7 Startups Share Their Branding Stories + Advice
By: Carli Evilsizer | November 8, 2019
We launched Branderly with the goal to help more startups build better brands early on because we’ve seen how strong branding can be a make or break for startups. If you’re a founder, you know there are SO many things that go into building a successful startups and might wonder how can you justify spending time agonizing over the perfect color palette and fonts for your brand when there is so much to do. BUT branding is one of the best ways for a new startup to set themselves apart from the competition and attract the perfect customers from day one.
While branding is SO important for startups, it’s definitely not as easy as it might seem. Building a brand can take a long time and often requires some outside help from a designer or branding consultant. While not every founder is willing to invest the time, energy and money into building a better brand, the ones who do are setting themselves up for success from the start.
At Branderly, we love talking with founders and startup marketers to learn how they’ve successfully built a strong brand for their startup so we’ve rounded up some of our favorite tips from past interviews with seven startups who’ve done a great job with their branding. Keep reading to learn how these startups built their brands with advice on everything from how they brainstormed the name for their company, selected the perfect fonts and colors or how they hired outside help to build their startup brand.
HOW DID YOU BUILD THE BRANDING FOR YOUR STARTUP?
Paving the way for a slim men’s dress shirt brand, I was looking for a name that worked in parallel to the “petite” line for women’s fashion, but without the negative connotations for men. I was brainstorming synonyms for words like “lean” and “quick” and came across Nimble which is pretty unique (and great for SEO!). The logo luckily came very easily for me. For the simpler logo (nm), I was looking to design a word mark that was classy, but not too high brow, since we pride ourselves on creating affordable dress shirts for men (they’re $80 each with discounts that run continuously on the site). I saw an “n” in the “m” and combined the two to represent Nimble Made. For the spelled out logo (nimble made), fashion brands traditionally use a thin, serif font either in title case or upper case. Our logo word mark uses a slight rounder and lower case font for a more casual, friendly and approachable vibe.
I’m methodical in my processes and am very data-driven (yay data!). Much of the initial brainstorming included close friends, family, friends of friends and even strangers because feedback, different perspectives, and opinions are extremely valuable especially when creating a brand. These are people who are potential customers in the future! I created a private Instagram account where I polled a small focus group community on various topics like the logo, color palette and fabric options.
Croissant was the first name that popped into our heads because we were inspired by working from coffee shops. We love the simplicity of the name, and the comfortable, delightful, casual everyday-ness of it. In the beginning, several people strongly advised us to change our name to something more practical. I think someone literally suggested SpaceBooking.com - but we thought that seemed so lame.
We did a bunch of workshops too to brainstorm new names, although we never came up with something we liked more than Croissant. We are super happy with our decision to keep the name, as it’s a memorable name. There are quite a few other startups in the coworking industry with “practical” names along the lines of SpaceBooking... and I can’t say I’m jealous of their names!
We took inspiration from a lot of other brands that we really like, such as Casper, Mailchimp, etc. We never hired a “branding” person, and we were lucky enough to have the skills to design our own assets, so that worked for us. I would say that it’s quite important to have that type of designer or creative person on the founding team of a bootstrapped startup.
Parsnip as a name just came to me one day after a yoga class. We had been contemplating names for a while, but not really focused on it, and it just popped into my head. We felt like it fit with the initial focus on food/beverage brands, and generally people had a positive reaction when we told them the company was Parsnip. Plus it has an interesting connection to the word partnership! We worked with Emily Hines Consulting on our initial brand strategy, where she helped us define our brand voice and positioning. It was through that very involved and thoughtful exercise that we realized we wanted to strike the balance of: playful and whimsical, personal and hospitable, positive and encouraging, through our tone and imagery. From there, we worked with a design team at Designation who took that branding strategy work, held dozens of Parsnip member interviews, and delivered a style guide. We were deeply involved in that process as well; the hardest part about this whole process was the balance of the current state of who we are as a company (a startup! scrappy! working on product/market fit!) and where we want to go (established company! thousands of members! confident in product/market fit). It definitely helps to have experienced designers and thoughtful users guide you through striking the right balance for your branding.
T is for Tame
I was fortunate to partner with some of the top marketing minds in the industry. One thing I noticed, whether I was advertising crackers, dog treats or hairspray: the clients that took the biggest risks, were almost always the most successful. Those clients recognized that mistakes may happen, but one of the biggest mistakes you can make in marketing is to go unnoticed. I take that to heart in everything I do for T is for Tame.
TIP: SPEND THE MONEY ON BRANDING
You have just a few seconds to capture attention. If your idea is unique, that's half the battle, but getting someone to stop and actually listen long enough to know that it is unique, is the truly difficult part. Branding is the easiest way to set yourself apart (everything from design, to packaging, or how your message comes across.
This past January we rebranded Splendid Spoon with HUMAN NYC branding agency. It was the most challenging, yet rewarding project I’ve worked on (& definitely the project I’m most proud of). I was involved in every step, from the manifesto to moodboarding to packaging redesign to sourcing talent for digital and print assets to integration. Moving from creative project to the next, you always have to keep in mind the larger question, will this decision ultimately lead to acquiring new customers, will existing customers understand our new position? I learned a lot about the creative process by working & collaborating with our cross functional teams as well as Human NYC.
We were ready to transform the brand into something that felt more accessible; like eating a bowl of soup. We wanted the site experience to make you feel warm, nostalgic, at home. In our first few years as a business, we were primarily focused on operations, recipe/product development, and customer experience. Once we had those pillars in place, we refocused our attention to brand identity and redesigned with our customer base in mind.
As a team, the hardest part about (re)branding Splendid Spoon was making sure we were sticking to our story and repositioning strategy. There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to brand identity. How do you take your story and translate it to copy, digital assets, website wireframes, customer communications, social media, down to your logo? You want to make sure the story makes sense start to finish, without any question marks or bumps.
Given that cannabis has been stigmatized for centuries, we wanted to take a different approach on our branding. We wanted to make our products more accessible and delicious for both humans and pets. Our mission was to simplify CBD wellness for the modern lifestyle. To do this, we started by developing a trendy and functional wellness aesthetic for the buzzn logo. A clean mint color combined with a rich and royal purple to give the brand a unique elegance and playfulness at the same time. Creative design was worked into the packaging by incorporating fun and informative infographics as well as clever copy and product naming strategies. Essentially, a hip and modern trademark logo and identity mark featuring the simple font families of Butler and Din Din combined with a celtic symbol meaning happiness.
I know my strengths and weaknesses - and being artistic isn’t one of them! Luckily, I have an incredibly talented friend, Elizabeth, who helped me develop the Kiid branding from A to Z.
She was one of the very first to believe in me and in the project. I had a vision in my head, I wanted Kiid to be professional, cool and fun. I found generally childcare services were either too corporate or too childish like “the magical garden” or “kimberly’s sitters” etc. Elizabeth was able to understand exactly what I wanted. She created mood boards and we worked on them together. She was able to literally create and put to life what was in my head through the colors, fonts and especially the logo. She proposed several options and we chose what was best together. I always trusted her expertise while knowing what I wanted. Funny story - We have known each other for over 15 years and in high school I had started a lunch business in our cafeteria. Elizabeth was creating the advertising flyers for me back then!
As for the name, I hired a professional that helped me find one! The name is so important. I wanted something cool, fun, catchy, but ran out of inspiration. I needed help. After a few brainstorming sessions, the consultant sent me several options including Kiid. The minute I saw it, I knew it was the one.
If you are in the early stages of launching a startup or are working in marketing at a startup in need of a brand refresh, we hope these stories from founders and marketers have helped inspire and motivate you to put the work into building the a strong brand for your startup. Know of a startup with great branding that we should feature next? Send us an email at email@example.com!