By Women 2.0
A good brand is one of the most valuable assets any business can cultivate. Developing it is also an ongoing process that can be time and resource consuming for a startup – especially when a company is still finding its voice and key product focus. Here are 3 very simple rules that any startup should implement from the beginning to create a solid branding foundation (and no- it doesn’t involve creating the perfect logo).
As the founder of your start up you’ve found a target market that needs your product or service. You’ve probably come to this conclusion through one or a combination of these three avenues:
- You are the target market and your startup is going to fulfill a need you personally felt.
- You’ve worked or are close to an industry that has a need for your product or service.
- Your peers or network is in need of this product or service.
This analysis of the market which drove you to start your business is the research with which you will start to implement branding guidelines in your company.
RULE #1: Color is king.
Color psychology is the study into how color affects human perception, enhances experiences and affects behavior. Red is a great example on how it can alter human perception: It is a color associated with strength, war, fire, anger and passion. Now let’s say you are opening a spa center. Though red may catch clients eyes rapidly, it will not evoke any sense of the service you are providing. One must also keep in mind that the different hues of a color can represent a wide array of signals. For example, green is associated with the outdoors and nature and thus tends to either evoke a feeling of safety and calm or energy, youth and growth.
A good case study on this is: Mint.com. Before Mint.com was sold to Intuit for 170 million in 2009, it had taken on the challenge of becoming a trustworthy tool to manage your day to day finances. This means giving access to a third party to all of your bank information. The first versions of the product leaned towards a darker green hue that evoked money. However the largest hurdle to the acquisition of users wasn’t the concept of Mint as a financial tool, rather it was the insecurity people felt about trusting sensitive information to a third party. Mint shifted their palette towards a softer cool green which evoked feelings of security and calm. The effect was visible in their client base.
THE COLOR RULE:
From the earliest stages of your startup, train yourself as a founder to think of your product or service in terms of color. Understanding what color is needed to best communicate and connect to your target market means that as your startup’s product/service evolves and grows, so will the color scheme. As shown by Mint.com, change is okay as long as it is always in line with how you want to position your brand in the market.
For a simple guide on color associations start with Jerry Caos post here.
RULE #2: Develop your Voice.
A brand’s voice is defined as the language, vocabulary and way in which we express ourselves when speaking of our product or service. Think of it this way: you will be creating a lot of marketing content and pushing out messaging on behalf of your product as you get your startup off the ground. Consistency in voice not only makes it easier to create content rapidly across the company but it also gives your company a sense of togetherness and gravitas.
THE VOICE RULE:
As you build and iterate your startup try and ask yourself: what is the voice the consumer needs to hear to trust and connect with your product or service. Understanding your brands voice, is essential when writing content, ads or even addressing employees.
A great guide to get you started is to look at Mailchimp’s own Voice and Tone guidelines: http://styleguide.mailchimp.com/voice-and-tone/
RULE #3: Create Imagery that Captivates.
Imagery has always been a key component in connecting users to a new product or service. Starting with that first splash image on your homepage and trickling down to the icons and images in your email campaigns: consistent guidelines for the type of imagery that represents your brand will set a tone that will set you apart from other brands. Visually you want to find photography or illustrations that best marry the emotional component you’ve defined with your color choice and the voice you’ve chosen for your brand.
Here are few examples: Expensify’s website uses a rotation of photos of beautiful locations from around the world. Conveying a sense of freedom into a business area which is traditionally very stale. Their design team could have just as easily used the classic imagery of co-workers pouring over product. However that type of imagery, (other than indicating what the product is), wouldn’t convey the upside of using their product. When you enter the site to log in they are letting you know, with their imagery, that what you will be receiving for filling out your expenses with their product is time and simplicity which will give you the freedom to travel (be it for work or otherwise). Its aspirational imagery used at its best.
Here is another example of imagery done right: Airbnb.com always does a great job of using video or imagery to bring you into a space you would aspire to stay at and tie it back to the person you will be connecting to. With their imagery they create a story of connectivity and community. Though it constantly changes, you will note that there will always be an element of warmth to their photography and iconography. This consistent through-line across their product creates a feedback loop to the user which strengthens and singles out its position in the market.
THE IMAGERY RULE:
Set standards early on as to what is the type of photography or illustrations that best represent your startup. If you want to be an accessible friendly brand then aim for smiling people with relaxed postures in warm environments. If you want to convey a sense of security and strength then select images of people in power poses and structural environments.
I’ve been branding companies for over fifteen years and throughout my career and have been a part of two successful startups. Building a startup means juggling multiple moving pieces at once. This usually means branding tends to fall back in its importance level for a lot of start ups because it is a time consuming process that usually involves outside experts. However there is no reason for any startup to not analyze these three areas and define them from the start. They will empower your team and set a precedence of ground work which will only speed up your design team.
This piece originally appeared on Women 2.0.