via business.com: Branding can be an expensive affair, especially for a cash-strapped startup. Here’s how to build a brand that works on the cheap.
The topic of visual branding can be a scary endeavor for any new startup. Exceptional branding is one of the differentiators of successful startup companies like Airbnb and Amazon versus ones that fade into oblivion after awhile.
Naturally, since most startups begin with little or no funding, spending tens of thousands on a professional branding agency is usually out of the question. Some startup founders subscribe to the idea that the ingenuity of the startup’s product and its team be sufficient enough for both customers and investors, but is that really true?
Steve Forbes once said, “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” A great idea can take you places; however, unless you have early numbers that are very impressive, you might face hurdles building trust with users and investors.
That said, startup branding encompasses a lot more than just getting a nice logo done. Your brand needs to also be applied in collateral like pitch decks, your website design and more. So how can you develop a visual identity early on that exudes professionalism without breaking your budget?
Here are four easy ways to bootstrap your startup’s branding on the cheap.
1. Use a text logo first, but don’t overspend.
When we think of logos, some of the most memorable brands in the world come to mind, like Apple and Nike. Unfortunately, most startups don’t have the budget to hire a designer like Paul Rand (designer of brand logos like IBM, UPS, etc.)
In the early stages of your startup, your logo will only act as a basic identifying mark that can be refined over time. Spending too much money or time on it takes the focus away from the important parts of running your business.
Head to sites like pitchenvy.io, and you’ll see how notable startups used wordmarks and have successfully raised millions.
Using a wordmark logo can be sufficient through the early stages of your startup to provide you with a logo that can be used for any collateral or pitch deck for the time being. In fact, many top brands and startups still use wordmarks today, like Coca-Cola or Grab. Once more revenue is flowing in, invest in a brand agency or professional designer.
2. Decide on your accent color and use that throughout your collateral.
Part of developing your brand identity is selecting a color that best represents your company. Deciding on this early on will save you a lot of headaches and let you continue to design your own collateral materials or video productions.
So how do you decide what your brand’s accent color will be?
There are certain colors that automatically lend itself to a particular industry. For example, the color blue in a hue closer to teal tends to be associated with the healthcare industry as it’s considered to be calming, sterile and professional. In other industries, like security, the color red generally has negative connotations, and it’s wise to avoid these colors.
Have a look at some of the top brands in your industry and pick a color that works for you.
3. Pick a typeface.
If you’re a nondesigner, one of the easiest ways to develop a professional visual identity is to use the right font.
There are a few types of fonts available that play to different groups of people: sans serif, serif, and artistic typefaces like script, handwritten fonts and more.
Sports brands use fonts that are edgier, with sharp edges and tilted lines. This alludes to the nature of their business and how they want to be perceived by their target audiences.
In contrast, brands that seek to appeal to children use fonts that have rounded edges. Pick font families that have numerous weights. Google Fonts provides a huge library of font families that startups can leverage.
This allows you to vary the title and body copy styles for adequate visual hierarchy as well as ensure that the pairings of your typefaces visually complement each other in various mediums, including presentations, websites and more.
4. Create a one-page brand identity style guide.
The key to ensuring your new bare-bones visual identity sticks is to collate the guidelines (accent color, typeface, etc.) in a simple document for any vendors you might hire in the future as well as team members.
This document alone should be sufficient in demonstrating to potential investors that you’re not a dodgy newbie. Information such as your brand’s official color palette, logo usage and font restrictions lets your vendors get up to speed quickly to produce any collateral materials you might need.
When you get enough traction, investing a reasonable sum to hire a competent brand designer will ensure your brand continues to grow and thrive.
Do yourself and your investors a favor, don’t immediately spend top dollar for branding if you can’t afford it early on. Try stitching a basic logo together with the guidelines provided in this article. Your balance sheet (and future investors) will thank you.