Insights

5 tips for startup branding on a budget

By Nicolas Deskos | 13 July 2016

Building a brand is often an afterthought for startups, and it’s easy to see why. As an entrepreneur starting a business for the first time, you probably have a million and one things to think about. When you’re not balancing product management with managing a team, you’re probably working out how to promote your product on a limited budget. At the same time, you have to stand out in a fiercely competitive market, fighting bigger, well-established companies.

The good news is that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a massive budget to get noticed. Here are 5 ways you can build a recognizable brand without spending a single penny (well, almost).

1. Focus on product

Before thinking about your logo, slogan or brand colors, your main focus should be on product development. It might sound obvious but you can’t have a successful brand without a successful product. Spend less time focusing on elaborate promotions and more time on perfecting your product or service. Remember, your brand is the experience you deliver to your customers.

Cost: Countless hours and several cups of coffee – but in the end it will be worth it.

2. Create a brand identity

Why do people need your product? What problem do you solve in their lives?

As the whole point of branding is to differentiate your product in the marketplace, the answers to these questions should be at the heart of your brand identity. Try to come up with one simple descriptive sentence that encompasses everything you’re about.

Take Airbnb’s as an example:

“Airbnb aims to connect millions of people in real life all over the world, through a community marketplace – so that you can Belong Anywhere.”

A vision statement not only keeps your business on track but it can also get people (including the press) talking about your brand and how it fits into the bigger picture.

Cost: Brain power and talking to your clients. Value: Priceless

3. Build brand awareness with content

In today’s digital world, the easiest and cheapest way to build brand awareness is through content creation. Establishing a company blog is a great place to start.

Why not tell stories with your company’s data or educate your visitors with industry-specific content? The more you post, the more likely people will come back to read your blog.

Cost: Free – if you share your content via social platforms.

Startup blog watch: Buffer. As a web-based tool that helps people and brands manage their social media shares, Buffer uses its data to help marketers improve their social media game.

4. Think outside the box

You don’t have to splash the cash to get your name out there. Having a limited budget is actually a blessing in disguise – it gives you the opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. Less cash means that you can afford to take more risks. Working in tech is all about experimenting and trying new things – let this filter into your marketing. Be distinctive and memorable.

Cost: Even more cups of coffee

Dollar Shave Club’s low-budget viral video, which cost $4,500 to make, ended up with 19 million views on YouTube and $1 million in investments. Talk about ROI.

5. Crowdsource

Besides raising money for new products or initiatives, Kickstarter is a great place to launch your brand. Thanks to Kickstarter’s built-in audience, a Kickstarter campaign is perfect for generating excitement around your product and ultimately creating loyal customers. Be creative and use your campaign page to showcase your brand’s personality.

Check out the campaign page for the Pebble Time smartwatch or OUYA for inspiration.

Cost: 5% of the funds raised

Building a brand isn’t easy, but with the right vision, a great product and a bit of creativity you can go a long way.

Once your brand is big enough, you’ll need a branding automation solution to stay ahead of the game. Now more than ever, the creation, management and distribution of assets need to be more streamlined in order to stay relevant and keep up with the ever-growing demand for content.

Nicolas Deskos
Editor
When he's not cycling around Amsterdam, Nicolas is curating OnBrand events and writing frank, no-nonsense articles on branding and marketing trends. Coming soon to an event near you.