Startups have to walk a fine line. While they’re inherently innovative and forward-looking, they can’t be so focused on the future that they forget about today. In other words, neglecting current growth and market share for what lies ahead is a surefire recipe for squandered potential and a distinctly bleak forecast.
Branding is a startup’s best tool to walk that line, establishing a market presence to serve today’s needs, build brand equity, and generate revenue while continuing to innovate for tomorrow. Design is what drives a startup’s brand, distinguishes it from the competition, and helps carve out market share that serves as a foundation to build from.
Given our insights into the many aspects of a successful startup, ranging from branding to boundary-pushing technology and most points between, Trackmind wanted to lend a handful of best practices to help startup companies leverage design and establish a unique and enduring brand that appeals, engages, and ultimately converts. Keep these design tips in mind while developing your brand and give your startup a competitive edge that separates you from the pack.
1. Budget for Design
The typical startup doesn’t have the luxury of deep pockets and vast resources to fulfill its every wish. However, design is just as much an essential investment as R&D or technology, requiring a sufficient budget to properly develop a brand’s look, tone, and message. In a digitally driven world, design serves as the face of an organization, what potential customers see and experience while looking for the ideal product or service provider.
Whether you’re crowdsourced, angel invested, issued equity, or ran up a pocketful of credit cards, segment a portion of your budget to hire a designer that fits your sensibilities if you lack the in-house expertise. Poor design demonstrates inexperience and inauthenticity that works against your efforts to develop market share and, thus, does far more harm than good.
2. First Impressions Mean Everything
When designing your brand, keep in mind that it’s the first few seconds a customer experiences your brand that are the most pivotal. Inhabit the perspective of your customer, imagining the process of scrolling through countless competing companies and giving each a second of time, maybe two on a good day, while looking for one that grabs your attention.
Your design should be the one that captures that attention, giving your company and brand the opportunity to tell its story and explain what makes you different, makes you better, and why that potential customer should choose you rather than the myriad other choices in the marketplace. This notion is accomplished by both the design itself as well as how you distribute your message.
For instance, if you’re in a traditional, somewhat stoic industry, a design that emphasizes bold colors and shapes that’s distributed by an aggressive social media campaign could very well garner attention that competing companies fail to grasp. Granted, you will always want to convey professionalism and expertise, but that doesn’t mean your design must blend into the background like everyone else’s brand.
3. Learn From the Best
Developing brand equity doesn’t require your startup to continually conquer uncharted territory. Every startup, no matter the industry, has brand heroes that it looks towards for inspiration and direction. With your design, integrate elements of other brands that fit well within your vision and core competencies, creating a sense of familiarity between your design and customer base that immediately triggers some sort of emotional response that helps develop a bond.
Ideally, you want both current and potential customers — whether you’re B2B or B2C startup— to feel something when they see your logo, pick up your product, or browse through your website. Countless studies have shown that successful brands are those that create and foster a deep engagement with their customer base, one that relies on emotional bonds that are conducive to brand loyalty and recognition. A startup that successfully uses design to develop those critical components of brand equity has a solid footing that should serve them well into the future.
4. Design for Tomorrow
Speaking of the future, enduring brands utilize evergreen design elements that age well and don’t become antiquated and passé without constant alterations. Likewise, consistency in design is vital to maintaining those aforementioned emotional bonds and brand recognition. Once again, familiarity plays a pivotal role in the ultimate success of your brand. While you want to avoid uniformity in your messaging, consistent tones and palettes can ensure that your design is impactful today and tomorrow.
5. Let Your Startup Design Grow With You
Most startups are still acquainting themselves with their target audience as they develop their design and brand. As such, there will always be room to evolve as the company refines itself over time. Your brand needs and deserves room to breathe and grow with your company and its place within the overall market. A startup’s brand can and should be different from a well-established company’s which, therefore, means their design should be different as well. Rebranding on rare occasions is necessary for drastic changes in direction or to reach an entirely new audience. However, a comprehensive rebranding effort is the exception, not the rule, as a consistent design that evolves over time can be a startup’s best friend.
Your startup likely only has one chance to make a name for itself before it’s swallowed by the vastness of the marketplace and funding runs out. Implement these best practices into your design thinking and give your company the best opportunity to develop brand equity that serves you well today and into the future. Foundery5 will be here every step of the way to provide further guidance, support, and incomparable expertise to help your startup reach its goals.
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