You would not prescribe a cancer patient to use a band-aid as appropriate treatment.
Likewise, it'd be stupid to prescribe a logo to fix a broken brand.
You have to be willing to undergo massive overhaul to make massive change. Dive deep into the fundamental flaws of your startup. Things like being aimless, having no defined culture, no spirit, a lack of confidence or purpose. Once those are fixed, everything else becomes easier.
Don't think a band-aid will cure cancer.
In his latest book, Business Made Simple, Donald Miller regales readers with the analogy of a business as an airplane.
The Plane Body is Overhead
It's filled with people and those people weigh down the plane with cost.
The Wings are Products and Services
These are the things that give a company lift and can allow the air to get under it.
The Engines are Sales and Marketing
These propel the company forward and allow for increased velocity. Allowing the plane to take on more overhead and go more places.
The Fuel is Cashflow
Run out of this stuff and you crash.
Here's how design and branding fits in to all of these:
The people who work for you will earn their keep if they are guided by a strong mission. Something that inspires them to get out of bed, go to work, and make shit happen. You enable that to happen when you have a strong emotional value they cling to. That's your brand. Good people are expensive, however their ROI is worth it. Give them a reason to push the company forward with a strong brand.
Products and Services
In software, a poorly designed product will kill a company. Do it right. Make it something your sales people want to sell, rather than being forced to sell it. More importantly, add pieces of delight throughout all of these so that the product becomes irreplaceable to your users. That is design.
Sales and Marketing
Following up on the previous point, a well designed product is one your sales team is encouraged to offer. Make your product appear trustworthy by branding your marketing efforts and getting the word out in an exciting, useful manner. Make it easy for customers to recognize and like you. That is design thinking 101.
If you're running low and need to rally investors to your cause, design a mission for them to get behind. Articulate it uniquely and in a way that is easily understood. Create a deck that is trusted at a glance and represents your company well.
Apply your brand and design the part of your business accordingly so that you can go anywhere.
During my month off from writing, I wrestled with the concept of rebellion. There is a vision in my head of what a rebellious brand looks like, but it's hard to detail. Naturally, it seemed smart to try and breakdown the term into sizable chunks that could be combined into something more concrete. I landed on three "F-Words," starting with Fearless.
Understanding what it means to be fearless starts with defining fear. Cue Webster:
/ˈfir/ an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
In other words, fear is the looming awareness that things could go wrong. Unfortunately, our bodies can't help but be on the lookout for such threats because it is in our best interest to avoid pain. It's a primal function that enabled us to avoid meeting our doom at the jaws of sabretooth tigers and other adversaries hellbent on ending our existence. If that's the case, why is it so important for a rebellious brand to be fearless?
Cue Webster (again):
\ˈfir-ləs\ free from fear
In this instance, fear becomes a captor. A crushing slave merchant. Fear puts one in a cage and limits their potential.
Rebellion is anything but conventional or expected. It is a venture into the unknown and experimenting with what could be. A trip into chaos. To be fearless is to break free from the part of your lizard brain that tells you "this may be a bad idea, you might fail, you might get made fun of, people might reject you."
It is to liberate oneself from the chains of uncertainty. To understand that novelty, creativity, and change are found through a trial in the unknown. Most importantly, it is accepting that failure is necessary and to be expected in the search for greatness.
Rebels are not slaves to fear, they are free.