NOTE: The Arrow Northwest brand is all about brilliance through playfulness and unconventional thinking. So, in honor of last week’s release of Star Wars Rogue One, we’ll be using a stormtrooper motif throughout this article. 

Want to know how to Create An Amazing Brand Identity – For Startups? With your startup organization, setting the direction of your brand identity is powerfully important. Often times, startups have a great concept that they want to take to market and indeed have a great plan to do so on all the practical levels, but fail to integrate what engages people on other levels. Remember: In today’s world, people are inundated more than ever before with simplistic and one dimensional (aka “boring”) brand messaging. Dare to be not only different, but tap into the shared aspects of what engages people as humans beings!

brandingWith the above in mind, how do create a brand identity from the get-go that leaves an indelible handprint in an environment that is begging for compelling and meaningful messaging? Here are the 7 critical steps that you should consider when creating a highly impactful brand and the nascent stages of your startup. Don’t worry, these steps are not time intensive. They provide maximum differentiation and engagement potential.

1. Knowing what you stand for

Knowing what you stand for is a powerful way to live your life in general. But to be able to reflect your values through your startup’s branding and messaging adds a potency that reflects through everything you do. It also creates an authenticity that serves as refreshing glass of water in a desert full of less inspired peers and competitors.

If your startup includes other partners, mapping out where commonalities lie with regard to what each of you stands for is of significant importance. This allows you to get to the very heart of what each of the partners holds most dear, and then be able to interact with each other on multiple levels, rather than simply a practical one. The closer to the beginning of the startup that you/your partners figure this out, the better.

Whatever it takes, make sure you are completely authentic in articulating what it is that you stand for. Anything fake or half-baked will backfire at some point.

2. Reflecting what you stand for on practical, emotional and aspirational levels

In order to engage on multiple levels, and in figuring out what you stand for, remember to integrate the practical, emotional and aspirational.

For example, on the practical level, how do you provide a good/service in exchange for a fair payment from your customers?

On the emotional level, what aspects of your startup’s being create engagement? For example, if your start-up is in IT, how is it that you can create a vibe and language that your present and future employees, as well as your customers, closely identity with as simply human beings? Is there any kind of emotional kick at all? If not, look back to what you stand for, as a person or collective, and figure out where you can deliver emotional engagement.

Finally, what aspects of your business are aspirational? This is basicallbrandingy where you and your colleagues strive to be better people through your business activities, and how your start-up reflects the best aspects of human nature and that make the world a better place.

When you strive for this kind of realness, whether as an individual or team, and then find a way to reflect common aspirational values throughout your brand’s identity, you will have a far more effective time projecting a more compelling value proposition throughout your brand. As you grow, you will also know exactly the kinds of people you want to work with you, as they’ll automatically be attracted to that which feels more real to them.

You’ll also be far more interesting to prospective and/or existing clients. And why is this? Because you’ll be plugging in to elements that reinforce the individual and collective ego on multiple levels, which people automatically identify with more deeply. And because this is basically a multi-faceted ego reinforcement mechanism, you’ll love telling the world all about what you do, which makes your messaging far more authentic, and therefore compelling.

branding3. Identifying descriptive adjectives or metaphors

Once you know what your startup stands for, as well as how to better reflect your identity on practical, emotional and aspirational levels, you’ll want to identify the key words, or descriptive adjectives, that represent the essence of your startup. These are the key brand-building words that you will use over and over in your internal and external communications, so make sure you make the time to identify what they are, and how they represent the practical, emotional and aspirational aspects of your business.

4. Why?

One of the most powerful ways to create a compelling message is to identify precisely why your startup is in existence in the first place. It’s got to be more than that you simply want to make money, or that you’ve found an underserved market opportunity. Make sure to be able to weave the practical, emotional and aspirational into the “why” of what you are doing. Remember: people always want to know what motivates others. Click here to watch a fantastic Ted video, presented by Simon Sinek, about the importance of identifying the “why” into your brand messaging.

branding5. Logo, website and social media channels

Once you’ve got the above clearly identified, your next step is to reflect this essence through your logo, website, social media and general marketing channels. To really boil it down, review the adjectives and metaphors that precisely describe what your brand essence represents, and then consciously and diligently reflect these key words and phrases through the face of your start-up. The more you do this, the more your start up’s brand identity starts to take on a life of its own, which is uniquely compelling for your culture as it builds and evolves. And of course, whatever goes on within is reflected on the outside, which makes your brand essence real and compelling to the outside world.

6. Using the Qunity Vortex(TM)

To further reinforce your brand identity, as time goes on make sure to fill in the quadrants of the Qunity Vortex. This model was invented by the brilliant minds of Qunity, located in Amsterdam. The notion for the Qunity Vortex was the more you consciously identify the following:

  • Places (where your start-up’s history unfolds)
  • Stories (the tales that manifest as time goes on)
  • Symbols (the symbols that link compelling associative memories with your brand)
  • Rituals (the things you do to celebrate the unique aspects of your start up – e.g. beers every second Friday, the occasional retreats that reinforce culture, team meetings every Tuesday at 7am etc.

branding7. Reinforce your messaging with your team and prospects

Finally, with all of the above firmly in mind and written down in whatever Mission Manifest you choose to utilize, it is imperative to consciously look for ways to reinforce this messaging in daily activities, whether internally or externally.

If you can take the time to focus and manifest the above seven aspects of your startup’s brand identity, you will illustrate a unique and constantly evolving tapestry of brilliance that represents a multifaceted view of what your brand’s value proposition is all about. Remember, in a sea of boring and thoroughly forgettable brands that are busy playing it safe, realness and authenticity are rare commodities in brand identity. Use the above techniques in building your startup’s brand, and you’ll tap into intrigue and engagement that you never thought possible.

Next week we’ll discuss building and maintaining brand identity for established organizations.