Consider your typical startup. It’s usually centered around a team of bright, driven entrepreneurs. They’re going to save the world, disrupt markets, and reshape the course of human history. Airbnb, Slack, Mailchimp, these companies -among others- have reshaped the ways we do business and how we live our lives. Their founders were dreamers, visionaries, and tech tinkerers. People who love to think. But you know what most startups aren’t thinking about? Their brand.
Take Airbnb. The company originally started as an “air mattress” bed-and-breakfast in San Francisco. Their brand strategy, assets, website, marketing efforts, and everything else reflected humble origins. Now, a lot of people don’t know where the Airbnb name came from, but just about everyone knows the sleek, modern, and disruptive brand that has dramatically reshaped the entire hospitality industry.
Brands often get lost or glanced over in the early days of a startup. This is true for both b2b enterprise startups and consumer startups. The branding strategy, methods, and assets are often developed on the fly and frequently by people who aren’t actually brand experts. In the early months and years of growth, the brand might be of secondary importance compared to the leadership team, its visions, and of course, the disruptive products and services that the company is offering.
This might be sustainable through the early years. However, as time goes on, competition is going to stiffen, customers are going to have more choices, and the startup is going to have to mature into a company that can grind out victories in competitive markets. When the time comes for the company to “grow up,” the brand is going to have to grow up as well.