You have the right message, a fantastic product, and charismatic presenting skills, but you’re still not getting funded. Wondering what’s missing? It could be your brand identity.
This may seem obvious, but having a strong brand identity is actually an area that many startup founders overlook. A cohesive brand identity and knockout logo proves you understand your market and customer, and that you know how to put an investment to work. If you don’t do enough to “sell” your brand in the funding process, investors may wonder what else you’re neglecting. Fortunately, there are several ways you can work to create a brand that will inspire confidence in potential funders.
These are the fundamental questions to ask about your logo and brand identity before seeking funding for your startup. Ask, answer and prepare to turn your startup into a unicorn:
Is your brand identity geared for longevity and is your message clear?
The world of startups is filled with some amazing success stories, but there are also lots of failures and flashes in the pan. That’s what your potential funders are worried about, so you need to communicate staying power.
Commit to your core values and express these values in your brand identity. If you have a strong, authentic brand identity that speaks to your core values, it’ll be easier for you to adapt to change while remaining true to your brand. Big brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Ford, Amazon, and Levi’s are all “classic” and recognizable while being nimble enough to keep with the times—and that makes them feel reliable. We all know these brands are going to stick around. Meanwhile, think about Gap’s disastrous rebrand. Straying too far from your original values will throw customers for a curveball and force you to shift gears yet again.
When brainstorming your brand values, think first about your core principles. Write out your mission and vision statements and apply them to brand values. What does your brand offer, to whom, and why? Why do you do this work? How do you want others to see your business? What makes your brand unique? How should people who do business with you feel before, during, and after the experience?
Based on your answers to these questions, come up with four to six brand values. Stick with these traits as you dive into the visual aspects of your brand identity. You’re now on your way to building an authentic brand.
Does your logo say the right things about your company?
Your logo design has several tasks it must accomplish, so use this handy checklist as your guide. Your logo should:
- Reveal your identity, communicate ownership, and set forth your value proposition. What makes your brand unique? Your logo should visually represent that singular flavor.
- Invite new faces to become your customers by capturing their interest and refusing to relinquish it.
- Set your brand apart from the competition.
- Nurture brand loyalty—that familiar, comforting feeling of recognizing something you love and trust.
If your logo design follows these steps, you’re already speaking volumes about your startup.
Is your brand adaptable and appealing, yet consistent across all platforms?
Your brand needs to be able to adapt to different formats and groups of target consumers while staying consistent and trustworthy. While no one wants to fund a startup with an identity crisis, your branding shouldn’t be so rigid that it can’t roll with changes and thrive on various platforms.
Develop a comprehensive visual unity strategy for your brand so it can move across platforms. You’ll want to define your brand logo, imagery, color palette, fonts, tone of voice, and any other elements. Adhere to these visual guidelines when creating pitch decks, social media, web pages, and marketing materials. While your visual strategy may change, it should always be united by your brand logo and unique color palette. You can then adapt your marketing messaging within the confines of your brand’s core values to meet each platform’s audience.
Consistent branding shows funders you possess the direction and determination required to grow your startup.
Are you open to feedback from VCs on your brand?
VCs may have feedback, so be open. Don’t be married to your first look. It’s not easy to accept feedback, especially when it’s for your baby—even more so when the person offering criticism may not be fully familiar with your product. You’ve been living this startup for months, maybe years, so why should you take that VC’s advice?
Obviously, because it can get your dream funded. Furthermore, VCs have a knack for picking winners, and they know what works and what doesn’t. By showing that you are open to feedback on your branding and your business, they will see that you can take criticism, and that your ego isn’t driving the bus (right off the cliff). The ability to collaborate and use great advice to your advantage is an excellent predictor for success.
You can prepare yourself for criticism by asking for feedback on your brand from colleagues, friends, mentors, and even strangers on Quora, Reddit, or #DesignTwitter. Of course you should take their suggestions with a grain of salt, but it’s good to prepare for potential comments from VCs.
Is your brand’s look clean and modern, rather than dated and sloppy?
While you can’t judge a book by its cover, without a beautiful cover your book (er, startup) won’t even be taken off the shelf.
There is a lot of competition out there, and branding that is clean, beautiful, and well-designed will set you apart from others in your niche. Great looking, professionally designed branding may not mean your idea is any better, but it probably means that you know how to delegate tasks, budget for marketing, read market trends, and position your brand for success.
Think about it this way: VCs have a sea of potentially awesome startups to choose from – clean branding is appealing and eye-catching. And if you can’t shine amongst the competitors, you may be missing out on a lot more.
Stay up-to-date on design trends and apply them (thoughtfully) to your brand. There’s no need to immediately change all your design assets from skeuomorphism to flat design, but you can test the trend in your social media cover photos or email newsletter.
Does your pitch deck show, not tell, the right story?
Your pitch deck is tremendously important to the outcome of your VC meeting. It’s like a real-time, interactive microcosm of the whole brand, and your job is to prove the value of your startup, and by extension, yourself as an entrepreneur. It needs to communicate that this startup and the brains behind it are a home run investment.
Do this by showing your VCs – and not just telling them – the real brand story. If your pitch deck is really just a verbal presentation about the startup, start over. You need to visually represent your brand and startup. Use visual data and figures to show what your numbers mean. Use high-quality photos and videos whenever product shots are involved. Provide screenshots to show how your software or app works, or take them on a virtual tour.
The bottom line for your pitch deck should be a one-sentence take-away that clearly communicates the pain point for your customers and how your product or service relieves that pain point better than anything or anyone else. Show them this bottom line visually, in an interactive way, if possible.
Building a brand that billionaires want to buy
There are enough obstacles in the startup world already. There are plenty of competitors, and getting funded is a challenge under the best of circumstances. Get out of your own way! Create a brand identity that will get your startup funded, and go pitch it.