The brand is the most definitive and guiding statement. Your brand is the decider on every action you take. It must inform everything you do. Your brand is your projected and idealized persona.
We say a person who has two conflicting personalities is schizo. A person whose temperature bounces between two extremes might be bipolar. Do you really want multiple voices in your head who are all running off on their own page and can’t be synced? Do I as an audience want to listen to an erratic and inconsistent person rattling off?
That is exactly what happens when you start your branding at the wrong time. Branding is your seamless singular voice among all elements in your company– probably meaning you want to be cognizant of it from the start of the initiative. After all if your brand is your voice, why would you start making decisions voice-less?
This doesn’t mean that you have to have everything worked out or fully formed at all. But like with real people- we always kind of know who we are even if we can’t yet put it into words. As we grow, we just have more time to think about how to quantify and communicate who we are to our peers- thus reaffirming our identities to ourselves.
So yes, START FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.
The brand dictates what markets to pursue, what products to make, etc.
When is the WRONG time to start branding?
When the branding cannot be seamless. That is the simplest answer.
Branding cannot create a seamless identity when you do not have control or influence of essential components. If you have variables in the air (unverifiable) and like a blind skydiver can land in a multitude of places, that is a red flag. Example: if you started developing products but you have no idea how they are going to turn out. Sure you can create some idealized brand, but if the brand had no say over what product or how the products are made and the result does not quite match up to the image and values you are communicating- you are going to spend double time at least trying to retroactively fit it in place. Think of custom carpentry or building supplies when the measurements are slightly off. But for a more important analogy- think of trying to back up in reverse while moving forward and foot still on the accelerator: unless you can bend physics, you’re going to fry something.
Does this mean that branding needs to be accounted for from the very beginning or else you are forever screwed? Clearly not- you can 100% start your identity search later in life, but there is such a thing as a bad time to do so. Example: Is it a good idea to bring namaste enlightenment to a person who is working a high-pressure job they hate but hold a lot of responsibility for? They’ve been suppressing a lot of their ration and emotions in order to cope and perform well at this job, so it’s probably NOT a good idea. The best time to restructure your thoughts is during downtime and little activity.
When you start your identity search later down the road, what’s nice is that you’re able to look at what you’ve accomplished as a reference for where you want to go. You have a better sense of what worked and what didn’t work, and that provides insight on how you can make what is working work even better by embodying your core perspectives.
Very seldom do I work with commercial clients who approach me before they’ve formed any part of the company and are just in the brainstorming process- unless I am a founding member as I am with my artist collaborations. Much more frequently my commercial clients who are small start-up businesses approach me after they’ve tested the market and have proven some viability, and are confirmed they want to go at it full force with all components in unison.
I can summarize my thoughts on when to start branding in these two approaches:
1) You can create an ideal based on your perceptions and then test the market to see if it works for others.
2) You can market test a specific idea you’re interested in and create an ideal based off of what works.
This article is written by and copyright © 2012 Steven Chu, Image Engineer [Branding & Visual Direction]. All rights reserved.
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