Start-ups and small companies ask the same questions when they first contemplate a formal marketing program: Do we need a brand yet? Can we even have a brand when we are this small? How do we build a brand from the ground up?
The answer is no, you don't need a brand - generic foods get just as much shelf space as Coca-Cola. But you should want a brand for your company.
When I work with companies that are in the preproduct, venture capital phase, I encourage them to define a working brand from day one. I do this because a brand definition at early stages can communicate that you want to build customer loyalty, not just sell. It demonstrates that you are serious about marketing and that you intend to be around for a while. Internally, it articulates your company's value and explains why you're in the market. These are important messages to your employees, customers, and investors.
What Is a Brand?
A brand is a strong, consistent message about the value of your company. You control the message through marketing, advertising, customer service, and all interaction between your company and the market.
You don't need to be as large as Coca-Cola to have a brand. Building a brand involves the same process, whether your company is two weeks or two years old, whether you have 100 employees or none. Here is how a brand typically develops:
In reality, this process is not linear, but circular. Your brand will evolve in response to the customer and the evolution of your market and products. For example, if you have a small business or start-up, you may believe that the value of your product and company lies in one area. As you market your company and product, your customers may communicate that they value something else. Then your product and company may evolve toward that new value, bringing you to new markets.
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