Branding Basics: Step 1

As a branding consultant for smaller businesses, I’ve found it beneficial to assume my first-time clients lack knowledge of branding and of the branding process. This may sound presumptuous, but even those with some half-formed opinions (a little knowledge is…) find it helpful when we begin with a “back to basics” approach.

I call this educational process “Branding Smart from the Start”.
Okay, that admonition makes sense, but the question it raises is “how do I do that?

Well, I’m going to blog on that exact question: How should a start-up approach and implement a branding program right from the start? It will take a few weeks to cover the topic – there will be at least 10 blogs. But if you or your client can’t wait even a few weeks to implement a branding strategy, email me at and I’ll be happy to send you my drafts of the series.
Now many of the factors that dictate your initial business model and business plan are integral to your brand plan. In fact you can do to begin the branding smart process even before you have a business plan. I believe that branding is part of the fundamental strategic groundwork that dictates your business plan.
So the first question I usually ask is, “What markets will you serve and what are their major problems, needs, desires and characteristics?” 
I won’t let someone get away with defining their market as, “anyone who (fill in the blank)”. That’s not specific enough. If it’s a consumer product or service, speak to gender, age, income level, problem or desire addressed, their motivation, etc., etc. There may be more than one set of consumers, so define and profile each group and their importance (group size, purchase frequency, probable lifetime value).
If you’re serving business-to-business customers and clients, describe the industry(s), organization size, buying cycles, organization structures, buying motives, buying influences by company size, etc., etc.
In other words, profile the buyers in the market or markets you will be serving.
Once you’ve defined your market(s) and their needs for your product or service, you have established the foundation of the market structure on which you will build your brand. It’s also information that should influence your strategic plan as well as being a major section of the plan itself.
Just an aside: So often an entrepreneur will name his startup even before thoughts of brand, market, competition or business model are addressed. Isn’t that putting the cart before the oxen? That’s branding “from the start”, but not “branding SMART from the start. See my previous blog on Branding Sequencing.
I believe that the name – the foremost branding element – should be derived from the strategies developed and documented in the business plan.
Next: Competition and differentiation.

Martin Jelsema

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