Start-up Branding: Putting First Things First


In Japan, there is a saying about buttoning up a shirt. Secure the top button first and the rest will fall in line. By ignoring this, many start-up companies begin sliding down the slippery slope to failure before they even begin.

So, let’s be clear. The top button in any business is its brand. This is of particular importance for start-up companies. They alone are in a unique position to put first things first and get that one right from the get-go.

But they must understand that a brand is not a value proposition, mission statement or an articulation of customer needs. The best brands are expressions of what a company aspires to be.

Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, for example, is not directly linked to the shoes or athletic gear it sells. It is an aspirational statement with which any athlete can identify. Another more recent start-up tagline addressing the aspiration of everyone who’s ever done professional video is “Make Awesome Easy,” created for StudioWorks, the first video production house in the sharing economy.

Forward-leaning company names like “Uber” embody that same aspirational quality. But many out there, like “WeGetThere,” remain primarily functional in nature.

The bottom line here is that good brands communicate promise over process. And when it comes to an organization’s brand identity, this is far more valuable because it represents getting that top button thing right. Putting first things first, it’s where every start-up needs to start.

Illustration ©Meral Dabcovich, VisPer

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