Startups usually do not have an extensive performance track record, their brand credibility and brand capital are typically a combination of their promoters’ personality, product ideas, and founding vision. This constitutes their credibility, trustworthiness and reputation.
A strong brand supports startups and their founders through the difficult times. Mainly during the initial formative years when the brand personality is yet to be established and in a flux. To build a brand, the marketer has to understand the attitudes, ideas, and performances of the brand (for startups read founders) and position it clearly and distinctly in the market. And for startups these formative attributes are closely linked to founders and their vision. Hence instead of defining the brands through the outer shell and promoting it through social media marketing, the founders need to introspect and understand their core philosophy to build the strategic foundation of their brand.
Anyone familiar with startup ecosystem, particularly the early stage ones, knows that they thrive on the stories and anecdotes of their founders, their heroics, sacrifices and game changing ideas and not on stories of already tried and tested success formulas or ‘copycat’ social media marketing approaches. When the founders meet the angel investors and early stage VCs, they don’t have the backing of proven sales figures or efficiency gains, but rely heavily on their conviction, belief and hope on their talents, skillset, ideas and overall team effort. There are multiple examples where the founders’ persona, ideas and vision not only support the brand image formation but also fuel the exorbitant(?) valuations during the early phase.
Once the brand persona is identified as described above, the next step is building the brand around that ‘persona’ in a clearly defined manner. Here the challenge is translating the ‘abstract persona’ into clearly defined attributes. Startups are not required to resort to social media marketing blitzkrieg for effective brand building but need right attitude and supporting performances.
A real brand is built when the founders represent a clear attitude and are passionately committed to a common vision they want to turn into a reality – as most of the successful Startup founders did in India and abroad. And it’s not done overnight; it takes time to build a brand, supported by consistent performances over time. This can’t be replaced by social media bombardment but can only be complimented by showcasing the accomplishment of performance milestones in a consistent manner.
Hence “brand building” ideally means delivering superior performances, identifying the value proposition behind them, and clearly communicating them through consistent messages to the target audiences. In today’s world artificial intelligence and consumer analytics play a major role in defining the strategy road map to achieve that objective in a structured manner.
Arindam Ghosh | An IIM Calcutta alumnus. Worked at the CXO level with Indian and Global organizations. Closely mentored multiple startups including sirosa.co.in