When is the best time for branding?

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By Nine Blaess | 02:35 min

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    Surely, as an entrepreneur, you have also asked yourself: “When is the best time for branding?” It’s a tricky question to which there is no clear answer.

    Before I get into that, let’s clarify the term branding. There are so many different definitions. When I talk about branding, this is what I have in mind:

    A brand is how the public perceives your organisation. Branding is the act of shaping this perception through the way you look, sound and behave—and establishing rules to stay consistent.

    Now that we have clarified that, let’s look at the two scenarios when companies usually think about branding.

    Branding before launch

    Emily Heyward, the founder of Red Antler, is a big advocate for branding before a business is even launched. Red Antler is responsible for some of the world’s most successful brands, such as Allbirds or Casper.

    In her book Obsessed[1], Emily puts it this way:

    As category after category gets disrupted, as competition gets fiercer, it’s no longer enough to have a great idea, or a better price, or faster shipping. Founders need to be thinking about brand from before day one; it needs to be embedded in their culture from the very start. They need to build a brand that people will fall madly in love with at first sight, and they need to do it before they even launch.

    —Emily Heyward

    While part of me agrees with this bold statement, this approach is not for everyone. In my opinion, there is no magic formula to the best time for branding.

    Branding before day one means that you need to know your ideal client and goals in business before you even start. It takes a lot of research before you earn a penny. With 50% of small businesses failing in the first five years, this is risky.[2]

    Of course, research is necessary before starting a business but so is learning, experimenting and improving as you go—especially for small businesses and service providers.

    The idea of pre-launch branding makes sense for those who have a lot of experience in the business world. It is an ambitious goal. And it’s particularly effective when you launch a product.

    Pre-launch branding means you can make more informed decisions about your communications and get people excited about your business from day one. Branding early can also save you from a costly rebrand down the track. But it may not because the company will evolve and change a lot in its first few years. Which can make your original branding obsolete

    Branding a few years down the track

    Careful! Technically, there is no such thing as branding a few years down the track. The minute your company becomes visible, people start to form an image of the business in their minds. Whatever you say, do or look like, everything will contribute to that image. So even when you don’t consciously decide to brand, keep in mind that a brand starts to form. And changing peoples perceptions and memory structures later will be challenging.

    That said, most businesses I work with don’t aim to become global market players. These are small businesses with limited budgets. Many of them are service providers. The founders don’t want to think about branding straight away as it can be overwhelming.

    While ignoring your brand can be dangerous—think about sticking to a misleading name, logo, or even worse reputation—I don’t think branding before launch is the right thing for everyone.

    I usually work with people that are a few years into the business. They have learned what they value and have gotten to a stage where branding is inevitable.

    Signs that it’s time for branding might be:

    • you’re feeling confused about the direction your business is heading
    • you can’t attract the right customers
    • you can’t stand out amongst your competition
    • you feel overwhelmed with business-related decision-making
    • you feel that your brand doesn’t reflect who you are or your expertise

    So, when is the best time for branding, then? As you see, there is no right or wrong answer. The aspiration is to brand before the launch. But the reality for most smaller businesses is that the second option is more actionable.

    If you need help to decide when is the right time for your branding, let’s talk.

    References

    [1] Obsessed by Emily Heyward, Penguin Books (2020)

    [2] Statistics from “What Percentage of Small Businesses Fail?” by fundera.

    Title Image by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

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