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.
"I don't give a rat's ass about software branding. I can go on Fiverr or Upwork, grab my logo and colors for $300 and build my freaking product."
Sound like you? Maybe. Since there is so much confidence and assurance behind your statement, there is really isn't anything that can be done to convince you otherwise. Branding is just the rat's ass, a lofty term used to charge a lot of money to those who've invested serious blood, sweat, and tears into developing something useful.
True... in some cases.
But the same could be said of your software. I don't give a shit about it. At least not right now. In fact, there are probably a lot of people who don't care about your software.
I know, how dare I? Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are thousands of software products out there, many of whom could compete head on with yours and potentially win. Think about how easy it would be for them to mark their price down one dollar and undercut you or how one new feature could swiftly pull the rug out from under your feet. It happens.. a lot.
The truth is, unless you are emotionally gripping a specific user base, you have nothing. Nothing you can count on for long, anyway. And if you want to grab emotional value, you build a brand.
So, is branding still the rat's ass or is it a something you can leverage to charge a higher price to loyal users?
The beauty of being literate is that it opens up the door to improve... always. That being said, a lot of startup founders and creatives overlook the fact that marketing masters and branding savants have put their thoughts on paper for the whole world to access. When it comes to differentiation and being rebellious, these are my top three choices:
Zag by Marty Neumeier
Neumeier is the granddaddy of all branding brooks. His cornerstone guide, The Brand Gap, set the record straight on what branding actually is and why it matters in business. He followed up with Zag to hyper-focus on differentiation. The significance of Zag lies in the step-by-step structure that walks readers through how to be different. Granted, he does not dive extremely deep into every step (i.e. crafting a logo or a name), but you'd be foolish not to follow the principles listed in these pages.
Positioning by Ries and Trout
An oldie, but a goodie. Nearly every 21st century marketing book I've read has referenced Ries and Trout's strategies within Positioning. A word of caution, this book is super heady and can seem boring at times, but the examples provided from actual companies within this book are eternally applicable. Expect to learn a lot of great terminology and systemized thinking that will explain all of the marketing efforts you see everyday.
This is Marketing by Seth Godin
This was the first Seth Godin book I had ever read, needless to say it did not disappoint and I rated it as one of my top five books read in 2019. Marketing has almost become synonymous with spammed advertising, clickbait laden emails, and down right annoying. Seth's definitions of service-oriented marketing and the frameworks for niching down are the most clear and articulated I've ever seen. Furthermore, he uses real-world examples to demonstrate how it is the most generous brands that win, not the ones with the sexiest ads or the most keywords.