Most startup founders associate branding with identity design (logos, color, patterns, etc.). While visuals are an important part of the branding process, it isn't everything. In fact, they are the last step taken.
It stands to reason that your logo is not your brand, and your brand is not your logo. Period.
Logos are symbols, a brand is a feeling. Specifically, the feeling one would associate with your company.
Think of it this way, if a blind individual could not see your logo, but they could hear the things you say and how you want to make an impact on the world, would they understand who you are? Or would they be presented a shallow articulation of who you are and how you're different.
Branding is not a logo. If you do not know how to communicate who you are to someone who cannot see, you're in trouble. You should sound different, act different, and feel different. Only then can you make a case for looking different.
An email from Jonathan Stark came through my inbox today and brought up a good analogy. One worth sharing with all of you on this lovely Friday.
The gist of it is as follows:
When you buy a sandwich, the person making the sandwich doesn't say, "this might cost $5, we won't know until we're done making it."
What's the difference between that and saying a logo and a website might cost $20,000, but we won't know until we're done?
Geez, that sounds like a pain in the ass and disconcerting for the client on the other side of the transaction. This is the trap that hourly billing gets people in, both clients and service providers, a journey through the fog of unknowns that is costly and annoying.
The alternative? Diagnose for a set price (roughly 10% of the anticipated budget) and come up with three, tiered options at set prices. This might not be the best solution, but it's better than keeping a running clock and an hourly rate that never seems to stay under budget. At least a set price is predictable for both the client and the designer.
Why don't I bill hourly? Because I don't like leaving clients in a state of uncertainty.
When we try to create something from scratch, it never really pans out the way we'd anticipated. This is especially true in finding the story for your startup's brand. Truth is, the story probably exists somewhere else and you haven't noticed it.
If this is something you struggle with, try these approaches:
What is your story?
Yes, you. Where are you from? Where are you now? What does that say about you? That story is unique and highly personable. You can use it in your brand too.
Retell a favorite
There are seven story arcs, period. You've seen them in movies, you read about them in books, and they can work for you. Your goal is to instead replace the characters, setting, and adventure to suit your brand's personality.
Don't create your story, find it.