The role of brand strategy in the growth of a startup

Your DNA is what makes you uniquely you. DNA defines the fundamental and distinctive characteristics of all living things, and I find it helpful to think of the brand strategy as an organisation's DNA.

Just as DNA holds a set of instructions for the body that determine its characteristics, the brand strategy holds a set of instructions that determine the character of an organisation. Those instructions will define the most important things about any professional entity.

DNA also has a structure, as does a brand strategy, with each element having a specific role. Like DNA, the role of brand strategy should be to shape and direct how different aspects of an organisation behave.

Clearly, a brand strategy is more than just aesthetics. It runs deeper, right down into the veins of the organisation, and the clearer idea you have of your brand strategy, the better prepared you are for growth.

Brand strategy is often introduced to an organisation through the marketing function, and the marketing team usually creates its first iterations. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but it can undoubtedly become one if that same strategy doesn’t inform the product or service those messages represent. Similarly, projecting a set of values externally that isn’t implemented internally will almost always be dismissed as meaningless by customers, stakeholders and/or consumers. For example, a management team that demands the highest level of integrity from its staff but does not embody that integrity in its own actions will be quickly discredited.

The brand strategy is the mechanism that binds the organisations together, and to my mind, one of the best ways to make it work for everyone is to ensure the whole organisation is represented in developing the brand strategy.

With my client work, I have developed a workshop framework called the Brand Arrow that engages all stakeholders in a single day to elicit their views. Not only does this provide the insights needed to shape the strategy, but it also creates shared ownership; in effect, “it’s not the consultant's brand strategy, it’s ours”.

The brand strategy can become a vital tool in providing internal alignment and direction in how the organisation develops and expresses its services. For example, it can shape things like:

  • The benefits and features across the product or service portfolio
  • The focus of sales messaging for products and services
  • The presentation of the brand across marketing channels like the website and brochures
  • The way suppliers and partners are engaged and managed
  • And finally, and most importantly, the commitment to honour the promises made to customers

We all know that startups are agile, dynamic, and fast-paced, but contrary to misconceptions, this is not misaligned with the purpose of a brand strategy. In fact, it can be even more critical to a developing brand to ensure a company doesn’t lose direction as it grows. The brand strategy, if properly built into a company's DNA, helps map out how a brand maintains its identity as it scales and ensures its precious resources are used well.

With the inbuilt DNA, a brand can remain identifiable and relatable to new and existing customers and, importantly, guide its growing team internally to nurture cohesion, collaboration, and focus.

Every brand needs a point, a sharp definition of its focus that will stick in the minds of the team, their customers, and their investors. Without a point, time, money, and attention quickly flood away without clear direction.

Brand strategy is crucial to ensuring talent resources are better harnessed, investment is funnelled appropriately, and your customers have a clear sense of who you are.