Brands on the Run: The Start-Up Culture

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Nothing is more heartening than seeing a room full of tech start-ups each with their own glowing brand identities lined up like little soldiers.  One by one, they share their concept and each one is more interesting than the next. The brand properties they invent to explain their idea are designed to be memorable in what is an increasingly crowded universe.

Everyone knows you have to have a brand property, its platform and channels to get out the message.  But the brands that are the most memorable are often the most simple.  Yes, even stupidly so.  When I see start-ups in the technology space use rather complex, or overly artistic branding symbols, or logos filled with cryptic symbols that are designed to ‘spell it out’, I get nervous; something’s wrong with this picture.  The founders have lost their roots, their authenticity, and their way. The social media space is like a frantic junkyard of brands screaming for attention so a calm clear voice about your brand will be required. Let’s stop all the madness, and get back to basics.

A start-up in the tech space is really just beginning its journey. A branding property that is too complicated or difficult to understand stops the growth of what should be an organic process.  Start-ups in particular, often rush into logos and properties because they want to be mature companies, and play with the big guys.  I say, not so fast. Take the time to really consider  your company positioning and your audience. What do they want?  What problem are you solving?  Who are they, really?  How are you delivering on your promise to this audience?  How will you reach them?  What will connect with them on a visual, sub-conscious level, or will the goofy name say it all?

These are the questions to ask when you are developing a start-up branding platform.  Sometimes a simple idea is the best idea.  You’re not a luxury company with a hundred years of history, so you’ve got to create the new mousetrap, or as I tell our clients, be “Coco Chanel”.  She was a founder who was very clear about her customer, and their needs even before they knew it.  The double C’s rank as one of the most valued symbols for luxury, quality and a lifestyle that was born out of the simple idea, that women could be chic in a tennis dress (a very shocking idea in 1925). 75 Years later, Steve Jobs asked us to ‘think different’ and created one of the world’s most luxurious tech brands, based on the idea that technology is design and design is technology. Revolution, indeed.

So, I say to tech companies, don’t be the “brand on the run” consider carefully the authenticity and simplicity of who you are and who your audience is that will connect with you. Is it everyone or perhaps just a select few.  Take some time to mull it over.  It’s the cornerstone of your message, your channels and the birthplace of many marketing strategies, products or services that will be part of this family of properties you create. It’s your story, so stick to it.  Don’t let those fancy-pants types convince you otherwise. This is what will make a truly great brand property and the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  

Pikke Allen,  Brand Editor-in-Chief