News & Views

Opinion / Branding: The Time Is Now

by Contagious Contributor
Uri Baruchin, head of strategy at The Partners, shares his three tips for entrepreneurs working on branding, in order to reap the benefits of strategic design thinking.

Branding has been around for long enough that most entrepreneurs know they need to spend time and money on it. However, with the number of challenges a young business deals with, they often end up with underwhelming results that hold back growth.

It’s tempting to think you could simply use some quick and dirty placeholder branding and improve it later when you have more time and money. After all, this iterative approach works well with other aspects of your business. Sadly, that’s not how branding works.

1. Let your brand guide your way

Your branding communicates who you are not only to your intended audience, but also to your team, potential investors, the media and other partners. It’s a tool that can take the opportunities and advantages at the core of your business plan, and make them tangible and compelling for anyone who interacts with your company. At the same time it helps your own team stay true to the cause and avoid distractions.

Evernote’s elephant might not win many beauty pageants, but it clearly captures what the company is about. ‘Remembering everything’ across all devices has led its product development and communications since day one. This focus has allowed it to overtake a giant like Microsoft, who had a compelling offering in that space in the form of the formerly much-loved ‘OneNote’ app.

2. A system of tools, rather than pretty pictures

Too often, branding becomes the prima donna of the marketing suite, leaving the ‘dirty work to the sales team. That's why we have brands with graphically pleasing identities that don’t work across channels.

An attractive and compelling graphic identity will only take you so far. You’ll need a strategic design platform that can be consistently leveraged out in the market.

3. Craft your branding with digital in mind

Many young businesses approach their branding as if it’s living mainly offline (e.g. business cards, letterhead, livery) and tell their story in a linear way (e.g. text, TV, radio). At best they’ll ensure that the logo can ‘square well’ for use in app icons and social platform avatars.

Digital means so much more for your branding. It demands non-linear storytelling and customer participation. It needs to be brutally simple yet differentiated. And it often needs to move.

A highly demanding design brief, but getting it right opens the door to a universe of opportunities.

Netflix’s new global brand is an example of getting it right. Born chiefly as a mail service, the move to streaming online across multiple devices pointed to substantial gaps in their tool-box. The new, dynamic cards system serves them much better in a wider variety of scenarios, many of which could not have been anticipated – but if you’re a digital business created in 2015, rather than Netflix’s 1997, many of yours could.

Looking at successful brands around us, it’s easy to forget most brands start small.

Consider Innocent smoothies, an overnight success story that’s now 15 years old.

Easy to overlook is the fact it took Innocent eight years to grow to 100 employees. Innocent has been driven by its brand from the first music festival the founders attended, asking customers ‘should we quit our jobs to make smoothies?’ by binning their cups into two bins saying yes/no. From packaging and adverts, to charity activity and new product development, Innocent’s consistently clear brand definition has driven it to great heights. 

As an entrepreneur, your first 12-36 months are a period of rapid growth and business development. During this time your brand will serve you on multiple levels.

Placeholder branding often costs the same as producing a beautiful, useful, system that can help guide your business long term. You get one chance to do it properly, so do it early, do it right and reap the benefits.