I’ll begin by acknowledging that my background is in branding, so I’m perhaps a little bit biased. Branding is what I know, but I wouldn’t have invested so much time in learning and practicing branding if I didn’t truly believe in its power. When it comes to starting a company, I don’t think it’s EVER too early to be thinking about the brand you’re building. I had a name, a mission statement, and brand values defined long ago – and my product isn’t even out in the world yet.
There are those who would disagree with this approach, I know. Obviously, having a brand is pointless if you don’t actually have a business, and you can’t have a business without a product and users. I know that “building something people want” should be the focus – especially in the early days. But here’s why I believe that it’s important to think about the brand you’re building, too.
Because I have thought ahead, I hope and expect that I will save myself a lot of trouble in the future. For example, consider the name “Simili.” I intentionally created a name that does not reference food, eating, or restaurants. This is because my vision for Simili is so much bigger.
As I have made decisions about the product, Simili’s mission statement has been my North Star. The mission has been informed by conversations with customers – yes – but many times along the way, I’ve had to think about what we ARE and what we AREN’T. Everything from product features to the language used in the app is influenced by what we are trying to be for people. The brand is the heart of the business.
Brand also gets at culture, and culture influences hiring. If this thing I’m creating grows into an honest-to-goodness company, I want to look around and feel good about the people I’m working with and the culture we’ve created together. This won’t happen magically – it requires thought and intention. Bringing the brand to life inside the company is just as important as bringing it to life in the wider world.
Now, I’m not suggesting that startups should spend money on a fancy branding agency or go out and purchase an expensive domain. I’m also not implying that a good logo is more important than a good user experience, or that “branding” is more important than “building.” All I’m saying is this: it doesn’t hurt to think ahead.
I know the journey won’t be perfect, and there will be adjustments along the way, but the beauty of entrepreneurship is that I have the ability to shape this thing any way I wish. And my wish for Simili is that it will be more than a product. It will be a brand.