A startup’s early days are filled with stress, long to-do lists, and uncertainty. Should branding be a priority?
In this post, we’ll explain:
- How your early-stage startup can benefit from branding
- When it’s the right time to look for branding services
- How we maximize the value of our early-stage branding work
Let’s dive in.
How Important Is Branding to Early-Stage B2B SaaS Startups?
Visual identity design is important - but branding isn’t just about logo design. Branding is the process of asking hard questions to define how a brand should look, sound, and interact with its target audiences. It exists to unite and synthesize processes that are already taking place within the company and the ecosystems where it (and its target audience) operate. The result is a unique aesthetic take that differentiates the brand and makes it resonate with customers and partners.
With that definition in mind, branding can help an early-stage startup to:
- Attract early adopters
- Build trust among early adopters & potential investors
- Communicate the company’s vision in a way that builds loyalty from early on
But, can it be “too early” to worry about branding?
Let’s take a look.
When Is the Right Time to Design an Early-Stage Startup’s Brand?
If you search for startup development stages, you’ll probably find a graphic that looks like this:
Each stage of growth will have different branding challenges. Pre-MVP, you’re probably thinking about positioning, target audience, and what should be your solution’s killer feature. In a sense, these are all branding issues.
During MVP development, branding plays a key role in helping you find language-market fit and preparing you to connect with your potential early adopters.
Post-product market fit, branding is about consolidating your positioning and keeping you differentiated.
During the scale-up stage, branding can involve anything from localization to managing and adapting the brand during an acquisition.
But, when should you first invest in branding? In our experience, startups should invest in branding almost in parallel with MVP development.
The exact timing will depend on you and the resources you have available. Usually, there are two options:
- If you’re venture-backed, and you had enough conceptual clarity to raise an initial round with just the product’s concept, it may be a good option to start investing in branding before developing the MVP, or during the MVP’s earliest stages. That way, you’ll have a solid aesthetic foundation for the product.
- If you’re bootstrapped, and just launched your MVP with “home made” design assets, you should probably invest in branding for the first time when the product starts to gain momentum. That may require redesigning the product itself. But the right team will help you put together a sustainable deployment plan. Want to chat about it? Book a 15-minute call.
A branding project for a 100-year-old corporation can take months and cost millions of dollars. Of course, that’s not the case for an early-stage startup. At this point, you need a partner that can deliver quality at speed, and build a toolkit you can adapt in later growth stages.
Here’s how we approach branding projects for early-stage startups:
Our Early-Stage Brand Strategy Blueprint
When working with early-stage startups, we aim to build a foundation that:
- Guarantees certain quality baseline for all brand assets
- Minimizes the cognitive load of having to start “from scratch” every time you design or write a brand asset
- Speeds up time-to-market
We usually focus on:
Let’s take a closer look.
Products are answers to problems. And the products and services that startups develop are “a new way” of achieving a certain goal. So first, we want to understand the niche that the startup will operate in. We want to understand what’s “the old way”. And then, to detect the fundamentals that make the new product so convenient or exciting. Next, we take these concepts as our guide, and translate them into visuals and messaging “pills”.
Especially in your early days, it’s key to set a brand tone that your audience can relate to. This “tone” will manifest in:
- Your brand’s overall look-and-feel
- Your copy
- How you frame your value proposition
- Your brand’s sense of humor
This is the core of a lovable brand. Getting this right early on is key to unlocking network effects.
Versatility & Scalability
Early-stage startups come with a layer of unpredictability. Your product will probably change. And as you get a deeper understanding of where its biggest potential lies, the language & imagery you use will change. So, at the outset of designing a visual identity for an early-stage startup, our primary focus is to establish a quality baseline and create pillars that render the brand recognizable. This approach ensures that even as the brand evolves and expands, it retains elements of its original DNA from its inception.
We perceive early-stage branding as crafting a versatile toolkit. This toolkit equips either us or the company's in-house design team to amplify successful elements and modify or discard those that are less effective. Our key objective, besides capturing the brand's essence, is to prioritize modularity and scalability. Given the uncertainty of a startup's future needs and the variety of visual assets it may require, we emphasize creating flexible elements.
These elements are designed to be adaptable and applicable across different platforms and mediums as the company grows. Consequently, a significant portion of our time in the early branding stages is dedicated to meticulously documenting and distinguishing those components that enhance brand recognition and ensure its longevity.
We always aim to craft an enduring brand identity, that transcends fleeting trends.
This allows our clients to develop a consistent design system based on our foundational work, avoiding constant modifications. This system provides a stable base for experimentation and testing without the need to start from scratch and without the risk of diluting or contradicting the brand’s core message.
Your GTM Brand, in 30 Days
Getting branding services for your early-stage startup can be quite challenging. Most agencies simply aren’t used to working with startups, so they don’t understand their need for velocity and versatility. Additionally, most agencies don’t offer special pricing for startups.
We love working with innovators - so we do. We’ve designed a branding package that empowers startups with the assets they need to hit the market, within 30 days, and at a fraction of the cost of regular branding.
Got questions? Book a 15-minute chat.