If you don't know where you want to go, then any map, trail, tactic, or maneuver is useless.
The same holds true in design and branding. If you don't know what emotions/values you want your logo, colors, language, website, or collateral to align with, it's unlikely you'll be satisfied. At the very least, you'll have no objective way of dictating right decisions from wrong decisions.
That's the point of strategy. Strategy gets you aligned. It points you in a direction. How you get there can take many forms, so long as it gets you to the destination.
Where do you want your brand to go?
A LinkedIn connection of mine posted a document yesterday asking what titles his connections give themselves. The post contained 20 different variants of designer titles, here are a few:
Oi vey. That's only half. And he didn't even cover all of the options out there. You might be thinking, isn't the point to distinguish ourselves from people? Yes, it is, but it has to be done in a way that matters to the people that make the purchasing decision. Most business owners don't know the difference between UX and UI, hell most people who ascribe the title to themselves don't even know the difference.
It's like the pointless variants of toothpaste:
The only variant of toothpaste that makes sense to a user is when it speaks to a particular need of theirs. Like sensitive teeth being addressed by Sensodyne, who focused on people with this issue entirely.
Now let's apply the same thinking to some of these design titles:
Here's the thing: these titles do nothing for the person on the other side of the table, you know that person who pays money for design services.
What's the solution you ask? Try this:
I'm a designer, I craft things with intention. I've got a portfolio of work and case studies to show the problems I solve. Do any of these sound like you? Cool, let's make something happen.
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.