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Creating a brand for your startup: Part 1


Paul Millward

Lead Growth Consultant

Updated 20 April 22



What is a brand?

 Understanding the anatomy of brand is essential if you intend to build and market a strong brand for your startup, so we’ll start here. The following is a blend of our own experience and a rich reservoir of brand expertise and resources that we’ll introduce you to in future articles.

In this first article we'll clarify what a brand is and what it is not


What A Brand Is Not

Let’s kick off by challenging some preconceptions about ‘Brand’. Firstly your brand isn’t under your control as much as you think it is. It’s also not your product name, logo, colour scheme, website nor your TV advert. These are components or tools and mediums through which you communicate your brand.


Your marketing activity is not your brand….but it needs one.


So... What Is A Brand?

 “A ‘brand’ is the holistic perception and recognition, whether positive or negative, of an entity that makes it stand out from its competition.” - Bernhard Schroeder.


Clear as mud?


Let's demonstrate. Spend a couple of minutes writing down your thoughts, words, feelings, and phrases that pop into your head when you think about the following companies and their products or services (I’ve done one for you as an example).


  1. Ikea – simple, clever, stylish, scandinavian, family, home, low cost, huge stores, meatballs.
  2. Oxfam
  3. Coca-Cola
  4. Toyota
  5. Innocent Smoothies
  6. Lexus
  7. Lidl


Only scroll down after you have completed this....

 Top Brand Logo's A Guide to Brand Creation


Despite the billions of ££s spent on branding and marketing, the ‘brand’ of each of these companies is what you’ve just written down. That’s right, millions of pounds spent trying to make you think of their products as a “budget option”!?


Your brand is the perception you have evoked in the mind of your audience. It is that simple; the hard part is evoking the perception you want. Every interaction with your company, whether via a conversation, a product, a service or an advertisement, defines and reinforces its brand.


Such perceptions don’t buy products and services, but they do influence purchasing behaviours, consciously and subconsciously. This is why companies like Coca-Cola spend billions on branding and marketing each year.


Don't forget that your brand also crystallises, for you and your team, WHO YOU ARE.


Your brand is not what you say it is, it is what your audience feels it is.



Why Invest In Branding?

Marketing a poorly thought out, inauthentic brand is a costly waste of time. Nova work on the principles of ‘Lean Startup’. This doesn't mean we do as little as possible, it means we optimise everything we do by focusing on what is most important. When your brand is authentic, consistent and coherent, your marketing initiatives will be too.

Brand identity guidelines and templates (see 3 below) will save you time and money on the content of all your future initiatives and allow your team to get behind your startup’s core essence.


Your brand is the single most important investment you can make. 
— Steve Forbes


How A Brand Is Structured

There are lots of approaches to deconstructing and explaining brand, but the following 3 layers are our favourite. By defining its anatomy in this simplified way you can also follow a cumulative process to a create and maintain a strong brand.  


By doing some serious soul searching, Brand Core is where you will start. You need to get this right as everything is built upon it.  Don’t worry we will explain how to avoid pretentious goop. It is made up of your company’s:


  • Vision – the change you want to make. This is your ‘WHY’. Why your startup exists
  • Mission – What your startup is going to do to achieve your vision
  • Values – what type of company you want to be
  • Essence – Your reason for being. This is actually the core of the core, but it’s a real head scratcher. We tend to come back to it after we have our vision, mission and values nailed.
  • Brand Promises - what are you going to deliver?


Brand Core Explained


Brand Identity is where you determine the consistent personality of your startup; what it looks like, talks like and ‘walks’ like.

    • Verbal expression – Your name, story, perspective, motto, tagline slogan, tone of voice etc.
    • Visual expression – this is where your logo, colour swatch, typography and so on come into being.


Brand Interactions is the final guide for all contact points and interactions with your audience. It provides a continuous brand experience for your audience. This can include everything from packaging to presentations and dress codes to design patterns. This is how your audience will assess your authenticity.    


Start with your why.


A Final Note On Authenticity

As well as helping your target customers to choose you/your products, a strong brand galvanises you and your colleagues by reminding everyone of their common purpose. A strong brand steers your start-up’s decisions, so it is important that your brand has been through a bulls*!&t filter. Have you made promises you can’t or don’t want to keep?


Disingenuous brands are easily detected by sceptical modern audiences and failure to live up to brand promises are mercilessly reported on and shared. Failure to live up to brand promises is usually much more damaging than never making the promises in the first place.


As you go through your brand creation align your brand to your startup's values, actions and capabilities.  Then monitor that your values, actions and capabilities remain aligned to your brand.


As you go through your brand creation...


Keep it real.


At Nova, we provide an 8-week mentoring scheme to help entrepreneurs with great ideas get ready to pitch to investors we source for you.


If you’d like to join us, sign up here!




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