5 Branding Mistakes that Startups Make

January 16, 2020 | Startup Branding | By PDCo.
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In the competitive world of startups, no matter the industry, every little piece of your developing business plays a crucial role in determining the success of the company. Whether your goal is to gain the largest market share within your category or to find a potential buyer or investor, how the company presents itself is of utmost importance.

“A brand does not exist within a company or organization. A brand exists in the minds of your customers. A brand is the sum total of impressions a customer has, based on every interaction they have had with you, your company, and your products.” (Lucidpress)

It’s easy to make mistakes when establishing your brand. Here are some of the biggest mistakes we see startups make when developing a visual story for their company.

5. Designing a logo “in a vacuum”

A logo is not the cornerstone of your brand: it is the cherry on a sundae, a seal of approval that only works if you do, relentlessly, and across all of your company’s touchpoints, to build a brand worth remembering. It makes good sense to approach your branding project from a holistic perspective and develop the identity, the logo mark, as the component that sums everything up into a visual cue for your clients. On that note, we suggest developing the ideas, messages and audience-targeting strategies to inform the visuals.


Image source: @lindiegerber via Medium

4. Wasting money trying to DIY

Let’s be real–– you’re not good at everything. You might know bits and pieces about a lot of things, but you’re probably only a true expert at a handful. Maybe even less. This fact begs the question, “Why are you trying to do that yourself!?”

Outsourcing is good for business. I repeat: outsourcing is a good thing. If you want to spend time focusing on your core competencies, improving business efficiency and communication, speeding up your product or services time to market and ultimately save money – invest in a great partner that can take over your weak spots so you can take over on growing your company. Spend your time like you spend your money—wisely.


3. Erratic use of the brand

Customers are people and people love consistency. This is especially important in branding because your brand is the face of your business. When customers feel comfortable with your brand (because they know what to expect,) it makes buying decisions easier. In fact, it’s been shown that companies that use consistent branding can see up to a 23% increase in revenues.

How to go about it? Avoid being aimless. Decide what certain elements of your brand such as colors, fonts, imagery and photography style will look like, and use those elements together in strategic ways, over….and over….and over.

Be sure the overall package you develop gives you enough flexibility for both print items, digital assets and more, depending on how your brand plans to interact with customers. Along with that flexibility, however should come a set of parameters to help guide users of your brand so that no matter what, you’re publishing the positive, cohesive experience your customers expect to see. Developing a great set of brand guidelines is a start, but we suggest backing up and starting with a Brand Blueprint.


2. Not appealing to the human in the buyer

When your business is your baby – you want to tell the world all about it. But here’s the thing – people don’t want to be sold a product or service. They want to connect with it, on a personal level, whether they realize it or not. They want to trust that it’s going to do what it says it’s going to do.

One of the most important reasons you develop a brand to begin with is to build that trust. Your brand is your voice when you’re not around, so it’s critical to put your best foot forward with a visual story that not only tells what you are offering, but shows how, and describes the why. Great brand visuals go deep—connections are made subconsciously to brands—through things like color, typography, tone and imagery. How a potential customer feels about your brand when they see it is going to make an important impact on their buying decision.

“Eighty-one percent say, ‘Trust in brands is an important part of my purchase behavior,’ but only one-third of people say they trust the brands that they buy,” says Richard Edelman. “So, that’s an incredible opportunity for brands.” (Edelman’s 2019 Brand Trust Survey)

Many marketers think there’s a huge difference between business-to-business and business-to-consumer brands. While we agree that yes, on some levels there are contrasting tactical approaches, when you simplify a b2b company to its most basic element, it comes down to a human behind the buying decision.


1. Not being bold and different

Plain and simple, It takes courage and confidence to truly differentiate your business. Think about it this way; when you are shopping around for a high-ticket item, what makes you pull out your wallet? Maybe it’s the price, but for many, an exclusive quality or uncommon feature weighs heavy in the decision to make a purchase.

be bold in branding


Moreover, “self-justification” plays a large role in our buying decisions. We often seek a validation point with what we’re purchasing to make us feel better about spending money on something. A good way to make sure your product can be justified in the minds of a consumer is to truly differentiate it- if it’s unique, they won’t want to miss out on it. Your brand is a great way to show that your offering is valuable, with visuals and messages that depart from the norm.

Startups face plenty of challenges in the beginning. Building a brand that starts your brand off on the right foot is key, and doing it correctly the first time can be challenging. Finding the right branding partner can help you avoid making the aforementioned missteps so that you’ll be on the right path to growth and success.


A Workbook for Startups

A powerful and comprehensive conversation-starting tool for developing your brand’s core messages. You’ll need this before you start working on anything visual.