Startups dilute their branding potential when they set their eyes on big brands like Apple or Nike. Not saying those brands aren't respectable, they are for many reasons, but they are not startups. They can't afford to be something unique because the reputation at stake is too high. In short, they cannot afford to turn people off.
But you, the scrappy startup, can.
You can nurture your brand to be bold, daring, and different from what is expected and it will give you the edge you are looking for. In fact, it would be a good bet to double-down on the elements of your startup's personality to make sure you are recognized as something different.
Now, I want to be clear, I'm not asking you to go Miley Cyrus and do weird shit for shock value (please don't twerk on Robert Thicke). But you can absolutely veer away from the staid and trite phraseology, colors, and rigid nature you see from your competitors. You can turn on a dime and move fast without getting approval from 30 people. You can do something truly impactful for you and your audience. All the while saying, "you don't have to like what we're doing, because it's probably not for you."
The win of being small is that you can do the things big brands cannot. Small wins.
When you run your own company, the outside world ends up demanding a lot from you. Certainly in time and more importantly in creative energy. Because most startup founders are constantly seeking ways to grow their company, spending time on to focus and unleash their own creativity seems selfish.
"There are so many things I have to get done today, how can I possibly afford to indulge my own creativity?"
Because if you don't, you will lose the spark that had you create something in the first place. That energy from within that granted you the courage to go out and make something new. The minute that inbox is opened or your messages are checked, creativity goes out the window and it will not come back.
When you get up in the morning do something creative for yourself. Write, draw, play music, anything to use that creative resource before it is thrown to the wolves that would seek its end.
That wave of creativity is for you and you alone. No one else can use it the way you can, nor should they be granted access to abuse it. How can we even think to let such divine potential slip away?
Guard your creativity with your life and do not let the world take it from you, they can have what is left.
My favorite color to wear is black. Typically, I'm wearing a Buck Mason black T-shirt, Levi's blue jeans, and white sneakers. However, I would not wear that to the gym. In the gym I wear a black dri-fit, black shorts, and black training shoes. And while that's great attire for the gym, I would not wear that to a wedding. Instead you'd find me in an all black suit. Regardless of what I'm wearing though, I'm still the same person. I have patterns, yes, like wearing black, but it's important to fit the occasion.
You can run with the design of your branding the same way. What is the occasion we are designing for and how do we flex our visual identity to match? What matters most is whether or not the personality underneath stays the same and can be felt.
Dress for the occasion and be yourself.