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Startup Branding 101: Get Brand-Market Fit with 5 Simple Tactics

There’s a myth among startup founders. This myth is that in a moment of inspiration, their business name and branding will magically come to them. And so founders hold meetings where people throw ideas around until something “feels right.”

This is a terrible approach to branding your startup.

Making business decisions based on something “feeling right” in the moment almost always guarantees that your company will need to rebrand within a year. This is due to an obvious, but often overlooked reason: no one asked your target customers what they thought.

While most startups gather customer research to determine product-market fit, many of them forget that their branding should also be rooted in research to get brand-market fit.

Below are 5 simple tactics you can use to guide your research to develop branding that will resonate with your audience.

1. Talk to your customers

If you don’t have customers yet, talk to your target customers or even your target demographic.

This doesn’t have to be a big production. It can be as straightforward as taking them out for coffee and asking them open-ended questions:

  • What they think about your competitors’ brands
  • What brands they like (and what they like about them)
  • What they think is most interesting about your company
  • What they think about your existing branding

Pay close attention to the language they use in their answers you’ll want to incorporate it into your branding and copy because it will have a high likelihood of resonating with other potential customers.

2. Consolidate all feedback into a target customer profile

Take everything you’ve just learned from your coffee meetings and turn it into a visual display. This can be done in any program you’re comfortable with Keynote, Powerpoint, Photoshop, Word, etc. You can even go old-school and pin print-outs to a wall.

The point is to get all of the information in front of you at once, categorize it by type (for example: visuals, language, likes, and dislikes) and then look for patterns in responses.

3. Create a mood board

At this point you should be able to start forming basic assumptions about your target customer’s preferences. (if you can’t, keep having those coffee meetings)

Based on the profile you’ve assembled, spend a little time searching online for logos, images, typography, headlines, advertisements, and language that aligns with your target customer’s preferences. Once you feel like you’ve collected enough examples, edit them down to those that are most likely to appeal to your customer, and arrange them onto a single mood board.

Again, this part can be done in whatever program you’re most comfortable using. The point is that the editing process will help you dramatically narrow the focus of your brand’s creative direction.

4. Start developing your branding

With your customer profile and mood board in front of you (and in collaboration with your team, if you have one), now is the time to engage a professional graphic designer. You and your designer should start developing a company name, logo, color palette, and typography.

Your designer will be able to help you continue to edit down all of this information. You’ll establish a clear vision for your brand. And together you’ll begin crafting custom branding assets.

5. Don’t forget your competition

You need to make sure your new brand direction meets your strategic goals (for instance: do you want to fit in, or stand out from your industry?). You also need to compare your brand to your competitors’ brands.

The best way to do this is to put everything side-by-side and consider it all at once.

  • Does your brand look better and more desirable than your competitors?
  • Does your brand stand out?
  • Would a customer considering a purchase think your business looked like a good option? (one way to find out is to ask some of them directly!)

When you answer these questions, keep in mind one very important thing:

Your brand isn’t for you. It’s for your customers.

Unless you accurately represent your target customer, keep your personal preferences in check.

Get Brand-Market Fit

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