10 Steps to Developing the Perfect Branding for Start-Ups and How to Avoid the Pitfalls.

The business world can be merciless towards startups. Unless your company has a brilliant idea and a powerful brand behind it, it’s likely that your idea will fail to survive past the 5-year mark. It’s important to focus on the aspects of your business that can help keep it afloat, and this is where having the perfect branding can carry your business far.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at 10 actionable steps that can help you build the perfect branding for your startup. We’ll also be covering some pitfalls to prevent you from making common mistakes that could ruin your branding and make it even more difficult for your startup to succeed.

Some promising start-ups that took off in 2019.

1. Decide on the ‘why’ and ‘who’

It helps to think about your brand as a person or rather a personality. That’s what branding is after all – identity. If you create an identity which doesn’t fit the nature of the company, the product or target market, you could be off to a bumpy start.

Personal and informal brand identity is hot right now, mainly because it resonates with Gen-Z and Gen-Y, who tend to distrust corporations. However, if you’re branding a financial institution or insurance company you may want to consider a more formal, mature approach. This being said, according to marketing guru Seth Godin in his book Purple Cow, “Safe is Risky”.

2. Understand your competition

The last thing you want is to be accused of plagiarism when you were just coming up with a unique idea. Make sure you understand your competition and avoid being too similar to them in terms of branding. However, you should also research your competition to see what works, to see how their brands help them become more successful businesses, and to also learn from their past branding mistakes.

Take a look at these logos which, in our opinion, look rather similar.

Left to Right: © Gucci, Channel, Beats by Dre and Stadt Bruhl (1971)

3. Find a home for your brand

A lot of people neglect the idea of designing their brand around a type of audience. If you’re providing a specific service or product that is used by a particular audience, then it makes sense to design your brand around your chosen demographic. For instance, a brand that targets their products towards children or young teens should focus on bright and bold colors to be attractive to the eye, whereas a clean and minimal aesthetic would be preferred by tech enthusiasts.

4. Give your branding a meaning

Branding should always have a meaning or tell a story about what you do. For instance, the World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as the WWF, has a Panda on their logo since they are an endangered species.

On the contrary, the logo for the London Olympics 2012 featured odd shapes that barely resembled numbers, a small Olympics logo and a tiny bit of text that read “London”. It had little connection with the Olympics and London itself, making it one of the most questionable logo designs of the past decade.

Left to Right: © WWF Logo by Sir Peter Scott and London 2012 Logo, Wolff Olins.

5. Pick effective and meaningful colours

Colours aren’t essential for branding. There are plenty of recognizable black and white logos such as Chanel, Adidas and Apple. However, adding colour to your branding strategy can have a powerful psychological effect thanks to colour psychology. For instance, red is often seen as an exciting and bold colour, whereas green is seen as peaceful and serene.

6. Make it easily reproducible

Another important consideration is to make your branding and logos easily reproducible. One of the biggest mistakes is making a complicated logo with a lot of deep meaning and references, only to realize that it’s far too complex and difficult to reproduce on different branding materials. For example, it might not fit well in an email, it might be too detailed to print on something small, and it might be difficult to incorporate into branding materials of different orientations and colors. We’ve provided more detailed information on this topic in point 10.

7. Be different

A lot of people look to big brands for inspiration and try to copy their marketing materials and logos. However, standing out from the crowd is a good thing. While it’s fine to take certain elements or inspiration from other brands, being original and creating your own personality and identity is important for a startup. Being aware of trends, such as the current trend of reflecting millennials’ influence is insightful but being original will mean you stay true to yourself and stand apart from the competition!

8. Be simple

Complicated logo designs are not only difficult to look at, but they’re also difficult to reproduce, print and add to your branding materials. Keep it simple and you’ll find that it’s more recognizable and easier to transform in the future. There is a current trend of unabashed minimalism – especially after the trend of Marie Kondo’s hit books and Netflix show, Tidying Up.

If you look at brand such as Netflix, Google and Spotify, you will note a move toward the App’ adapted branding. This is not just a trend, but a response to the devices which will introduce your audience to your brand. Mobile first people!

Left to Right: © Google, Spotify.

9. Be relevant

Your branding should ideally be updated to modern specifications and trends whenever there’s a big shift in the design world. As we’ve already discussed, a great example of this would be the evolution of Google’s logo design. The colors have been changed since their inception in 1998 and the font has been updated to a modern and clean sans-serif alternative. Designing brands which can change with the times, without losing their sense of self, is vital.

10. Be adaptable and responsive

Responsive logos are shape-shifting logos that change in size, complexity or even color to accommodate and adapt to wherever they are placed. As we’ve touched upon, responsive logos are not a trend, but more like a practical necessity. This is due to the various touchpoints which will carry your brand.

Heinz responsive logo design

© Heinz logo, The H. J. Heinz Company

Last year, in the UK alone, the number of new companies registered last year rose by 5.7 per cent to over 660,000 – a record high. However, almost half of these companies will fail in their first year and almost 90% won’t last 5 years. It’s a shocking statistic.

While effective branding won’t guarantee your fledgling company’s success, it’s an incredibly important factor that should never be left to chance.


“Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”

-Steve Forbes, Editor in Chief of Forbes Magazine.

If you’re interested in talking to us about your start-up or refreshing an existing brand, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us to make an appointment for a free 60 minute consultation today or simply fill out the form below with some information and we’ll call you back.