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5 Must-Have Branding Exercises for Startups

Branding exercises for startups vary. Some are designed for specific niches, while others fit only matured companies, but these 5 are a must-have for everyone.

10 min read

Branding is a complex and ambiguous term. As Wiki put it, it is a distinctive feature of the company that separates it from the competition (it can be a name, logotype, slogan, mascot, or any other design element). Whereas professional marketers consider it a never-ending process with numerous stages that give meaning to the organization, shape the brand in consumers' minds, and assist it in reaching short- and long-term goals.

Whatever explanation you find plausible, one thing stays certain: branding is crucial for every company. Just consider the results of recent studies:

  • Over 70% of respondents have said they prefer to buy products from companies they know.
  • Even one instance of poor customer service or user experience may force one out of three consumers to switch to another brand.
  • Almost 90% of B2B marketers agree that brand awareness is the top priority for companies regardless of their age, scale, niche, and target audience.

If these stats are not enough to take brand identity seriously, consider what it can do for your business:

  • It delivers a united and clear message to customers creating a holistic and consistent user experience across various distribution channels.
  • It builds a strong reputation that assists in fundraising and securing reliable partners to move forward.
  • It expands the company's sphere of influence.
  • It prolongs the life of the product and company.
  • It drives engagement, generates leads, and creates sales and revenue for the business.

If you still do not have a brand identity, you certainly miss many excellent opportunities.

Big players alone spend billions of dollars only on branding every single year. For instance, Netflix spent $1.45 billion, whereas Coca-Cola spent over $4 billion in 2021. These sums are staggering; however, they should not scare you away.

The great thing about branding is that it is available to everyone, even if you are a small startup. With a professional branding agency for startups, you may easily take your small local venture to the next level, build a strong web presence, reinforce your position in the market, expand target audience coverage and achieve your marketing goals while staying within your budget.

Though, there is an obstacle. Building branding is a two-way road. Both participants should take an integral part in this process and devote their time, effort, and resources to the cause.

While a branding agency maps out strategy and improves it along the way to adapt to fluctuations in the market and the ever-changing preferences of the target audience, the company should do its homework. The latter means dutifully following a plan of action, implementing best practices, coming up with ideas and ways for improvement, taking extra measures if necessary, and finally, yet importantly, doing some crucial brand identity exercises.

These exercises come in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed to define a core identity, whereas others help get team members on the same page. Some of them help startups create an actionable mission statement in the early stages, whereas others navigate matured companies through current fluctuations in the market and enhance their working culture despite the vibrant multitalented staff.

Unlike school assignments, these exercises are not dull and monotonous. Many of them are fun and engaging. For instance, you can play a hilarious comparison game to assess a brand's personality or organize a fun day and talk about specific moments your company was at its best to understand what your brand and team members truly care about.

Importance of Doing Brand Identity Exercises

The significance of doing branding exercises is enormous because they provide so much help:

  • They help to get a better handle on your brand.
  • They identify weaknesses and potential issues that should be eliminated and addressed to avoid crises.
  • They refine user interactions with the company across vital communication channels.
  • They improve the message and deliver it to the customers in the most productive way.
  • They give a fresh look at the brand and marketing message.
  • They motivate team members to put forward ideas, work more productively, and find ways to improve products and platforms.
  • They give the company a fighting chance to compete with other brands.
  • They increase productivity and overall performance.
  • They create a healthy and safe environment.

However, to enjoy all those benefits, it is vital to do exercises regularly, take them seriously, and devote your time and effort.

5 Must-Have Branding Exercises for Startups

Exercise 1 - Build the Best Brand

We will start with a simple branding exercise designed to build a strong foundation for developing brand identity and strategy. Everything begins with that. It aims to

  • clear up what you stand for;
  • discover the purpose of your business;
  • give clues on what mission to pursue;
  • help to make the right decision and build the right strategy.

Answer these questions to complete this exercise:

  • Who are you?
  • Why does your company exist?
  • What problem do you solve?
  • How does your solution stand out from the crowd?
  • What are you committed to?
  • What niche do you want to operate?
  • Can people count on you, and why?
  • Why should people care about your company?

Along with these questions, make a list of words to define what your company is not. Create pairs of words that team members may confuse to eliminate misunderstandings. For example, state that you want to sound fun but not childish. Share this list with your support team and department responsible for creating content and delivering the message. They need to understand crucial traits that you are up to.

If you are stuck, pull in some friends and stakeholders into the exercise, ask them these questions and see what you learn. Every answer is a precious piece of information that comes with value and meaning that can reinforce the foundation of brand identity.

Last but not least, it is crucial to note that you should do this exercise not only at the early stage of the company's development but also during its life. There are three reasons for that.

  • First, it indicates areas where you have gone in the wrong direction.
  • Second, it defines the brand’s purpose and goals that should be reconsidered due to inefficiency or irrelevance.
  • Third, it uncovers some startling updates to your brand that help meet the target audience's ever-changing preferences and expectations.
Team meeting | Image by fauxels

Exercise 2 - Get Personal

Gone are days when brands were defined by their logos, mascots, and color schemes. Over the past decade, the situation in the market has changed dramatically. Customers no longer want to deal with faceless, cold organizations. They crave warm human touch and feel, opting in favor of hyper-personalized interactions with the platforms rather than details-obsessed robotic-like approaches.

The time has come to personify your brand, even though it may sound like a true challenge, especially for young and ambitious entrepreneurs. However, it needs to be done. The good thing is that there is an exercise to determine your company's archetype that will resonate with the ideal client and target audience.

The routine has just two steps:

  • First, get a little abstract and creative. Do not be afraid to be fun, childish, and even ridiculous. Let your imagination run wild. Motivate the entire team to do the same thing.
  • Second, turn your company into the person, the real one. Ask yourself these questions to create the profile:
  • Are you male or female?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you tech-savvy?
  • Are you artistic?
  • Are you spontaneous or carefully thinking, modern or traditional, fun or serious, friendly or professional, accessible to all or exclusive?
  • What qualities do you have?
  • What are you wearing?
  • How do you approach people?
  • What do you say?

After gathering all answers, try to illustrate this person. Do this exercise together with your team members. You may be surprised by what you find. Is it a person whom you would ideally like to be? Is it a person who will become a crucial part of your consumer's life?

If so, make sure to manifest all their qualities through content, message, and communication channels.

Exercise 3 - Become Transformative

As many professional marketers and branding coaches agree, people are after transformation, not just a product these days. The desire for transformation that is integral to the beauty and health industry has also migrated into other niches. It is a real thing in B2B and B2C sectors. If you manage to make your product a tool for improving customers' lives or solving their issues and improving the overall situation, you will be a winner.

This is not an easy task since making a transformative product is a multi-step process that involves the development stage. However, everything starts with a small exercise that defines the essence of how you can make that metamorphosis happen. Do these steps:

  • Think about your ideal client.
  • Create two columns on a sheet of paper, digital document, or board. Name them “Before” and “After.”
  • Put inside “Before Column” a list of problems that your ideal customer experiences. It should include the description of the situation, details of the problem, and the client's feelings.
  • Put inside “After Column” where your customers want to be.
  • Think about a list of all ways how your product might help.
Brainstorming in conference room | Image by Christina Morillo

Exercise 4 - Determine the Position

Providing an experience tailored to customers' needs, backed by genuine personal interaction, is not enough to survive a cut-throat competition. Your company should stand steadfast and hold true for at least a year. It should have a strong position since it makes it unique and delivers the right message to the crowd.

Product is the driver to establishing positioning; therefore, answer these questions, guided by its qualities and attributes.

  • What is the product category?
  • Who is your ideal client?
  • What is their need?
  • What is the product's key benefit?
  • What is its primary differentiation?
  • How can you describe the product in three words?
  • What are a competitive alternative and its weaknesses or flaws compared to your product?

Using these answers, you may easily create a statement. Start with addressing it to the person with a specific problem. Then reveal the product’s advantage. Compare it with an opponent, and end with a primary differentiation.

Exercise 5 - Create a Motivational Manifesto "We Are" or "We Believe"

Making every member of the organization give their maximum effort and commit to the product and platform is a true challenge. A strong work culture where staff is heard and appreciated is one of the ways to cope with this task. However, it might fall short without good motivation and reminding everyone why you are all here and what your beliefs are.

Creating a motivational manifesto is one of those exercises that reinforce work culture, bring everyone on the same page, and give a much-needed boost to devote yourself to the cause.

So what to do? Compile a list of all the things you believe in, considering all facets of life. Do not make it perfect or brilliant. Make it simple, but reflect your brand's value, personality and mission. Create an illustration, infographic, or use a bullet list to visualize it. Print everything and hang the poster in your office.

Conclusion

Developing a strong brand identity that surmounts all obstacles and stays stable despite market fluctuations is complicated. However, nothing is impossible. Follow these best practices:

  • Closely collaborate with a branding agency because it will put you on the trajectory to success or bring you back if you get off the beaten track.
  • Implement marketing strategy fully and devote your time, effort, and energy to small tasks.
  • Do your share of work, like brand identity exercises. Put your soul into them and be ready to handle as much information as possible because it may hide some actual germs inside. Refine your strategy and level up your company with every such task.