5 Tips for Branding your Startup

Aliia Munduzbaeva, CEU iLab

September 28, 2020

The brand can play a vital role in differentiating the company from its competitors on a saturated market. In order to build up a successful branding strategy, there are quite a few things to think about – this is what we are going to discuss in this article.  

The brand can be summed up by how your customers perceive you as a company, product, or service and how you reach and communicate with your audience. Branding helps to distinguish you from you competitors and makes sure you are more recognizable for customers. Second, your brand dictates your marketing strategy. And finally, it is not only providing consistency for customers, but it provides focus for employees as well. At the end of the day branding saves you money, not costs you more. So, while as a startup investment might seem hard to make, but in the long run your investment will prove to be invaluable.  

1. Target Market

Understanding your current target market is the first step to building the branding of your startup strategy. First, you should think about who you want to experience your brand. Who are you trying to reach?

If you are not able to connect to your target market, it may result in short or long-term failure. It is critical that you first determine or clearly identify your primary market.  

You need to understand what your product/services have to offer to a group of people. You need to get to know your audience and break down the larger target market into smaller segments with specific characteristics. You need to be in a constant dialogue with your audience and build in their feedback into your product development.  

To put yourself into the shoes of your audience, you can try to create your own customer journey map. This way you identify how members of your audience interact with your brand.  

  1. You find a spot where your customer goals and your own one’s match.  
  1. Identify all the communication touchpoints in your customer journey.  
  1. Identify how your customers feel during this journey.
  1. Visualize your customer journey map.

You can read more about customer journey mapping here.  


An example of great targeting is the cosmetic retailer Lush. Lush operates in 50+ countries globally, selling soaps, shower gels, scrubs, masks etc.  

These products might be of interest for a really wide audience, but if we look at the company’s webpage, we quickly realize where the target market highlights lie.  

  • First of all, the website proudly states that 85 % of the company’s recipes are vegan.  
  • Second, the featured story on the company’s website is always connected to a social or environmental cause.

You see? These are ways in which the company narrows down its target audience to vegan, socially conscious women.  

The website of Lush

2. Story Behind

You should sell your story if you are interested in building a successful startup branding strategy. One of the challenges you may face at this stage is that people may not easily understand who you are and what you do. It is important to remember that a compelling story is oftentimes more interesting than a great product.  

Building your story not only helps you to focus on your company identity, but it is a good way of connecting to your customers on a personal level. So, in this way you are selling an experience before selling your product.  


Let’s see a Hungarian example for an interesting story. During her childhood, Rozi Vaczi, a Hungarian entrepreneur spent all her school holidays in the Hungarian countryside, in a village called Tard. This region is famous for its beautiful embroidery called Matyo himzes. As a little girl Rozi grew up surrounded by the local artisans and was impressed by their undervalued talent. Decades later, she founded Matyodesign, a fashion brand that integrates the talented local women in the production of clothes with traditional embroidery.  

Rozi Vaczi and women from Tard

3. Language and image

After identifying your target audience and putting together your own story you need to pull together visual language and writing that resonates. Refine your language so you can easily define who you are and what you do. Keep it clear, brief and consistent.

Your company name should clearly deliver your message to the public. Moreover, it should protect your company`s reputation.  

Looks are another edge of the branding strategy. All the visual branding components, such as fonts, logos, colors, etc. add to your image and purpose of your startup company. When applied correctly they can serve as good representatives of your startup`s value and mood that you want to communicate to your target audience.  

The image can be easily shared over social media and it can offer the first impression of your company. But be careful with visual output, it should be a reflection of your story and target market.  


An international brand with a very well defined language and image is Mailchimp. The newsletter service company uses the little monkey mascot called Freddie, giving the brand a humorous, funny image.  

The logo of Mailchimp

4. Being memorable

Use your brand to get creative and create something that will be memorable. It is important to create something that makes your company stand out from the crowd. Because everyone can offer great service, but you better come up with an experience that is hard to forget.


Let’s see how easy it is to enchant your customers. And actually it can also be cheap. The vegan webshop called bulkshop.hu came up with a very easy but nice idea about how to make an online order more personal. In every single box they deliver they place a little business card with a nice spiritual quote and the hand-written signature of the owner. In this way you not only have your products delivered but your day is also brightened by this little act of kindness.  

5. Message

Behind every brand there is a fundamental core brand message: a compact statement that declares why the brand matters.  The brand message communicates the values and key differentiators that define the brand. Also, above all the core message will shape all of the firm's following brand marketing messages. Whatever form they take; brand messages have to be relevant to your audiences.  


Let’s take an example from within our incubator, CEU iLab. The Tailor Network is a designer fashion brand where the high-end products are manufactured by disadvantaged skill workers. This way the company brings jobs back to local communities and enables disadvantaged groups like less educated women and single moms to gain meaningful and sustainable income. Whenever you buy a product from this company, you also have their message in mind: with the purchase you don’t only serve your own comfort but you also help people in need.  

The website of The Tailor Network

In Conclusion

Based on the above, it is fair to say that branding is an art. You need to get to know your audience and communicate to them simple and clear messages which resonate with their problems and feelings.  

Hopefully, this sheds some light on branding startups and steps to create a branding strategy for startups. We have discussed how to maximize customer experience, which will lead to attraction and growth for your startup. Are you ready to create your own success story?  

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