What’s in a brand?

Why is branding and strategy an imperative step for a business or product to succeed? A closer analysis of branding, strategy, and the impact it has on an MVP's success.
Building a brand for a blockchain technology start-up

Branding is something that many professionals have not had first hand experience with. Many think of branding as simply the design of a logo or mark.

Brands and more specifically, brand strategies, can deliver much more than value propositions and mission statements. Brand strategies reveal the ‘whys’ that keep a startup and product on track and delivering consistent value, no matter how much the offering evolves throughout its lifetime. Furthermore, strategies can produce a rubric for keeping start-ups delivering on budget and tactically within their unique value proposition.

Without using old tropes, (“a brand is not just a logo”) I’d like to explain why we found it imperative to deliver meaningful brands and strategies prior to developing an MVP, in the blockchain technology space and elsewhere. Let’s break down 3 specific values that branding brings to a MVP.

1. Speak the same language

A consistent challenge we encounter when developing a brand strategy with our clients, is their ability to speak consistently amongst themselves, with stakeholders, with us, and with their users (should they already have them). Confusing messaging, re-explanation, inconsistency – all of this miscommunication directly affects the bottom line.

In a more specific example, we have coached some clients to always say ‘blockchain asset’ in their messaging and never ‘cryptocurrency.’ This helped them to create a branded way of speaking and align their language with the astute nature of their primary user. 

How do we do this? In many of our strategies, we create a ‘brand vocabulary’ just for that business /product. We then reinforce that vocabulary by using it throughout the strategy and in the designed brand materials, or collateral design. This strategy becomes our language guideline for any design, interactive or still that we create for our clients thereafter.

Brand language value:

  • Clear, consistent, memorable, unique communication
  • Save time (money) when communicating your brand and product, both internally and externally
  • Language, verbiage itself can become the brand identity

2. Don’t just embrace being different, adhere to it.

What is the problem? How are we solving it? How are we different? Why are we valuable?

While there is a crucial need able to clearly communicate your key value, there is tactical advantage with that knowledge as well. When building your product, it can be hard to keep lean and discern the features that MUST be included in order for your MVP to succeed vs. what is ‘nice to have.’ Using your key value proposition and being mindful of your strategy always will keep product design lean and simpler to use. It will also make budgeting for engineering more accurate and economical. Deliver the key value 1st and it will afford you the ability to keep delivering important features and to stay out ahead of competition (and keep innovating). 

How do we do this? We create user goals for the products we design that contribute directly to the delivery of this key value. When most features are used to directly deliver or reinforce that key value, you’ll have a stronger opportunity to retain users, measure effectiveness, and build brand loyalty.

Branding uniqueness value:

  • Simple, more intuitively designed product
  • Shorter, more measurable timelines
  • Clearer timelines and leaner engineering costs
  • User retention and loyalty opportunities

3. Better, faster design comes from better standards.

Brand art. The fun stuff. The cost savings stuff?

What makes a brand mark or logo impactful is the great care taken for you to experience it. There is a harmony that is felt when experiencing good design that does not distract and better yet, allows us to become comfortable with our surroundings. This frees users to interact, or transact with a product more effectively. The zen felt when a digital product is well-designed, is created by adhering to style guidelines created in the branding process.

While important, let’s not get totally stuck on aesthetics There is an economical value with style guidelines too. Guidelines make the user interface look better and come together as interactive design faster, which is imperative when building an MVP. Scrambling to understand or worse, establish standards for design whilst building a product can delay or kill timelines. While guidelines are very important, I want to dispel a common misconception – that guidelines are a stone gospel tablets and will never change. They will. Almost as soon as you start using them, and that’s ok. You cannot account for every single standard until you know every design element that will be needed in your product. For instance, you likely won’t have a style rule for a loading animation until you get there ;).

How do we do this? We consider brand style guidelines to be a constitution. They should be amendable with the passing of time and need for improvements as the brand grows into different mediums and the product releases new features/versions. Specifically, we produce ancillary guidelines (or appendixes) that account for new and exceptional uses of the brand that do NOT affect the primary guidelines.

Brand guideline values:

  • Better user experience and enjoyment with your product = happy users = ambassadors  
  • Quicker assembly of user interface designs and new standards
  • Easier design collaboration when interface design has many contributors

In summary, before you begin working with a professional design and branding team, ask about the strategic and aesthetic value that comes from their branding process. You want to be sure that you’re receiving valuable consulting on who you are and how you’ll be successful with your brand, as much as an attractive mark that makes you excited.