When you don’t have a solid brand foundation with clear brand guidelines, it actually hurts the company more than anyone realizes. It increases time spent, confuses audiences, and undermines marketing efforts….all of which means wasting money.
Many start-up companies confuse terms and phases in their business strategy. I can’t tell you the number of times that we hear the excuse “proof of concept first’ before they can spend money on basic branding. Branding is not advertising. Branding is who you are, knowing how to connect to your audience, and going to market with a brand promise. If you don’t know those basic things and try to activate your business, your concept will never get proven.
When you go to market with your brand, you need to maintain personality consistency in both expression and activation. If you promise to save people money with modern technology but your branding looks like it’s straight out of the 70’s you’re not on the same page. If your sales team is over the top with networking and yet your accounting team doesn’t return calls, you’re not following through on your brand promise at all levels.
Having brand guidelines means that your company is organized and being organized is good. At a basic level, it is simply a filing system:
At a higher level, it means your marketing team is not wasting time constantly reinventing the wheel and can focus on more important things like testing or figuring out acquisition costs.
The best way to waste money is to spend it without doing research. Do people even want what you have to sell? If you don’t know who your audience is or the best way to reach them, you’re throwing dollars at a moving target. You should know exactly who else is selling what you are and their tactics. There is a difference between having a multitude of marketing approaches and deliberate, data-driven testing. If your developers write crappy API documentation, in particular for a non-technical audience, your software will not get installed.
Having branding doesn’t mean you need to spend $250k. It means you need a simple set of guidelines to express who you are and get yourself heard.