Branding for start-ups: Why you need more than just a logo


(5 minute read)

Start-up: "We need branding; can you design a logo for us?"

Agency: "Yes, we can. But…”

…we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if we didn’t tell you that a logo is only a very small part of business branding. If you want your start-up to grow and to stand a chance when it face competition there’s a lot more to take into account.

Starting a new business is not easy. There’s a lot to think about, a lot to learn and many mistakes to be made. But, getting your branding wrong is one mistake that can, and should be, avoided at all costs.

As a start-up, you’re more than likely a little strapped for cash and in a rush to grow, or, you’re keen to start seeking investment as soon as possible. Whichever situation applies to your business, cutting corners when it comes to your branding is not advised.

Successful businesses know that professional design and marketing, like a business plan or the right team, is an essential element to growth and success. Start up with confidence.

Debunking the ‘I only need a logo’ myth

We cannot stress enough that, a logo is not your branding. Your brand should be instantly recognisable without your logo being anywhere in sight.

For example, what comes to mind when you look at the image below?


As a business, your logo is your identifying mark – an avatar – and the central visual element of your brand. But, it’s vital that each part of your visual communication is seamlessly aligned.

Great business branding evokes an emotion within your customers and, to achieve this, you need to extend your imagination beyond just the logo.

Think about Nike. Their branding may seem misleadingly simple, but a great deal of time (and even more money) was spent on creating their trademark swoosh and 'Just Do It' slogan. Uplifting and energising, it inspires and motivates – which are precisely the two emotions that will move people to buy sportswear. And, this is communicated throughout their branding, which influences all their marketing strategies. In the almost forty years they have been in business they have adapted to the changing times without ever compromising on the values of their brand. They sell more than just products, they sell a lifestyle.

Nike illustrates our point perfectly: A logo is great, but it’s the professional branding that generates the emotions and ideals that the logo actually stands for. Without this, it’s just an image. 

But, you don’t need budgets the size of Nike's to develop good branding. You do, however, need to be prepared for there to be more time and thinking involved than you had planned for.

To create great visual branding that communicates your message effectively you first need to address the three V’s: 





When it comes to approaching a design and marketing agency to begin creating your visual branding, after you’ve asked them the relevant questions, your first port of call before you even utter the word ‘logo’, should be to tell them all about your business.

What do you do? What do you want to do? What do you stand for? What is your message? Who are you talking to? All of these questions, and the answers to them, will help form the ‘vision’ part of your branding.

This is also known as your business strategy and will inform every step of the branding process from your logo and colour scheme right through to how your employees speak to customers. It’s also a good idea to use this as an opportunity to scope out your competition; who do you like the look of? Who do you not like the look of? Who inspires you? What do you need to do to outshine them?

If you can answer these questions then you’ve got the foundations of a great brand.


Now you can begin to translate your vision into a visual representation of your business. With all of that vital information you and your design and marketing agency can work together to ensure that your logo, colour scheme, typefaces, illustrations and any other graphics you might need actually work with your values and effectively convey your message.

The colours and shapes used in logos and graphics tell stories and create associations in a subtle and sometimes even subliminal way. By now, we’ve all seen the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, and we all appreciate the smiling A-Z element of the Amazon logo. We also associate blue logos with professionalism (think AMEX or Ford) and deep reds or purples with passion and luxury (think Coca Cola and Cadbury’s).

All of these messages can be transmitted with a brush colour and the tweak of a shape, but without the ‘vision’ step, the project would be flying blind. Neither you nor your agency would really know what you need, and you'd risk ending up with something that looks great but means nothing.


So, you've nailed your strategy and your visuals, but these alone won’t be enough for a solid brand. You need to think about your voice: What are you saying to your audience? How are you saying it? When are you saying it? Why are you saying it?

You need to tie in how you look with what you say, and vice versa. Go back to your vision and strategy and pick out a minimum of three key qualities or traits you feel represent your business. These will form the basis of your voice; the language you use to communicate with your audience.

You will use this voice to create great copy and content for your website, social media, stationery, business cards, flyers, public relations and every other conceivable method of marketing your business. If you use different language and tone on your website than you do on your social media channels then you’re going to dilute or confuse your message which, in turn, will confuse your customers and send them in the direction of your competitors.

Consistency is KEY

Addressing the three V’s will see you well on your way to creating a good brand, but the most important thing is that they all work together. A brand isn’t a logo, a business strategy, a colour scheme or a well-written piece of content. A brand is all of the above, a brand is the meeting place of psychology and design. 

If you’re using different colours on different social media platforms, or different typefaces across your blog posts, you’re going to have one very confused audience. Keeping it consistent is essential for building trust, familiarity and reputation for your business, and ultimately generating sales.