully developed product, but not a full understanding of the “brand” that inspired it. The simple truth is you should be building your brand at the same time you are developing your product.
Branding is a process of self-discovery. It starts with insight and strategy and finishes with execution. Insight and strategy inform product development as much as they form the nucleus of a brand. Branding enables you to understand why you’re in business in the first place. It brings clarity and purpose to what you are doing so that you know how to talk about your product the moment you start asking people to support it.
Businesses that skip this part of their development tend to stagnate compared to ones that go through the process at the beginning. Skip it all together and success becomes questionable at best.
Here are five questions that startups should answer to start developing the brand that will support their product from the start.
1) What is your story?
People connect with stories. They create meaning for your brand and its audience. People need to hear and believe your story before they will trust you. So ask yourself, what is our story? Is it meaningful? Is it believable? Why should anyone care?
2) What’s the most magnificent vision you have for your business?
Articulate your vision without constraints. Don’t worry about time or money or people. This type of thinking improves your ability to think big. Picture what you truly desire and take the necessary steps to move your business towards that vision.
3) What need are you fulfilling?
Just because you’ve found a giant hole in a market or category doesn’t mean that you’ll find success there. What you’re providing to your customer must have value, and it makes sense to determine if that value is strong enough to propel your business towards your most magnificent vision.
4) How will you grow?
Your customer will rarely match the love you have for your product. And it’s rare that a product becomes so wildly popular that it ushers your brand forward on the shoulders of consumer advocates alone. You must have bona fide enthusiasm for selling your product and driving your business forward. It’s great to love what you do yet equally important to love your business model and know how to navigate the turns and obstacles you will encounter. Have a plan for where you’re going and how you will incrementally define success.
5) Why will you succeed?
I saved the most challenging question for last. Do you have what it takes to create a vision for your future and the discipline to see it through? A great product alone can’t get you over every obstacle. Will everything you do communicate your authenticity as a brand and will those expressions be understood and appreciated by your customers?
For the record, I ask a lot more questions when I work with clients to develop their brands. Are you ready to dig even deeper? Maybe now is a perfect time.