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Startup Brand Identity: A Beginner's Checklist

best startup branding

Logos. Websites. Social media. Business cards. If you're building a startup brand, it's easy to start with what other people can see.

But none of these things actually make a brand. Setting up a website before you have your company's identity nailed down is putting the cart before the horse: it's out of order.

So what is brand identity?

Brand identity is personality. It's what your customers think of you.

What are you serving people? How are you making them feel? Without knowing that, you won't be able to articulate your value to your audience no matter how flashy your graphics are.

So before you start pulling together the finer aspects of brand identity, you need to take a look at the basics. Here's a beginner's checklist for developing your startup brand identity.

  1. Elevator Pitch

  2. Mission Statement

  3. Buyer Persona

  4. Brand Voice

  5. Marketing Strategy

Elevator Pitch

Can you explain what your company does in one sentence or less, in the length of an elevator ride? That's an elevator pitch.

A good elevator pitch should include

- Who needs your product?

- Why is it necessary?

- What does it do?

- How does it work?

No matter how technologically advanced or complicated your startup's business is, you should be able to explain it in a quick, straightforward elevator pitch. Save the nitty gritty of explaining your technology or business model for later: this is where you should be thinking in broad strokes.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is the soul of your company. Unlike the elevator pitch, it's more concerned with establishing your company's purpose as a consumer might understand it.

Here's a great writing exercise to nail down your mission statement. Write down the following things about your brand.

  • Function. In simple terms, what does your company do?

  • Emotion. What feelings does your brand evoke? Compassion, inspiration, connection. Your branding should all tie back to how you make people feel with your services.

  • Value proposition. Who do you serve? Why do they need you?

Summarizing answers to the above questions into a succinct sentence or two and you'll have a mission statement. A good mission statement doesn't just have the power to guide your branding, but also to establish your company culture as you grow and expand.

Buyer Persona

Picture the person you're selling to. How old are they? What are their hobbies? Where do they get their news?

A buyer persona is your client archetype, the person who's going to buy from you. You can't build a marketing or sales strategy without knowing anything about your buyer.

Do you have clients? Look through them and search for patterns. No matter how different they may seem on the surface, they already have one thing in common: the same problem your startup solves.

How did they become interested in you? What do they think sets you aside from the competition? These are great questions you can ask to get to the bottom of what defines your buyer persona.

No client base? Go straight to the root of the question. Your company exists because it solves a problem. Who are the people who need that problem solved?

Factors to consider include:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Education

  • Occupation

  • Family size

  • Spending habits and/or income

  • Hobbies

  • Browsing habits

For example, if you're an app matching parents with babysitters, your target demographic would be parents of young children. They might be busy with work or social life, tech-savvy enough to be interested in quick, mobile solutions to childcare.

You don't have to build out just one buyer persona. The more details you can outline in your target audience, the better your startup brand development will be.

Brand Voice

How do you want to come across to your audience? Funny, kind, serious, straightforward?

Look at your mission statement and buyer persona. Will your audience appreciate a sharp wit, or are they looking for a more serious approach?

examples of brand voice

Pick a tone and stick to it. Consistency matters, whether it's in website copy or Twitter feeds. (Of course, different tone might work depending on what platform you're on. Just remember not to stray too far from your core values.)

Branding is about emotion, so keep in mind what you want your audience to feel when you're crafting a brand voice.

Marketing Strategy

You heard me right. Figure out your core values, target audience, tone of voice before you begin to think about marketing to would-be customers.

What platforms are your audience on? Is it worth it to develop a startup social media strategy? What kind of content works best for your target market?

Your startup marketing strategy is when you can drill into the nitty gritty and start thinking in more detail. With all the other elements in place for a cohesive startup brand identity, it's finally time to present yourself to the world.

The best startup branding is simple without being simplistic, complex without being complicated. Your audience doesn't have to know every in and out of your brand strategy. If you're doing it right, they'll feel it through each interaction.

Xiaoxiao is a freelance content writer passionate about bringing startups to life through storytelling. Find out more here.

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