Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why your start up needs Brand Consulting

I sent this guest post on Startupcentral and thought it would be a good idea to cross post on this blog as well...

So here it is...

Happy reading.. Do give me your feedback on this..

- Aditi

Startup Brand Consulting
- Aditi Gupta

It is a little confusing and complex to explain the concept that I have in my mind. Hence, I will try and explain through examples and reasons that I chose to start a brand consultancy for startups. I am still working towards forming a company around it.

I started my career with an incubation centre in Ahmedabad - NirmaLabs - immediately after my graduation from St. Xaviers’ Ahmedabad in English Literature in 2006. There were many technology companies being incubated at the centre and it was a lot of fun understanding the processes and the way that an entrepreneur’s mind works. In a couple of weeks I realized that techies are not generally very good with brand related stuff.

Branding is an art and most people think they know it all. But once they start implementing their strategies they realize that they are going the wrong way and a year down the line they hire a ‘good’ brand consultancy to help them out. As a result, they end up spending a lot of money and also changing the entire branding of their product/company/service. This affects the company in two ways. One, the company faces re-branding issues. Two, it becomes too expensive to do the entire branding exercise all over again. I am not talking about brand equity and brand positioning and so on. Branding here refers to the initial level of brand building which involves marketing, public relations, corporate identity design and the works.

After working with NirmaLabs for a couple of months, I moved to Mumbai to work for AC Nielsen, where I realized that a typical corporate job was not for me. I needed to start something on my own which would fuel my passion for marketing, design, social entrepreneurship and the like. So in 2007, I moved to a startup production house in Mumbai — Apricot Media — as a marketing consultant which helped me pick up and at the same time try out things related to online marketing and the way startups actually function. It was a nice learning experience and helped me polish my skills for brand consulting.

At Apricot, where I was primarily responsible for marketing their online television called, we started out with figuring out the direction for this company and how much the entrepreneur was willing to spend. Since the target audience was a young crowd and was more involved in content creation over the Internet, we started positioning the company in cultural festivals and made it popular on blogs and other social media. We initiated Facebook Groups for viral videos, Bollywood and started populating them. Blogs and other social channels were targeted for publicity. Online press releases, hiring people for organic marketing and making the website SEO-friendly were some of the strategies used to market the website. However, did not sustain for long because the content was too heavy for available Internet bandwidth and Apricot had to scrap the project, which also left me jobless.

The job made me realize that while startups look for cheaper methods of marketing themselves but also expect higher returns on the effort and money spent. And this brand building business is very much inter-related to the other aspects of a startup, such as technology, back-end, human resources and finance. This makes my job as a brand consultant even more difficult. It is a process that will take some time to show results and we need startups to understand exactly this!

So that’s my story. Tried and tested a lot of things learnt from experience, talked to people and I am convinced that this concept can work, provided someone has the patience and energy to run with it. The discussion at BarCampMumbai 4 was more to understand how this eco-system can work in our country, considering that startups here are pretty choosy about the kind of associations they build and the way that they handle the finances of the company. One critical input from the discussion was that there is a need for such consultancy, which has a flexible financial model — a mix of equity and cash or payment for services in easy instalments — and is willing to contribute to a critical extent to make the startup market and build its brand in less time and build one that sustains for at least three years.

Finally, here are ‘Five Don’ts for Startups in Brand Building’

  1. Don’t try to get into branding yourself. At the least, consult friends who are in a similar business and work profile.
  2. Don’t hire designers and marketers in the initial years because it is going to be expensive.
  3. Don’t lose focus on what your startup is all about. Stability in focus in important.
  4. Don’t lose patience :-)
  5. Don’t believe that you don’t need us :-)

Author: Aditi Gupta is a startup brand consultant and currently works at the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship. She introduced her concept of startup brand consultancy at BarCamp Mumbai 4 held on October 4th and 5th. She plans to start her own company in a year.


Karthikeyan said...

Gr8 Post Aditi. Here are my thoughts on startup brand building:-

1. As a startup lay down the basic principles which you want to build your company on. Say for example, its ok to go to office in shorts or my startup will have flexible timings etc.

2.Articulate and stick to those principles.

3. Create your brand around it. Colors, logo, blog, people, attitude etc.

4.Take it everywhere you go.


Kanika said...

I agree with the points mentioned above! I am a designer, trying to put sense into this startup media firm, helping them with promotions & branding and it's turning out to be expensive! but I can't ask them to kick me out either :) which is why I am trying the most reasonable options available.

And next time I am asking them to hire a consultant for this! ha.

aDeSe said...

@Kanika: You know me now :D
On a more serious note, try to just conceptualise strategies for them and ask them to pay for it, rather than implementing it. Promotions and Branding will be even more expensive if you try to implement it for them and the excess amount will end up being a Bad Debt in the accounts.

Kanika said...

Thanks for the advice. Really.
Do you mean to say we should hire a marketer to implement those ideas further?

aDeSe said...

@Kanika: Yeah hire a Marketer and ask the startup to pay the marketer. or else, get the startup employees to work on your marketing strategies, which would mean you would have to train them etc too.. its best to actually hire another marketer..