It’s smart to think about branding even in the early stages of founding a business. Everything you do now will be part of your start-up brand story later.

After two decades in the business world, EWOR CCO Alexander Grots knows the best branding strategies. He has built companies like ProGlove and continues to lend his expertise to the EWOR mission. Alex gave a lecture on the importance of start-up branding to our EWOR Academy students.

In this article, you will learn the power of storytelling as part of a great start-up brand story to boost your recognition.

For more insights from experienced entrepreneurs, sign up to our EWOR Platform to gain access to over 17 courses and a plethora of resources.

What’s a Brand?

Before spending time on branding strategies, we need to understand what a brand is. It’s a common term, but what do we mean when we talk about branding?

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” – Walter Landor

A brand is an intangible representation of your company and products. It’s more complex than the product itself because you’re not the only one creating it.

If customers look at the logos of famous car companies, they associate experiences, claims, shapes, or images with that logo. Social interactions, the media, and your marketing influence that image in people’s minds.

The Power of Storytelling

People buy products for the stories and beliefs that they represent, rather than the quality of the product itself. In other words, people respond better to the “why” than the “what.”

That psychological marketing factor is why storytelling is key to a successful brand.

Tech giant Apple has a marketing strategy that focuses on the “why” and creates near-unbreakable loyalty. Thanks to this strong relationship, customers rarely question the quality of the products and spend money on Apple.

Apple’s success is, in part, due to standing out with creative ways to talk about its products. Most companies market themselves with only the product itself and how people can use it. They miss the core selling point – the beliefs and value behind the product.

“Products are what people use. Brand is what they buy.” – Walter Landor

Think beyond the features of your product when it comes to branding. What value are you creating? How do you talk about it? What does your storytelling say about your company?

How to Create a Brand Story

Overcrowded markets and an ever-growing competition means that you need to stand out. The fight for customers’ attention is a hard-fought battle in the marketing world. Every day, people come across thousands of logos, most of which they don’t even register.

Crafting a start-up brand story is the key to gaining people’s attention.

“Brand is a set of stable, consistent and positive associations with a product or service in consumers’ minds.” – Wendy Gordon

Bring the “why” into your start-up brand story and sell a belief or purpose and use details, numbers, and facts to support it.

Your storytelling will change over time as your company grows and evolves. From your core idea, you will develop a reputation that eventually becomes your brand. Therefore, use customer feedback to see what elements of your story stand out and, thus, what people will tell their friends.

With authenticity and constant re-telling of your brand story, create memorable elements. From the first day onward, small details can become relevant and part of your brand later.

Be careful with start-up branding and storytelling once you’re more visible. In the age of social media and fast discourse cycles, be mindful of every detail that goes into your brand as the wrong kind of story elements can damage your reputation. 

Take home: Keep your story elements consistent, stable, and positive.

Use Your Business Strategy to Craft Your Start-Up Brand Story

The following graphic is a useful tool to build a successful brand for your business:

Start-up brand story

Start at the centre of this tool with your core business strategy. Build your brand strategy around that core idea and find an expression strategy based on that. How do you want to express your brand?

There are three options for that expression: visual, verbal, and behavioural. Work out the details and think about the key messages that you want to communicate to your customers.

Work your way through this tool one ring at a time and add as many details as you can. By the end of this exercise, you’ll have a layered overview and a deeper understanding of what stories you want to tell to sell your brand to the masses.


Take home: Craft your story from the inside out.

Turn a Need Into a Want

By revealing customer needs, the findings of customer discovery inform your core idea. Your customer interviews are an effort to understand those needs, which can help your start-up branding.

Use those core needs to tell stories to investors and customers alike. The idea is to turn needs into wants and drive sales this way.

Develop a brand that creates action instead of reacting to people’s needs.

This strategy generates people’s needs. Once you’ve established a successful brand, you have control over what people will want in the future. Loyal Apple consumers will look toward the next cellphone they bring to the market instead of basing their buying habits solely on what they need.

Take home: Brands have the power to create wants through creative storytelling.

The Holy Trinity of Start-Up Branding

The three most important terms of start-up branding are “good,” “true,” and “beautiful.” These words translate into the three core triggers that you need to convince consumers to buy your products.

Good

The product itself has to be good. This factor stands for the quality of your work and, thus, generates trust from the customer.

How do you present yourself?

Invest time and resources into making your product the best it can be and pour that same effort into every other aspect of your company. The customer will notice and form trust based on this perception.

True

The “true” component of this strategy refers to remaining authentic which in turn, builds a strong belief in your company.

How do you behave?

Honesty is the best policy across your company. It multiplies the trust between customers and companies through internal and external communication.If people like something, they will share it with others, creating a snowball effect.

Beautiful

The third aspect of branding is that your product has to be beautiful. This translates into desirability and, thus, attraction.

How is your product desirable?

Beauty is attractive by default. It triggers a want in your customers and further drives sales. This ties in with turning people’s needs into future wants and benefiting from their actions.

Branding and Control

Despite being the founder of your start-up, you’ll eventually have limited control over your brand.

“You don’t own the brand – you merely manage it.” – Monica Lee

After creating the products and building the brand, it will develop into something that you can only manage. You can’t control the media or people’s perception of you.

The brand can grow bigger than the product itself, as Apple’s example shows as well. They don’t sell the best computers and tech gear in the world, despite being the most successful. 

Brand management drives their sales more effectively than their products.

Bottom Line

While branding isn’t your top priority at the beginning of your start-up journey, it’s a key marketing tool that will help you later. All the work you’re doing from the start contributes to the brand you’re developing over time.

Craft a start-up brand story through compelling storytelling and positive messaging. Turn people’s needs into wants and guide their future buying habits through effective start-up branding.

About the author
EWOR Team

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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