How to Build a Startup Brand that Stands Out in the Industry

When you’re working on further developing an existing, mature brand you’ll have tools, guidelines, and experienced colleagues to help you.

But what if you’re a challenger brand? What if you’re a young startup that’s trying to build a brand from scratch? How do you create awareness for your brand when the tools are not yet in place?

If you have a startup, there are a couple of mistakes you want to watch out for and a couple of things you need to do to stand out in the marketplace. These are the things you need to do to build a brand that lasts.


You communicate what you believe is great about your brand

When you start building your startup brand, you’re basically starting from scratch.

Your vision, your mission, maybe even your products – it’s all brand new.

One mistake that’s often made is that we communicate what we believe is great about our products. That’s the wrong way to approach it because your customers might have a different opinion.

Previously, I wrote about how Instagram started out as a location-based app that allowed users to make plans, hang out with friends and post pictures. At the time, it was still called ‘Burbn’.

Early adopters loved it and the app quickly started spreading. But the thing was, consumers loved one particular aspect about their app more than anything else: you could easily layer a filter over your photo.

Burbn’s customers using the app in a different way than its creators had intended to.

So if Burbn had talked about how useful the app was to make plans, that wouldn’t have really caught on.

If Burbn had talked about how you could use the app to hang out with friends, that would have been all that appealing either.

Their photo filter was the real gamechanger.

The fix: Listen to your customers. Don’t communicate what you believe makes your products great, communicate what your customer believes makes you great.


You copy the biggest brands in the business

We often look up to the biggest players in the market.

They’re the biggest and most profitable businesses in the industry, so what they’re doing must be working, right?

Maybe, but that spot in the market is already taken.

Challenger brands are there to shake up the market. They want to do things differently.

The fix: never copy your competitor. You exist to do things differently, so make sure you keep doing that.


You try to please everyone

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a startup brand is to play it safe.

You want to be different, but you’re afraid to be really different.

Marketing guru Seth Godin actually wrote a fantastic blog post about this last week:

Some people like really spicy food. Some people like bland food. Building a restaurant around sorta spicy food doesn’t make either group happy.

It’s tempting to look at pop music, network TV and the latest hot fashion and come to the conclusion that the recipe for success is to focus group everyone, average it up and make something that pleases the big hump in the middle, while not offending most of the outliers.

Trying to please everyone a little is a great way to not really impress anyone.

The fix: don’t be afraid to be different. Extremes are interesting. Go for the edges of the market.



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