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.
Gonna cut straight to the chase on this one: without a potent, different name for your startup, your logo will fall short of its true potential. I'll give you an example using two, famous companies.
Apple. Would the iconic, minimalist icon representing an apple ever exist had it not been for the name? No. That name gave them an advantage over their competitors trapped in acronym oblivion (IBM, HP) and inspired the mark.
Nike. Before the swoosh ever existed, Nike was extremely close to calling itself Blue Ribbon Sports. Compare that to Nike. Blue Ribbon sounds like the name for a freaking mom and pop bakery. There is no way something like the swoosh would have held its weight had it not been for the name it represents.
It seems prevalent that startup founders don't seem to consider the gravitas the name of their company holds. Think about it, when people say "word of mouth" advertising, what do they mean? They mean people repeat the name of the company they are referring to. Can you imagine how many times the name of a company (large or small) is used within six months? Thousands. Maybe even tens of thousands.
It's in your URL, it's on your social pages, it's on name tags, it's on email addresses, it's on all your marketing collateral, and it's on your tongue.
Get your name right before you jump into a logo or risk doing the whole thing over when you finally realize your name sucks. Your designer will thank you.
Here is my favorite book on naming:
Don't Call it That by Eli Altman.
It's astonishing the amount of business owners and sales people who want to be better. They want more customers, they want higher value customers, more of anything that will help them get to the next level. Where this gets interesting is how few of them are willing to do something different to make an impact.
They repeat the same message they have for years, fear to break the mold, but expect that things will change. They pour countless amounts of dollars into marketing, expecting that somehow the same old message will get through.
It's like running on a treadmill. No matter how fast you go, you stay in the same place. If you want to go somewhere you have to run in unconfined territory. You have to break free of what's already there.
Applying this to your brand: say something different, look different, act different, be different. Change.