Is it Time to Rebrand Your Startup?

Is it Time to Rebrand Your Startup?

Why branding is critical to the success of your startup?

Build it and they will come. It’s an adage most of us will be familiar with but it’s also woefully unsuited to the world of business. It’s also that very same philosophy that’s partly behind the reason why 90% of startups fail (source). In 2018 CB Insights compiled a list of the top 20 reasons why startups failed, based on years of analysing post-mortem cases. CB Insights crunched the numbers to reveal that the number-one reason for failure, cited by 42% of polled startups, is the lack of a market need for their product (source).

So, what can you do to prevent your venture from becoming another statistic, and how does branding factor into the equation?

What makes branding so important?

Contrary to popular belief, a great product isn’t what makes a successful business. Sure, it’s one of the most important things but, without the right message to support it, chances are it will never see the light of day. No matter how solid your product is, it’ll be dead on arrival if it’s not backed up by a robust branding strategy.

Every startup founder knows that branding is important, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get right. Branding is all about the steps you take to determine how potential customers perceive your offer. It’s what increases brand awareness and drives new business. Branding adds value to your startup by creating trust, improving customer satisfaction and building recognition. It’s what establishes your place in the market and will likely be the main thing that differentiates you from your competition. It also supports advertising through a consistent and appealing strategy that helps keep your startup at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Most startups begin life with the seed of an idea for a unique product or service. To support the monetisation of that product or service, branding defines the messaging used to sell it. There’s a lot more to branding than logos — there are also colour schemes, typefaces, tone and voice to think about. These are the things that give your business and its products a personality that people can instantly identify with. And it’s not always easy to get right the first time, which is why startup founders need to conduct extensive research and on occasion rebrand.

How to know when to rebrand?

A great deal of strategy and research goes into branding, so it’s not something you want to be doing too often. Rebranding isn’t something to take lightly, due to the significant effort and financial investment involved, even in the case of small startups trying to find their way in the market. You may just need a brand re-fresh as opposed to a full-on rebrand.

However, there also comes a time when brands start losing customers because they didn’t adapt fast enough. Common problems include launching too early, scaling too quickly, or not aligning business strategy to customer needs.

Here are three tell-tale signs that it might be time to rebrand:

1. Are you being pigeonholed into a particular market?

A brand is more then just a glorified label but if you’re being tagged with a label you never wanted, then there might be a problem. Many consumers have become so accustomed to things being a certain way that startups in some industries often have something of an identity crisis. Consumers may have blanket assumptions over the whole industry, which means it takes a lot more to convince them that you truly have something unique to offer.

To prevent your brand from being pigeonholed, it’s crucial that you focus on communicating your unique selling proposition (USP) right from the outset. If you haven’t been doing that or you have but it hasn’t been working as intended, it might be time to re-evaluate your branding. You should also tell your brand’s unique story at every opportunity while homing in on the pain points of your target audience to make a real and meaningful impact.

2. Are you stuck with the wrong impressions?

Branding is all about making an impression. Make the wrong impression and even the best product or service can end up falling on deaf ears or giving people completely the wrong idea about what you do or sell. In other cases, people might have an outdated impression, which is all the more likely in today’s fast-moving market. This is a particularly common problem for brands trying to rejuvenate their images following a failed product launch.

Learning how to make the right impression requires a deep knowledge of your target customer, as well as the industry at large. While there’s nothing wrong with taking some cues from major competitors in the space, your top priority should be to give your target audience a different and better impression than they already have of your rivals. Don’t get stuck in the rut of doing things just because ‘that’s the way its always been done’.

3. Are you unclear on your messaging?

One common reason for startups to fail is because founders pay too much attention to numbers rather than relevance. This is often the case with search engine optimisation (SEO), in which startups try to target such a varied range of keywords and audiences that they end up with little or no focus at all. A similar problem applies to the major social media channels. Eventually, the lack of targeting can even end up in the realm of outright spam.

If you’re not 100% clear about the needs and desires of your target audience and how you’re going to convey your message to them, then it’s time for a major rethink. Any branding strategy should start with a customer persona (or multiple). These profiles of hypothetical people represent the sort of customer you want to target which, in turn, will help you tailor your brand personality to their needs and touchpoints.


In short, branding is critical to the success of your startup. It will determine how your investors and customers perceive you, and whether they trust you enough to part with their money. A carefully crafted brand will go a long way to creating a strong identity when meeting new clients or raising funds in an investment round.

By Rebecca J Angus

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