BRAND DISCOVERY 101: what is BRAND DISCOVERY AND WHY even bother?
In the first instalment of our "Brand Discovery 101" series, we start at the beginning: by defining what a brand is.

by Kathryn Reynolds



You're about to launch your new product (or service) and you need to think about your company's branding — but what is branding even, and why would you be bothered with that?

Branding, in a nutshell, is telling the world who your company is and what you're about, and what's so different about your product (or service). It's distinguishing your startup — or scale-up — from the hordes by sharing your unique story.

Experts say that discovering your company's distinctive and authentic brand is key to success in your long-term marketing strategy. It's about defining your brand. Owning it… but is this claim just a fad or does it really have some weight?

You perhaps, already have a great company, you have a nice website, you've launched your amazing product (or service), and you're writing a few blog posts. Why in the world can't you just allow your brand to develop "organically" by itself?

Why not push out a few social media campaigns and… well, see what sticks?

Why do you need to get bogged down with all that branding malarkey?

We can think of a couple of reasons why.

Reason #1: The first reason is that just because you think your product is the most wonderful and unique thing in the world, doesn't mean everyone else will think it.

Nor should they, when you get down to it. They have enough else for thinking about.

Especially in the current climate. Companies need to go to the customer, not the other way around. Customers need products that make their lives easier in some way. Customers need services that offer something more.

Your company needs to give people a reason to feel your product offers them something different than the rest. A reason to go to your service first.

Reason #2: The second reason is that startups develop, and a one-person show is easy to ideate as a brand, but what if you expand to have 10, or 100, or even 500 people working for you? How do you get those people singing from the same sheet?

How do you get all of those collaborators to represent similar brand values?

How do you get every employee within your company to align on brand voice?

It's about people being able to say you know that company that does that thing, the ones with the so and so... the ones that always do this, they don't do that...

When it comes to what your company is known for, you really need to be standing out to the customer as a reference point (and for the right references — preferably.)

In a busy industry, you really do want to be where everybody knows your name.

Think about it; how do you decide which company you'll buy from?

As customers, if we ourselves associate a brand or a logo with a trusted product (or service) it does give us peace of mind. And we come back to it, again and again.

And it saves us precious time that we couldn't be arsed spending on a brand or product we don't know - only to have to fix it, replace it, or bring it back to the shop.

And we've all been there...

Branding gives your product value in the eyes of the buyer. It instills confidence in your product, as the customer knows you are the one to call on when they need it.

Branding pretty much helps you put a ring on it (in the non-sexist-ist sense…)

Branding says you're worth it. L'Oreal worth it. Beyoncé worth it, even.

Branding: aka putting that mark on your metaphorical cow

WARNING: This section is not particularly vegetarian-friendly. It is, however, mentioned for historical reference to understand the concept (heyblame your ancestors.)

When it comes to branding, there is nothing new under the sun. People have been doing it for a very long time. It's what you might call a survival technique.

Remember that time you burned your family's branding iron onto the backside of your cattle so you'd know whether or not your neighbors had stolen one of your herd? Or the time you flew your flag high with your family crest as you rode home on your horse so your neighbors didn't think you were the enemy, and try to kill you?

Okay, so back in the day it was a bit more "do or die" kind of survival.

Today there's a little more nuance to branding, and a little less "do or die" functionality.

But at its core, it taps into our need to distinguish our business. And we want to make sure we are distinguished for the right reasons. That we are standing out in a good way — on our website, at industry events, even in our social media responses.

So we are not saying one thing and doing the complete opposite. Because that's confusing for our customers. And confused customers are not a great thing to have.

Because they'll just head off to the competitor who is practicing what they preach… and they'll end up doing their shopping over there instead!

What do you want your customers to remember you for?

How does one get noticed for the right reasons? How do you make sure you are walking the walk and doing what you say you do on the tin?

By establishing what you're about. By eking out your space. By laying out your values. Who you are. And who you want to be. And working towards that.

By defining your brand.

Then there is the bit about being consistent, and growing your brand as you grow… and pivots, oh the brand pivots...

Okay, fair enough, nowadays, branding takes a bit longer and requires a bit more effort than it used to. You do need to do a bit more research and a bit more development and to put in a bit more effort to know what your company is about.

But, at the end of the day, it's still mostly about giving yourself and your business that personal signature and making yourself different from the one beside you.

It's about "survival" - even if it is economic survival, so one can pay one's bills - as it were. It's about making sure your startup still exists and exists comfortably by the end of your one or five or ten-year plan. And that it hasn't lost its way along the way.


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