Why Entrepreneurs Need to Stop Making “Brand” a Dirty Word



Brand is a dirty word to many entrepreneurs, but their skepticism comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what brand is.

Brand is a lot more than just your name, logo or visual identity.

A strong brand should crisply encapsulate the role your organization plays in the world, and it should act as a filter to guide your business decisions. While a clever name and logo can set you apart from some competitors, a strong brand is what gets you your funding, builds your engaged community of users, and creates a focused vision for the future.

Brand is a platform for action, not a marketing afterthought.

Too often we hear of startups who are so busy getting their products out the door, they don’t have time to develop a purposeful brand. A recent Fast Company piece points out that in the past, “brands were simply too hard and too expensive to create.” Today, expectations for startups have changed and there’s growing acknowledgement that brand creation can no longer be considered an afterthought.

If we look at some of the most successful startups that have emerged in the past ten years, a strong, purposeful brand is the common link that drives their success. In a world saturated with ecommerce sites, Etsy has set itself apart from the competition by building a brand that stands for craft, creativity and community.

Similarly, Zappos has differentiated itself by cultivating a brand that delivers happiness to its employees and customers. Mint crafted a brand around the idea of simplicity—an idea that guided its name, UX, visual identity, and voice. In all of these cases, a clear and focused brand maximizes the potential of a great productidea by creating a coherent universe around it.

In today’s increasingly crowded startup space, a single product is no longer enough to make you stand out. Your product, UI, look and voice need to be unified with a common purpose that resonates with your users. Brand is that strategic glue. It should guide your every venture and help it stand out to funders and to the world.

Amaris Singer and Melissa Andrada are brand strategists at Wolff Olins New York. Wolff Olins is a brand consultancy known for helping ambitious leaders drive growth and create moments of change.