Imagine one of your employees at a party enjoying assorted cheeses and crackers.
The banter is in full swing. The standard cocktail conversations occurring around the room.
Where are you from? What part of town do you live in?
What do you do?
They'd explain they work at Your Startup, and something about what they do there.
But then, someone asks something more piercing:
My team does a lot of brand development, both for startups and for Fortune 500 clients. In the process, we’ve developed lots of tools and frameworks and processes for creating good work.
You've probably heard terms like brand essence, brand platform, positioning statements and the like. Those traditional processes, coupled with our own, are really helpful in jump-starting and guiding a brand project.
But as it turns out, almost all are completely irrelevant for early-stage startups. That's because before you've arrived at product-market fit, your name and brand design matter little, if it all.
As you’re approaching product-market fit, brand does begin to matter. But the tools brand professionals often feel too ambiguous early on.
So what' a founder to do?
As someone who has worked with many startups to develop meaningful names and brands, I'm often asked by founders, "When should I worry about my startup's brand."
As a brand guy, you might imagine I'd say it matters from the very beginning. And it does.
But it also doesn't.
The conversation often goes like this:
Me: My ad agency works with startups to get their name, brand messaging, and marketing strategies right.
Person: That’s interesting, but don’t the really great products just sell themselves? They don’t really need marketing.
Ah, the Bigfoot of the Valley. The Self-Selling Product. An invention so brilliant, so perfect, it can survive and grow without marketing of any kind.
Everyone’s heard the stories. We’ve all seen the blurry photos and watched the shaky 8mm footage. A lucky few even claim they’ve encountered this evolutionary marvel in the wild. So with all this evidence, how is it no one’s ever managed to capture this elusive creature for study?
After publishing “Why Does Your Startup Sound Like a Startup?” and “The 2-second ‘Rule’” a couple weeks ago, several commenters on Hacker News and elsewhere requested I write a followup with examples of companies doing homepage copy the right way.
The examples below are just good examples. In other words, I’m not saying they’re perfect or that their approach should be codified into a set of rules. I’m also not endorsing the entire site itself, but simply focusing on the headlines themselves (hopefully those are enough caveats for the HN crowd).