5 min read
In my ten years of experience as a branding designer, I’ve encountered numerous clients eager to jump straight into branding without a clear vision for their business. While it would be easy for me to simply deliver what they ask for, I’ve always believed in the importance of establishing a solid foundation first. For me, it’s not just about creating a logo or a brand identity; it’s about ensuring the long-term success of my clients.
I recall a startup founder who approached me, brimming with enthusiasm, about getting a logo for his new venture. However, as our conversation progressed, it became evident that his product vision was still nebulous. I advised him to first crystallize his product strategy. Months later, he returned with a clear product direction, and together, we created a brand identity that truly resonated with his target audience.
In today’s fast-paced startup world, there’s a common belief: “Get a logo, and you’re set.” But after witnessing the pitfalls of this rush firsthand, I feel compelled to share a different perspective. Let’s dive deeper.
1. The Modern Rush and FOMO
In the modern world, where everything is moving so fast, many entrepreneurs are gripped by the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) effect. When an idea strikes, the immediate impulse is to jump in. For many, the easiest starting point seems to be getting a logo and diving into branding, seeking out designers to bring their vision to life. But remember, while logos and branding are crucial, they’re not the starting line. The heart of your brand will always be your products or services. That’s where the real journey begins. Moreover, a product’s branding is its opportunity to stand out and differentiate from the competition. It should foster brand loyalty and create an emotional connection with the customer.
2. Product First, Branding Second
Before thinking about a logo, think about your product. What makes it unique? A logo should reflect your product’s core essence. If the product isn’t solid, the logo won’t mean much.
Tesla: Founded in the early 2000s, Tesla’s mission was clear from the start: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Instead of focusing on branding or logos, Tesla concentrated on creating innovative all-electric vehicles and scalable clean energy solutions. Their commitment to reducing reliance on fossil fuels and promoting a zero-emission future has made their brand synonymous with sustainable energy. The logo and branding followed the product’s success and vision.
Nike: Nike’s iconic tagline, “Just Do It,” stems from their product positioning. They cater to serious athletes, providing the perfect shoe for every sport. Their branding isn’t just about a catchy slogan; it’s a reflection of their commitment to quality and innovation in sportswear. Their advertisements often focus on storytelling, emphasizing the athlete’s journey rather than just the product.
Ben & Jerry’s: While known for their delicious ice cream flavors, Ben & Jerry’s also stands out for their commitment to social and environmental causes. Their product is intertwined with their brand values, such as supporting human rights and environmental sustainability. By focusing on these core principles, they’ve built a brand that resonates with consumers who share similar values.
In each of these examples, the companies prioritized their products and vision before diving into branding. Their logos and branding efforts became extensions of their core product values and missions. This approach ensures that the branding is authentic and resonates deeply with their target audience.
3. Vision: Your Brand’s Guiding Light
Every brand needs a clear vision. It’s the roadmap for your business, guiding every decision. Without it, you’re navigating blindly. I’ve seen brands with a strong vision thrive, while others without it struggle to find their place in the market. A product’s branding should be influenced by the overall brand identity and reflect that identity in the eyes of the target market.
What is a Brand Vision? A brand vision encapsulates a brand’s concept of its future. It answers questions like: Where is the brand heading? What goals does it aspire to achieve? What values does it champion? This vision is often captured in mission and vision statements, starting with a company’s brand identity and market stance. It then charts the trajectory of its future course, influenced by its brand values. A compelling brand vision establishes a sense of purpose for the business and its target audience, answering the pivotal question: What problem is the business aiming to solve?
Differentiating Vision from Identity. While brand identity encompasses values, tone of voice, personality, brand story, and visual representation, brand vision is more forward-looking. It includes goals for change, plans for achievements in the foreseeable future, growth and expansion strategies, market positioning, and targets for customer engagement. Your brand vision is molded by your brand identity but focuses more on the future position you envision for your brand.
4. The Real Cost of Early Branding
Branding is an investment. But is branding too early? That can be a waste. Trends change. If you design a logo based on what’s popular now but launch your product years later, that logo might already feel outdated. Brands like Airbnb knew the value of evolving with time. They rebranded as they grew, ensuring their image stayed fresh and relevant. Poor branding can be more detrimental than no branding at all, leading to confusion for the customer and a lack of distinctiveness compared to competitors.
5. Patience Pays Off
In my experience, the best brands were those that took their time. They refined their product, clarified their vision, and then approached branding. The result? A brand that truly resonated with its audience and stood out in the market. Products with a strong brand identity, grown out of customer needs and expectations, are more likely to create positive emotional connections, fostering loyalty.
6. More Than Looks
Branding goes deeper than mere aesthetics. It embodies a brand’s story, its core values, the promises it commits to, and the unique experiences it offers. Take TOMS, for instance. Founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006, TOMS introduced the innovative One for One® model, where every shoe purchase led to the donation of another pair. This initiative was more than just philanthropy; it was a commitment to health, education, and community development through meaningful partnerships. Fast-forward to today, and TOMS dedicates a third of its profits to grassroots initiatives. Similarly, brands like Patagonia resonate through their unwavering dedication to sustainability, while luxury brands like Rolex promise an unparalleled aura of exclusivity. In essence, while visuals might be the first point of contact, it’s the brand’s deeper narratives and commitments that truly forge lasting connections.
Branding is more than just a logo. It’s the story of your product and your vision. So, before you get that logo, take a step back. Focus on your product, define your vision, and when everything’s in place, dive into branding. Remember, a logo without a strong foundation is just a pretty picture. Effective product branding can make the case for customers to buy, creating a compelling narrative that resonates with their needs and aspirations.
What’s your branding story? Have you faced similar dilemmas in your branding journey? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below. Let’s learn and grow together!