Skip to main content

It’s often the case that branding and identity tend to take a back seat in the early days of a startup where attention is fully focussed on developing the products technology.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Although the product may be the heart of your company, the branding and identity should be the soul.[/inlinetweet] Customers need to be able to fully understand what you’re doing, but also why you’re doing it. Below are the 5 steps for branding early stage startups.



For me, branding is the personification of a product and the gut feeling your customers get from interacting or meeting with it. As people, we all have personalities, we look a certain way, we wear different clothes and we speak differently. Your brand should have these qualities too.

Branding is about attracting and creating trust between your product and customers, new and existing.



At The Sandpit, one of the very early exercises we do with any startup needing branding help is Marty Neumeier’s Focus Test. These 3 questions help set the foundations for your branding development.

I tend to add “What do you really do?” as a final question. This can sometimes throw off a few people but it’s important to get everyone thinking about the bigger picture. For example, Facebook’s core product is a Social Network, but what do they really do? Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 11.56.11

(Taken from “The Brand Gap” by  Marty Neumeier)



A lot of the time, the basis for your brand already exists, you just need to extract and refine it. Some simple exercises with your team can help establish lots of qualities about your brand which then go on to influence how your brand is presented.

One quick exercise (which always faces some resistance from the techies) is the room exercise. It’s super simple and allows an immediate image and feeling about your brand to be built up.


Imagine there is a room which represents your product. Describe everything you experience and see when you walk into the room. How does it make you feel? What can you see? What’s in the room?

I know… It’s a fluffy creative exercise. But when you compare notes, you immediately get a feel for how your brand should look and feel.



Now that you are starting to get an initial idea of how your brand looks and feels, the next step is to try to understand how your brand speaks.

Below is a slide from Skype’s brand guidelines. Again, a very simple but powerful way of defining the tone of voice and dialect for a brand.

Try the same for your brand and see if between your team, you can build up a clear idea of words which should be associated with your brand and those that you want to run miles away from.

An example for The Sandpit..

Words we like: Business Builder

Words we don’t like: Accelerator/Incubator 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 10.53.44



The last step we always take is documenting our findings into a Brand Bible. This is an internal deck that rounds up everything in one simple document. This is helpful because you can refer back to it and make sure anything that see’s the light of day is on brand and consistent.

One last note, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]branding is never static. Just like people, it develops, it changes and it grows. [/inlinetweet]Your core ethos may remain but how you communicate visually and vocally may adapt with time. Revisiting your brand bible now and again to review and see whether any tweaks are needed is always a good shout.

The Sandpit Team

Author The Sandpit Team

More posts by The Sandpit Team

Leave a Reply